On December 10, 1952, a small motion picture "Invasion U.S.A." went unnoticed by most Americans. This was one of the first attempts by a movie company to address America's fears of the Soviet Union attacking the country and dropping "Atomic Bombs" on American soil.
What wasn't known to those few Americans who saw this "Science Fiction" feature when it came out and the few critics that reviewed it at time, was that a "NUCLEAR INCIDENT" had already occurred over a community in Utah and the "Department of Defense" and the scientists that caused it took the position that it never happened.
This article looks at the event in Utah, and another effecting a Japanese fishing boat. However, I am also looking at two motion pictures, one Japanese, one American, related to both tragedies.
ゴジラ GOJIRA premiered in Nagoya, Japan, on October 27, 1954
To be clear, this first section of my article is not about the Americanized 1956 motion picture, "Godzilla, King of the Monsters", but Tomoyuki Tanaka's original 1954 "GOJIRA". A motion picture that came about because of a mistake made by American scientists that led to a nuclear weapons test on Bikini Atoll, located in the Marshall Islands.
Below, are current photos of the Bikini Atoll.
"THE GOOD OF ALL MANKIND AND TO END ALL WORLD WARS"
Eight years later and the "Castle Bravo H-Bomb Test" on the:
BIKINI ATOLL, March 1, 1954
Below the vaporizing of Palm Trees on Bikini.
The reason, the United States had never detonated a "dry fuel thermonuclear hydrogen bomb" and the predicted yield was a quote:
theoretical error made by designers of the device at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in New Mexico.
The following link will take my reader to a more detailed explanation should they want it.
第五福龍丸 DAIGO FUKURYU MARU (THE LUCKY DRAGON #5)
March 1, 1954, was anything but "Lucky" for the Japanese tuna fishing boat with a crew of 23 men.
The "Daigo Fukuryu Maru" was fishing in waters outside the danger zone established by the United States for the "Castle Bravo Nuclear Test". Unfortunately for the crew, as I have mentioned, that danger zone was predicated on an incorrect yield figure.
Not only was the size of the danger zone incorrect, but possible changes in the pattern of the weather were never considered by the American scientists at the "Los Alamos Laboratory" and they did occur. The end result was the carrying of nuclear fallout in the form of fine ash far beyond the stated danger zone and over the "Daigo Fukuryu Maru" and other islands in the area for a distance of 100 miles.
Initially, the "Daigo Fukuryu Maru" wasn't damaged by the shock wave from the blast, that according to the survivors lite up the sky. However, after that radioactive ash created by a mixture of coral and sand lifted from the seabed started to fall upon the fishing boat, the crew attempted to clear the area and return to Japan, but not until they spent six hours retrieving their fishing gear from the sea and processing their catch as if nothing out of the ordinary had taken place.
During their return to Japan the crew started to show symptoms of radiation poisoning. The crew experienced pain, headaches, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, and their eyes started to turn red and developed an itchy mucus. One of the fishermen had thought to take a sample of the ash and placed it in a pouch, but he hung it on the end of one of the beds in the room the men slept in and unknowingly exposed all to more radiation.
The un-"Lucky Dragon #5" finally docked on March 14, 1954, at Yaizu, Japan, and because it was during the late night, the catch wasn't immediately unloaded, and the majority of the contaminated fish never ended up in the fish market. Radiation from the tuna boat was being detected one-hundred-feet from it and on deck a Geiger counter was reading 120 milliroentgens.
The crew were treated initially at the "Yaizu Public Hospital" and on March 15th, six of the "elderly" crew members were sent to the "Tokyo University Hospital" and the reality of what the tuna fishermen had been exposed to was revealed.
On March 22, 1954, the future of the "Daigo Fukuryu Maru", that was still docked at Yaizu, was debated by the American military, the Japanese government and scientists from both countries. The American military representatives wanted the tuna boat to be moved to the American base in Yokosuka to be disposed of. While Minister without portfolio Ano Masazumi argued that the tuna boat should be kept in Yaizu, parts saved for scientific research and the rest scuttled.
