Description of a flight through a nuclear mushroom cloud

The BBC's Keith Moore tells the tragic story of Joe Pasquini, an RAF navigator who was ordered to fly a jet through the mushroom cloud rising from the 1958 Grapple Y nuclear test, the largest nuclear explosion ever created by the British (he also flew through the Grapple Z test). He has since survived seven bouts with cancer; his children have also had various cancers. They blame his exposure to nuclear radiation, but have been denied any benefits by the British government, which, unlike the US military, does not acknowledge that veterans of nuclear tests are at any elevated risk of cancer. Here's Pasquini's description of his flight through the heart of a mushroom cloud:

"It detonated at 8,000 feet. We had our eyes closed, but even with our eyes closed we could see the light through our eye lids. It took 49 seconds for the light to stop.

"As soon as that happened, we immediately turned back. Fortunately being in the navigating position, I had a little window and I watched the whole thing develop and spread and then start climbing.

"I think I saw the face of God for the first time. It was just incredible, it blew our minds away. These were things that had never been seen before, certainly not by English people."

When the mushroom cloud had passed over them, Pasquini looked up at the window above him and had another surprise - radioactive rain.

"It's the only time I've experienced rain at 46,000 feet," he says.

Nuclear test veteran who flew through a mushroom cloud (via Kadrey)


  1. My uncle, who is 91, is a WWII and Korea vet, and career Army. He was part of a group of soldiers who were assigned to witness a nuclear test in the desert. He said that in the detonation he saw a green color that he has never seen again in his life. I suppose that he wasn’t positioned too close to the detonation as he never came down with radiation-related health issues.

    1. Your uncle could be one of the extremely lucky ones, it would be enlightening to inquire what happened to his colleagues, see what the cancer statistical curve looks like.

      1. I have the feeling that they weren’t a group he was particularly close with–he didn’t fight with them. He didn’t even stay very close with those he fought with, and of course now they’re almost all gone.

  2. …the British government does not acknowledge that veterans of nuclear tests are at any elevated risk of cancer.

     In 2012?  Something like this should be regulated in The Hague and imposed as science-based law in all NATO-affiliated nations, since the 1970s at the very least.

    1. The British government has been defending itself in a long series of court cases with nuclear test veterans. The case was taken all the way to the Supreme Court which heard the case earlier this year. Rather than make a judgement on the subject of exposure to radiation, the court made a majority ruling that cases against the MoD were subject to a time bar and this time had expired. 
      The British government also does not recognise the test veterans as an official veterans association and therefore does not offer to support their specialist medical needs that cannot be met by the NHS. The Canadian and Isle of Man governments who have veterans of the same tests both recognise the veterans and helps their medical bills.

      The treatment of the veterans is a pretty shabby epilogue to the British delusion that it was a great power in the post War era that included everything up to and including telling the world we had an H-bomb when we had no such thing.

      1. Wow, a time bar for radiation induced cancers. The court is saying that it is too bad the soldiers didn’t recognize the risk of radiation induced cancers before the science was established. Now that they are getting cancer, it is too late. Sad.

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