- Howard Hughes Memos
Date: Sun, 05 Jul 1998
Subject: Re: HH memos
> Dear J.,
> I started re-reading Bartlett and Steel's ``Empire'' about Howard Hughes
> this weekend. Funny, when they talk about the Boxcar test, they say in a
> footnote, and later in the text, that Hughes did not have any proof the
> nuclear testing was contaminating Nevada's environment. Yet, when I read
> the abridged versions of his own memos published in the book, I got the
> distinct impression he DID know about radioactive contamination. It will
> be nice, if we can ever find it, to get our hands on the AEC documents,
> themselves, because I don't think Hughes -- although he was paranoid by
> then -- was stupid enough to go up against the U.S. government without
> some kind of proof.
from Howard R Hughes hand-written memos to Bob Maheu, 4/16/1968:
"When we first came here, you will remember, it was a close decision between this area and one other. I finally chose this one, oddly enough to avoid the hurricanes. Well I promise you I did not come here to avoid hurricanes only to be molested by some stupid ass-holes making little earthquakes.And further on, as Drosnin writes:
"The whole operation just makes me want to vomit. I cannot for the life of me understand Laxalt permitting these bastards to dessicrate and lay forever waste, poisoned, and contaminated all of those miles and miles of beautiful virgin Nevada soil.
"I am not saying the bomb is unsafe in terms of leaving a crack in the middle of Fremont Street into which somebody might fall. I have said from the start that the real damage from these explosions was in the contamination of the underground substances and the pollution of the very bowels of the earth on which we live. . . .
"Who can possibly contest the fact that thousands upon thousands of tourists will be lost to Nevada if the testing continues and if Nevada becomes identified with the ghastly spectre of nuclear devastation?
"I have insisted from the start that any damage would be in the form of destruction to the attraction of this community as a peaceful paradise-like resort, at which people could get away from, and not be reminded of the gruesome, ever present, over hanging threat of the ghastly image of the scarred and mutilated bodies which remained after the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.
"As I say, the future image of this area should, hopefully, represent a vacation resort of the very ultimate quality -- not a military experimental testing ground for exterminating devices.
"Nuclear explosions in the atmosphere were once considered entirely safe, and those opposed to them were laughed at. Now nobody in the free world would consider exploding a nuclear bomb in the air or in the sea.
"Who is to say that, in the future, contaminating the earth upon which we live may not be frowned upon just as much?
"If the gigantic nuclear explosion is detonated, then in a fraction of a second following the pressing of that fateful button, thousands and thousands, and hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of good potentially fertile Nevada soil and underlying water and minerals and other substances are forever poisoned beyond the most ghastly nightmare. A gigantic abyss too horrible to imagine filled with poisonous gases and debris will have been created just beneath the surface in terrain that may one day be the site of a city like Las Vegas.
"I say Nevada is no longer so desperate for mere existence that it has to accept and swallow poisonous, contaminated radio-active waste material more horrible than human excrement.
"I am sure that some expert somewhere must have pronounced as safe the bomb test in Utah, but that doesn't help the sheep lying dead there on the prairie.
"Some day, guides will take tourists from here to Reno, and when they pass [NTS] the guide will say: 'And on your right is the ghastly grave-yard of atomic poison and pollution, that is so dreadful no tourists are allowed to go near it for fear some child may wander away from its parents and step within the contaminated area.
"Rome proudly displays its battlefields of historic fame, but this misserable [sic] blemish on God's creation, the earth, is such a tragedy nobody points to it or boasts about it, it means only one thing: `Shame!'"
"Well, none of this is getting us any closer to stopping this shameful program. Now how do we go about it?
We must find a way to close them down."
Citizen Hughes, Drosnin, 1985, pp. 185-86, 190-91 
Humphrey . . . seemed, however, to be doing quite well for Hughes in Washington.
Soon top AEC officials were exchanging memorandums almost as frequently as Hughes and Maheu, trying to determine if the man who might soon be president of the United States had actually joined with its wealthiest private citizen in an antinuclear alliance.
"I called Col. Hunt in the Vice President's office to discuss with him rumors we had been hearing in Las Vegas as regards an agreement between the Vice President and the Hughes organization," reported the agency's director, Arnold Fritsch. "I indicated to him that while we had this only as a rumor, we were concerned since the high-yield test program involves some vital national security needs."
When the AEC discovered the rumors were indeed well founded, it first tried to abort the "independent" Hughes study, then, unable to block it, scrambled to remove the panel from the billionaire's control.
AEC Chairman Seaborg got word to the president. Johnson was angry. He had enough troubles without a new ban-the-bomb crusade to fuel antiwar feeling, and he did not appreciate Hughes's attempted end run. Besides, Humphrey was hardly being discreet about his dealings with the billionaire. Already it was common knowledge in the White House that the vice-president was getting campaign money from Hughes. Johnson was not merely angry. He was worried.
"Hubert had better keep his pants zipped," the president told an aide. "He's going to get caught with his pecker in Hughes's pocket."
Nervous about Humphrey's now open advocacy of the Hughes protest, Johnson took charge. He scuttled the Hughes-Humphrey plan by himself appointing a panel to investigate the bomb tests. But instead of Humphrey's half-dozen doves, Johnson picked a group of scientists more likely to call down tactical strikes on the Las Vegas Strip.
Still, Humphrey had forced the first official probe of nuclear hazards. And when the presidential panel made its report, its findings came as quite a shock. Hughes was right. The big blasts were dangerous. A blue-ribbon panel of conservative scientists hand-picked by the AEC, led by its own former research director and two top White House advisers, declared Hughes fears were well founded, warned that the megaton explosions could trigger major earthquakes, and called for a halt to the Nevada tests.
Humphrey had come through. Too late, however, to do either himself or his hidden benefactor any good. By the time the scientists convened in November, Humphrey had already lost the election. He was never even allowed to see the report, which first Johnson and then Nixon entirely ignored and completely suppressed. Despite the warnings of real and present danger, the bombing continued unabated.
Ibid, pp. 244-45 
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