The Heavy Stuff
Cobalt casings and more, below the decks.
My source-I’ll call him “Ethan”-is dead, and now, having kept our agreement,
I’m finally free to write about this horror story.
Ethan had read about a recent decontamination drill that was conducted in
Denver. A transit train was filled with mock victims and decontamination
personnel. The article went on at length about the abomination of “dirty
bombs”-the impetus for this drill.
It reminded Ethan of the time he was in the Marine Corps, when he was
stationed on a big aircraft carrier. “Jarheads” were placed on these ships
for the exclusive purpose of guarding the nukes. That, and administration.
His job was to interview Marines in order to gather information about their
status, with mundane questions such as, “Do you want to continue your dental
and medical coverage for your dependents this year?” and “Do you want to
take your accumulated leave or cash it in?” Despite the innocuous nature of
his work, he was often below decks, where the weapons holds and security
personnel were. That required a Top Secret clearance.
“While that sounds super-secure,” he told me, “it’s really not. You have
ENTNAC clearance at the very bottom… Then you have Secret, which for me
covered my having access to everyone’s SSNs, home addresses, medical
records, disciplinary records, etc. Then you have Top Secret, which you need
to be around anything nuclear.
“Then you have about ten dozen higher levels of security clearance. So, Top
Secret is relatively bottom-of-the-barrel stuff. Nonetheless, the NCIS
[Naval Criminal Investigative Service] does go to your hometown and spends
some time asking folks about you. And when the investigation is done, prior
to issuing the clearance, you are sworn not to disclose certain information
that the clearance exposes you to…ever in life.”
Since he was in Administration, his work took place above decks. His office
was right down the hall from the Admiral’s office. He also had the benefit
of having quarters right next to the officers’ staterooms. Although his was
called a “duty barracks” and was not in fact a stateroom, it was the same
thing, minus the mahogany. Meaning he didn’t have to sleep in steerage with
the rest of the jarheads.
Ethan was also right down the hall from the Officers Club, for field grade
and down. He had met an officer there who was “a cool guy” who regularly
invited him to the Officers Club to play cards, smoke cigars and engage in
conversation. This officer would be on duty for three days and off duty for
three days, completely disappearing. It turned out that he was the officer
in charge of the nuke weapons’ holds.
One day, Ethan had to get some information from the officer about a TAD
(Temporary Additional Duty) request that he’d put in for. Ethan was leaving
the ship to go ashore and would not see him again, so he wanted to make sure
to get his request right, because he knew that his friend really wanted to
stay. While the officer was in the hold, he was not, under any
circumstances, allowed to leave. Ethan couldn’t reach him on the phone, so
he went below.
“I’d been in most of the holds to talk to other Marines,” he told me, “but
I’d never been to the one where this officer worked. I went through several
guarded vault-type doors and finally arrived at a duty station where, for
the fifth or sixth time, I was required to show my Top Secret clearance
credentials and enter the day’s pass code onto a small computer console.
When I was cleared, I stated my business and was given a radiation suit-bit
of a space-suit lookin’ thing.”
He asked the Duty NCO (non-commissioned officer), “What the hell’s this?”
Ethan had been around nukes before, but was never required to wear a suit.
The Duty NCO replied only that the officer “is in with the jackets.”
“Need to know.” This meant that his station orders forbade him to discuss
any details of his post.
Ethan suited up and walked into a triple- door sally-port, where he
progressed through each airlock via ten-inch-thick lead-lined doors. Past
the last door, he stepped into a massive room/warehouse, about 60 feet wide
by 100 feet in length, with a 20-foot ceiling-huge for battleship
storage-room standards. From the floor to the ceiling, thousands upon
thousands of what looked like missiles were stored. It was weird, because
he’d never seen missiles stored in such a way where they were on top of one
The officer came around a row of missiles, and Ethan asked him the question
he had for him about his TAD request, and then asked him, “What the hell
kind of missiles are these?”
“Those aren’t missiles; they’re cobalt jackets.”
“What are they for?”
“Well, this is ‘need to know,’ so keep your mouth shut, but they are
designed to slide on over most of our conventional ordinance. They’re made
out of radioactive cobalt, and when the bomb they’re wrapped around
detonates, they contaminate everything in the blast zone and quite a bit
“So they turn regular ordinance into nukes?”
“No, not exactly. The cobalt doesn’t detonate itself. It just scatters
“Well, what? Does the radiation kill people?”
“Not immediately. Cobalt jackets will not likely ever be used. They’re for a
situation where the U.S. government is crumbling during a time of war, and
foreign takeover is imminent. We won’t capitulate. We basically have a
scorched earth policy. If we are going to lose, we arm everything with
cobalt-and I mean everything; we have jackets at nearly every missile
magazine in the world, on land or at sea-and contaminate the world. If we
can’t have it, nobody can.
“Just another example,” Ethan told me, “of what treacherous creatures our
leadership is made of.”
I emailed the above anecdote-with the subject line “Yikes!”-to no-nukes
activist Harvey Wasserman, author of The Last Energy War and co-author of
The Superpower of Peace. I asked him to comment in a couple of hundred
“‘Yikes’ is right,” he responded. “This nightmare has now essentially come
true with the use of depleted uranium on anti-tank and other shells in
Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. The military rationale is that the
super-hard depleted uranium helps shells penetrate tanks and other hard
structures. But the long-term effect is that the uranium vaporizes upon
explosion and contaminates everything for hundreds of yards, if not miles.
“Thus there are now whole regions that are heavily radioactive. Reports are
pouring in from all three countries about soaring cancer rates, infant death
rates and more. The mysterious ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ may have been caused by
radiation exposure suffered by U.S. troops. So, though ‘off the books,’ the
last three major U.S. attacks have in fact been nuclear in nature.”
Got comments? Email me, dammit!
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