However, once the public learned of the incident, there was an outcry against the Japanese government over their treatment of the crew, the lack of information about the radiation on the docked tuna fishing boat and a fear of a cover-up about radioactive fish that might have gotten into the marketplace, and anti-American sentiment was rekindled.
Today the "Daigo Fukuryu Maru" is in its own museum in Tokyo.
Into this environment entered movie producer Tomoyuki Tanaka.
I now turn to my worn copy of J.D. Lees and Marc Cerasini's classic, "The Official GODZILLA Compendium", page 11, for a look at a disappointed Tomoyuki Tanaka leaving Jakarta, Indonesia:
Tanaka, a producer at Toho, Japan's premiere film studio, had been forced to shelve a Japanese-Indonesian co-production called Eiko no Kantani (Behind the Glory) because the Indonesian government refused to grant work visas to the Japanese stars.
It was a shattering blow to the fledgling producer. In the future, Tanaka would go on to produce films by famed director Akira Kurosawa, and would eventually become president of Toho-Eiga, the studio's production arm. Right now, all he had was a cast, cameras and equipment, and a schedule. But he didn't have a movie anymore. In fact, he didn't even have an idea for a movie.
"Now I had to come up with something big enough to replace it, " Tanaka explained in a 1981 interview with Japanese Fantasy Film Journal.
I continue the story with the excellent biography "Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters" by August Ragone, and quote page 34 twice:
As legend has it, as Tanaka was looking out at the sea during the flight from Jakarta to Tokyo, he started thinking about a recent international incident between the U.S. and Japan, which the Japanese Press labeled "The Second Atomic Bombing of Mankind". On March 1 the fishing trawler Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon #5) sailed into the fallout from a U.S. hydrogen bomb test in the Marshall Islands.
Later the same page has:
Tanaka felt that the details of the tragic incident could be combined with the premise of Eugene Lourie's forthcoming film The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms to create an interesting new movie concept.
Above the poster for Ray Harryhausen's feature that was released in Japan on December 22, 1954.
Lees and Cerasini mentioned at the bottom of page 11:
In 1952, the grandfather of all giant monster films, Willis O'Brien's King Kong (1933) was re-released in Japanese theaters.
They imply that film may have also influenced Tomoyuki Tanaka.
Whatever the real reasoning for producer Tanaka, according to page 12, of "The Official GODZILLA Compendium", "Kaitei Niman Mariu Kara Kita Dai Kaiju (The Big Monster from 20,000 Mile Underneath the Sea)" went into production.
On August 7, 1953, Godzilla began shooting its Odo Island scenes on a mountain near Ijika, a remote fishing village on the rocky coast of Mie Prefecture.
Obviously, the year is incorrect and possibly a typo as the "Castle Bravo" nuclear weapons test wasn't until March 1, 1954.
The Four Main Roles:
Akira Takarada portrayed "Salvage Ship Captain Hideto Ogata". Takarada was born in North Korea, and this was only his second on-screen appearance. He would star in 1955's "獣人雪男, Ju Jin Yuki Otoko Jo (Beast Man Yukio aka: Beast-Man Snow-Man)"
The first sequence following the opening credits is of a fishing trawler with the crew relaxing when they notice something in front of the ship and a blinding flash of light engulfs the trawler.
Next the direct tie-in to "Castle Bravo" takes place as "Dr. Yamane" explains his findings to the "Japanese National Diet" that a "HYDROGEN BOMB TEST" in the area near Odo Island awakened a Jurassic age dinosaur that was in some form of hibernation, and it has absorbed a large quantity of radiation.
Went to Odo Island to investigate the possible source of all the shipping disasters, found the answer and gave his findings to the "National Diet", but he lets his scientific curiosity about a living dinosaur block his reasoning of the danger it posed, let alone one that a hydrogen bomb had given nuclear breath too. "Dr. Yamane" defends studying "Gojira" rather than destroying "Gojira" in the name of scientific advancement in the field of Paleontology, even over the probable death and destruction this living dinosaur will cause.
As portrayed in the original 1954 "Gojira", "Dr. Serizawa" is very much like the scientist called the "Father of the Atomic Bomb", "Theoretical Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer", who was appointed head of the "Los Alamos Laboratory" in New Mexico during the "Manhattan Project".
