Richard "Dick" Mortensen
Nine Atomic Bomb Tests
My Dad served during the Korean War with the 505th Combat MP Battalion. They were stationed at the Presidio, in San Francisco, California.
Baseball and the 6th Army.
Dad was an incredibly gifted baseball player and his skills as a shortstop served him well playing for the 6th Army's all star team. These skills proved to be life-saving when his battalion was rushed to Korea after the Chinese attacked across the Yalu in December, 1950.
As the planes were being loaded to fly to Japan and then Korea, Dad and a couple other men were pulled off the plane to fill a shortage of "clerical assets" (read that baseball players).
The role of the 505th MP was to hold the line while the retreating regular units could stream back to more protected lines. The 505th performed this role with distinction and at a very high cost. After being decimated, the remnants of the battalion were returned home. Many of Dad's friends did not make it. Something that would haunt him for the rest of his life. Dad was later drafted by the Yankee's and did not play for them, I suspect due to the guilt he carried over this.
Desert Rock and the A-Bomb
After the unit came back they were deployed to Desert Rock, Nevada. Desert Rock was the code name of a series of exercises conducted by the US military in conjunction with atmospheric nuclear tests. They were carried out at the Nevada Proving Grounds between 1951 and 1957.Camp Desert Rock was established in 1951, 1.5 miles south of Camp Mercury. The site was used to billet troops and stage equipment, The 505th and a group of prisoners were the labor that built the initial camp. Their purpose was to train troops and gain knowledge of military maneuvers and operations on the nuclear battlefield. They included observer programs, tactical maneuvers, and damage effects tests.
Dad was part of nine of those bomb drops. Three below ground, three at ground level and three above ground. The role of the MP's was to secure the perimeter and make sure that no one came in to the test area. The MP's were also located the closest to the actual detonations (5 miles). Dad described what it was like to sit through one; the blinding flash, the shock wave that bounced the men around in their slit trenches like rag dolls and the intense heat. Once the bomb was detonated, the infantry (who were a couple miles behind the MP's) would do a "patrol" through the irradiated areas. Dad described the infantry and the MP's wearing various forms of protection (or lack of) and was bomb drop specific. Sometimes it was a full suit, sometimes just the hood and on a few, just their uniforms. They wore "RAD TAGS" that were turned in before the men hit the showers and no one ever saw their results. I think one of the reasons Dad avoided the cancer that many men involved in these tests eventually got was that his unit was always pulled out as soon as the bombs went off.
Dad left the military in 1954 and joined the Lompoc, CA police department where his Dad also served. He rose to the rank of Captain before moving his family to McMinnville, Oregon. Dad died in 2008, 6 short weeks after his wife, Pat. They were married for 52 years.