Radiation and the young: like sheep to slaughter

Gregg Reese | 4/20/2011, 5 p.m.

Inquiries were made to the health department in Gibson County, Ind., but officials said their documentation did not go back that far, and the archives they did have contained records primarily of birth and death. Preliminary talks have begun with curators from the Smithsonian Institution for verification of Lyles Station's status as one of the oldest African American settlements in existence, and presumably the story of the radiation experiments of 1927 will be included, should those efforts prove to be successful.

One cannot help but be repulsed by the cruelty of such procedures, especially their application to young children, but this was not an isolated case. Similar research occurred in 1951 on a much larger scale has been uncovered in the then-fledgling state of Israel. Like the Lyles Station incident, where all the affected children were Black, racial overtones abounded since fair-skinned Ashkenazi Jews of European origin administered radiation to upwards of 100,000 Sephardic Jewish children who were refugees from Morocco.

The Ashkenazis served as proxies for Robert Oppenheimer, his Manhattan Project, and the U.S. government, who underwrote the program because they were eager to utilize a convenient pool of guinea pigs for further testing in the wake of their successful atomic bombings at the close of World War II. Sephardic Jews differ visually from their Ashkenazi brethren by virtue of their darker, olive skin tone.

Still more episodes of radiation bombardment were conducted throughout the 1960s at what is now the University of Cincinnati on some 90 working-class citizens, of which two-thirds were Black. During the Clinton Administration these and other Cold War experiment programs were reviewed to determine restitution suitability and the need for formal apologies.

As pointed out in the situation with Vertus Hardiman and his compatriots, amends and atonement are complicated by the matter of parental consent forms that were signed. But Smith and others involved with "A Hole in the Head" are optimistic that increased publicity will finally garner a measure of justice for this immoral travesty of long ago.

Interested parties may contact www.smithleonardproductions.com for information, or see the film trailer at www.youtube.com/smithleonardprod