NOW I AM BECOME DEATH, THE DESTROYER OF WORLDS!
Now I am become death, the scatterer of worlds
During the 1949-1950 government and military debate on the development of a hydrogen bomb, Oppenheimer opposed it.
Which brings me to "Serizawa":
When "Emiko Yamane" goes to see "Dr. Serizawa" to tell him she cannot go through with their childhood arranged marriage, because she loves "Hideto Ogata". Initially, she is accompanied by the reporter, "Hagiwara" who wants to speak to "Serizawa" on his work and 'Gojira". "Hagiwara" leaves when the doctor won't discuss what he's been working upon, and "Emiko" prepares to tell "Serizawa" about "Ogata". However, she is unable to tell him, because "Dr. Daisuke Serizawa" now wants to show "Emiko Yamane" what he has been working on that has kept him out of touch with her and her father.
In the following two stills of the touching scene of a mother and daughter just prior to being killed by "Gojira". In the first the mother tells her daughter she is about to see her deceased "Father" again, but in the second it's her "Daddy" the daughter is about to see again.
The immediately above still is probably from a release of the original 1954 "Gojira" after May 29, 1957, because of the "NAME" mentioned in the following clip of "Dr. Yamane" that uses the same color and style of subtitles. It is followed by a newspaper ad that supports the name change.
We weren't interested in politics, believe me. We only wanted to make a movie we could sell. At that time, the American public wouldn't have gone for a movie with an all-Japanese cast. That's why we did what we did. We didn't really change the story. We just gave it an American point of view.
King of the MonstersBut back to politics, which contrary to Richard Kay's statement governed every decision related to any action taken by the three American producers on the motion picture.
I mentioned that the Japanese governments non-action in 1954 by not informing the Japanese public about the "Daigo Fukuryu Maru" led to the rekindling of anti-American sentiment. Cross the Pacific Ocean that same year and a large portion of Americans still held anti-Japanese sentiment from the Second World War. So, in 1955, when Edmund Goldman approached Toho for the rights to "Gojira" and next, the three American producers. The three, including Richard Kay had to consider the politics of just dubbing into English a motion picture containing an implied anti-American slant.
Changing the story went to the uncredited Al C. Ward, a television drama writer, he would eventually write five episodes of televisions "Perry Mason".
The actual writing of the revised screenplay was by the director of the new American footage Terry O. Morse. Morse who was a film-editor would additonally be responsible for that portion of the production. He had started editing in 1927, directing in 1939, but this would be his only screenplay.
Raymond Burr portrayed "International Reporter Steve Martin". Burr's six-day shoot included retakes. The still primarily unknown Burr was 18-months away from the first of his 271-episodes of televisions "Perry Mason". My article, "RAYMOND BURR BEFORE PERRY MASON: Film-Noirs, "B" Westerns, A Certain Monster and the Queen of the Nile" will be found at:
Frank Iwanaga portrayed "Security Officer Tomo Iwanaga". This was both his last of nine roles and the only one with on-screen credit.
The screenplay opens after "Godzilla" has destroyed Tokyo and injured "Steve Martin" is discovered by "Emiko Yamane", a combination of dubbed actress Momoko Kochi original scenes and a body double from the back.
.... and the flashback ends, and the audience sees "Ogata" and "Serizawa" going into the water and using the "Oxygen Destroyer" as in 1954's "Gojira", but with Raymond Burr's footage added supposedly on the ship with "Ogata", "Emiko", and "Dr. Yamane".
The screenplay for "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" is without any reference to the "Lucky Dragon #5", or "Godzilla" being the allegorical atomic bomb other than he was brought back out of hibernation by hydrogen bomb testing. Think about the similar explanation in Ray Harryhausen's "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" as a plot device to explain the monster's appearance.
For back-up to my above statement that "Godzilla" does not have the same nuclear breath as "Gojira" is another tagline on the posters for the American re-edit designed to stay away from implying anything related to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the film is set Japan.
CIVILIZATION CRUMBLES as its death rays blast a city of 6 million from the face of the earth!
