Operation Dominic - The forgotten UK participants
Operation Dominic was a series of 31 nuclear test explosions with a 38.1 Mt total yield conducted in 1962 by the United States in the Pacific. Even though they were carried out by the American Government, a small party of approximately 729 UK men (including the AWE participants) were assigned to the Pacific to participate and help in the operation. The UK Government named these tests Brigadoon.
This test series was scheduled quickly, in order to respond in kind to the Soviet resumption of testing after the tacit 1958–1961 test moratorium. Most of these shots were conducted with free-fall bombs dropped from B-52 bomber aircraft. Twenty of these shots were to test new weapons designs; six to test weapons effects; and several shots to confirm the reliability of existing weapons. The Thor missile was also used to lift warheads into near-space to conduct high-altitude nuclear explosion tests; these shots were collectively called Operation Fishbowl.
The tests started on April 25th 1962 and finished on October 30th 1962. The British servicemen were present on Christmas Island and were from the Navy, Army and RAF.
So are these servicemen British Nuclear Test Veterans or American Test Veterans? When the BNTVA was originally setup they excluded the participants of Operation Dominic and they setup their own group who still meet regularly.
The BNTVA now represents any British personnel involved in any Nuclear test, and in 2017, they created a new Operation Dominic logo which is available on ties and shirts and welcomed the participants of Operation Dominic.
The BNTVA have also appointed a special representative for Operation Dominic to their board, Mr Eric Barton who witnessed six of the tests on Christmas Island.
So why were they excluded from the BNTVA?
Because the tests they were present at were not a British Nuclear Test, the board at the time did not recognise them. A strange decision to make as they are British and they were posted to a Nuclear Testing site and were subjected to more tests than any other British servicemen.
Thankfully, they are now included and recognised by the BNTVA and are included in the medal campaign.
One reason for the exclusion could be explained by the fact that these participants are eligible for the American RECA program and can claim $75,000 if they meet the criteria for the program.
A number of Veterans and their families have already claimed and if any Veteran or family member was part of Operation Dominic and want to discuss the possibility of compensation, Eric can be contacted by email email@example.com.
The US Government introduced the RECA program on 5th October 1990, full details can be found here.
The US Government accepts responsibility for their actions:
"The Act presents an apology and monetary compensation to individuals who contracted certain cancers and other serious diseases:
following their exposure to radiation released during the atmospheric nuclear weapons tests, or following their occupational exposure to radiation while employed in the uranium industry during the Cold War arsenal buildup.
This unique statute was designed to serve as an expeditious, low-cost alternative to litigation.
Significantly, RECA does not require claimants to establish causation. Rather, claimants qualify for compensation by establishing the diagnosis of a listed compensable disease after working or residing in a designated location for a specific period of time."
Many of the US servicemen have struggled to claim under the RECA program, with records being destroyed and eligibility queried. Interestingly enough, the payouts to the UK Servicemen are very straightforward. If you meet the criteria, have service records and evidence from a doctor or post mortem, then you will receive your payout within 6-12 months. Families of deceased Veterans can also claim.
The UK Government have included these men in the NRPB studies but they have not been included in the Brunel University study.
Buy why not? They were on the same island as Operation Grapple, they witnessed more tests and were arguably exposed to higher levels of radiation due to the number of tests in such a short space of time.
Is there a reason for the exclusion? If the American Government were to perform a study, would they be included?
It is unknown how many of the 686 military participants are still alive today as there are no accurate records. It would be worthwhile studying these men to see the health effects of Operation Dominic and if they suffered any ill effects on returning to the island 4 years after Operation Grapple.
According to the NRPB Study completed in 1998, the UK Participants at Operation Dominic were broken down as follows:
Royal Navy - 63 | Army - 228 | RAF - 395 | AWE - 43
So who is responsible for these men? The US pay out compensation for them, but they were serving as British Forces overseas, so they remain the responsibility of the UK Government. They were deployed by the British Government and have been included in the NRPB Studies.
As any force deployed overseas, they need to be recognised for their duties as would any other serviceman. They endured the same conditions as Operation Grapple, stood on the same island and were exposed in the same way.
We cannot forget these servicemen, they served their country and did not choose to be deployed to the American tests, they were performing their duties. The UK Government made the decision to send them and they are responsible for them.
The UK included other Commonwealth countries, New Zealand, Fiji and Australia during these tests, these men should also be recognised by the UK Government.
The detailed report on Operation Dominic can be found here.
If the UK Government had adopted the US RECA program in 1990, instead of fighting the Veterans through litigation, thousands of Veterans would not have died without the recognition they deserve. The UK Government need to include all British and Commonwealth Servicemen who were deployed to a Nuclear test site by awarding a medal or clasp to them.