The audience is dealing with "Death Rays" that go back to 1930's and 1940's science fiction like 1936's "The Invisible Ray", 1938's "Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars", and 1945's, "The Purple Monster Strikes"
Trivia: the actual population of Tokyo, Japan, in 1956 was over 8 million people!
The following is a scene change to incorporated footage of Raymond Burr as an example of several scenes recreated for the 1956 version.
Above original scene from "Gojira" with "Reporter Hagiwara", below recreated scene for "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" with reporter "Steve Martin".
In 1955, producer Howard Hughes made what critics called a "Mongolian Western".
THE CONQUEROR premiered in London, England on February 2, 1956
John Wayne portrayed "Temujin, the future Genghis Khan". Wayne had just been seen on the television anthology series "Screen Directors Playhouse", in the 1955 episode entitled, "Rookie of the Year", and followed this film with director John Ford's 1956, "The Searchers". This picture contained one of four roles John Wayne attempted to use to change his cowboy image. My article, "JOHN WAYNE: Four Gutsy Role Choices", can be read at:
Pedro Armendariz portrayed "Jamuga". The Mexican American actor had just been in the 1956 historical drama, "Diane", co-starring with Lana Turner, and Roger Moore. He would follow this feature with the 1956 Mexican motion picture "La escondida (The Hide and Seek)" co-starring with Maria Felix.
John Hoyt portrayed "Shaman". Character actor Hoyt was currently being seen on television, but his previous motion picture appearances included three 1951 motion pictures, the science fiction "The Lost Continent" starring Cesar Romero, producer George Pal's "When Worlds Collide", and James Mason's "The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel". In 1952, Hoyt was featured in "The Black Castle", starring Richard Greene, Boris Karloff, and Stephen McNally.
William Conrad portrayed "Kasar". The original "Matt Dillon" on radio's "Gunsmoke", would follow this picture with the Frank Sinatra western, 1956's, "Johnny Concho". Conrad was the narrator's voice on the animated "The Dudley Do-Right Show", and "The Bullwinkle Show".
Located 137 miles down wind of the "Nevada National Security Site" was "St. George, Utah" one of the communities around which Howard Hughes used as a filming location for "The Conqueror". St. George wasn't full of those fake people set up on the test range to study the effects of the bomb blast...
...but a small town with a population of approximately 4,700 Americans.
Between October 22, 1951, and November 29, 1951, was "Operation Buster-Jangle", the testing of 7 nuclear weapons. The Department of Defense, "Buster", provided 6,500 army troops for military exercises in the bomb test area and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, "Jangle", provided the nuclear weapons tested.
Apparently, the scientists from Los Alamos never took the wind conditions into consideration and radiative dust blew across St. George, Utah. "Operation Buster-Jangle" would be followed by "Operation Tumbler-Snapper", April 1, 1952, through June 5, 1952, and the testing of 8 nuclear weapons. Which in turn was followed by "Operation Upshot-Knothole", March 17, 1953, through June 4, 1953, and another 11 nuclear weapons tests.
An example of "Operation Upshot-Knothole" took place on May 19, 1953, when a 32-kiloton atomic bomb nicknamed "Harry" was detonated at the "Nevada Test Site" and gained another nickname "Dirty Harry", because of the tremendous amount of off-site fallout that the bomb generated and was carried by winds onto St. George and the surrounding desert and hills. It was reported that residents in the town had felt:
an oddly metallic taste in the air.
Yet, neither the "Department of Defense", or the scientists attached to the "Los Alamos National Laboratory" felt there was any danger to the residents there.
Enter the cast and crew of "The Conqueror" to on-location film between June and August 1954 on the same desert and hills outside of St. George and use the community for food, rented rooms for some of the members of the cast and crew, while others slept in tents on the radiated dust covered desert floor itself. Additionally, Howard Hughes had 60-tons of the desert sand transported to the Hollywood sound stage being used for the indoor filming to match the outdoor shots.
All bringing me to the question:
Did Nuclear Testing Kill Members of the Cast and Crew of "THE CONQUEROR"?
With a November 10, 1980, article in "People Magazine", by Karen G. Jackovich and Mark Sennet, entitled "The Children of John Wayne, Susan Hayward and Dick Powell Fear That Fallout Killed Their Parents", the general public first became aware of something others only spoke about in private.
Let me start with the cause of death of the three people named in the article.
John Wayne died from Stomach Cancer at the age of 72 on June 11, 1979.
Susan Hayward died from Brain Cancer at the age of 57 on March 14, 1975.
Dick Powell died from Lung Cancer at the age of 58 on January 2, 1963.
However, there were others:
Pedro Armendariz committed suicide on June 18, 1953, because he could not stand the pain throughout his body from Kidney Cancer.
Agness Moorehead died from Uterine Cancer at the age of 73 on April 30, 1974.
John Hoyt died from Lung Cancer at the age of 85 on September 15, 1991.
Lee Van Cleef died from a Heart Attack with Throat Cancer listed as a secondary illness at the age of 64 on December 16, 1989.
Jeanne Gerson died from two forms of cancer at the age of 87 on February 7, 1992.
In all, out of a cast and crew of 220 people, 91 developed cancer and 46 medically died from it.
Two arguments against the location and the nuclear fallout being the cause of the cancers have been put forward.
The most prominent was this was the 1950's and everyone smoked!
However, according to her mother Mollie, Agness Moorehead never smoked, the "People" article mentions that near death Moorehead told her best friend actress Debbie Reynolds:
Everyone in that picture has gotten cancer and died...I should never have taken the part.
Dick Powell's diagnosis of "Lung Cancer" came from his widow, June Allyson in a televised interview on the "Larry King Show". It was a known fact that she was upset with all the nuclear radiation talk about "The Conqueror". Powell's two children by his first wife actress Joan Blondell according to the "People Magazine" article disagree with Allyson. They also accompanied him to St. George, Utah, and watched the filming. As did both of John Wayne's sons, Michael and Patrick who had small roles in the motion picture and developed cancer. Along with Tim Barker, Susan Hayward's son who was on the location shoot as a spectator and developed a form of cancer.
According to the "People" article, Jeanne Gerson stated:
I've always been convinced that it's more than a coincidence
that she developed cancer.
The second argument is that the percentage of cancer on "The Conqueror" shoot was in line with the average percentage of cancers in adults during the 1950's, 43 percent getting a form of the disease, and. 23 percent dying from it. The pictures percentages based upon the 220 cast and crew members sighted, showed 41.36 percent developed cancer, and 20.91 percent died from cancer.
However, the 220 figure does not include members of the Native American "Southern Paiute people" being used as extras and nobody looked into the rate of cancer among them which would have affected the percentage figures used to argue that smoking and not the nuclear weapon testing wasn't responsible for any one case.
Another area overlooked by the percentage counters for the motion picture was St. George, Utah, itself.
The citizens were being routinely diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma, thyroid cancer, breast cancer, bone cancer, brain tumors and other forms of the disease during the 1950's.
This was backed up by details of a study in the 1979 issue of the "New England Journal of Medicine" that stated:
A significant excess of leukemia deaths occurred in children up to 14 years of age living in Utah between 1959 and 1967. This excess was concentrated in the cohort of children born between 1951 and 1958, and was most pronounced in those residing in counties receiving high fallout
used thousands of GIs as human guinea pigs. The GIs, who became known as the "atomic veterans," were exposed to nuclear fallout, and many suffered fatal diseases
In 1990, "Congress" passed the "Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA)" to give the miliary personal used in the nuclear tests up to $75,000.
The second truth was in 2002 "Congress" admitted civilians were also affected by the nuclear weapons testing and passed an amendment to the "RECA" to permit "Downwinders" like the citizens of St. George, Utah, to get up to $50,000 in compensation. The qualification was you had to have lived in Southern Utah for two years between January 21, 1951, and October 31, 1958, or all of July 1962.
Yet, even with the filming of Howard Hughes' "The Conqueror" in St. George, Utah, as of this writing many people still argue that the high concentration of radioactive fallout at the pictures shooting location and the 60-tons of radiated desert sand brought back for indoor shooting could not have contributed to any of the cancers of the cast and crew.