Carl Oscar “Bud” Matison, Jr., was on the ship throughout the whole war. He retired from the Navy in 1957. When he got his service records there were omissions regarding his participation in “Operation Crossroads”. Instead it said he was attending firefighting school in Hawaii. The VA denied any connection on his cancer from his service in the Navy. He never got over that.
He passed away Nov. 24, 1998.
CEM, USS Salt Lake City CA 25
1941 – 1946
Retired USN 1957
I would like to submit this letter I wrote, more out of frustration and grief, regarding my dad’s fight to get the VA to recognize his cancer as being service connected. He suffered from severe arthritis, bursitis in the neck, shoulders, knees and hands. He had a patch of skin cancer removed in the late 1970s and subsequently died from prostate cancer in November 1998.
He was a member of this fine organization and eagerly read each bit of news regarding veterans and the radiation exposure issue. I don’t know if this is something that can be used but I feel that dad’s specific issue must be recorded, and not just in the files of the government.
Nearly a year has past now since I stood in a covered enclave, with the rain and wind blowing about me, as the final words were spoken at my dads funeral. It was a gut wrenching experience as the Naval Honor Guard fired their salute and the distant sounds of Taps was heard, played at another ceremony nearby (Mom didn’t want it played at dads), but the timing couldn’t have been better. Placed next to the ‘cigar box’ which contained his ashes was a photo of dad in his uniform, in black and white, with his hat cocked back on his head which was how they wore them in the 40s and 50s. No name tag, no medals, just a cocky and proud CEM who didn’t wear his ego on his chest. Dad was 81 when he died. A cancer took him, a cancer which I believe came as a result of his participation in the nuclear tests after W.W.II, but of course, the government denies this.
Dad had prostate cancer, a cancer that the VA states is not figured into the covered illnesses. He also however had skin cancer removed from his groin, and later cancer throughout his back; hot spots in his neck, shoulders and spine. Though in pain, he complained little. His greatest pain was not the illness, but from what he felt was the betrayal of the service he gave so much for.
Dad was on the USS Salt Lake City, CA 25 throughout the war. In the end, the ship was selected for the nuclear tests at Bikini in 1946 (Operation Crossroads). Dad was there (Onsite Participant). After the detonation tests, he and a crew went back aboard ship and stayed, taking readings and attempting to “scrub down” the ship. His mission was to start the generators for power. He was first to arrive and the last to leave. He sometimes wore film badges to determine radiation levels. After “Able and Baker” detonations, it was determined that it was “too hot” to stay on board so they left. The ship was later towed to California and was sunk during target practice.
He often talked about his 20 years in the Navy, including being on board the ship after the nuclear tests. It wasn’t till many years later that he requested a copy of his service records after being treated for skin cancer. What he found, to his astonishment, was that his participation in the tests were no where to be found. In place during this time period was a notation signed by the Executive Officer that he attended a “fire fighting school” in Hawaii. He was then faced with, ‘If it wasn’t in the record, it didn’t happen.’
This started a crusade to correct the omission, subsequently learning about and joining the Atomic Veterans Association. It was through this organization he met other veterans who were exposed to radiation but were denied assistance because it was not proven their health problems were the result of their radiation exposure. Through his association with the NAAV (National Association of Atomic Veterans) he did finally receive recognition that he had been there. Research done by the Nuclear section of the Naval Department and the Defense Nuclear Agency confirmed this. They had skimpy records at best regarding total REMs exposed to the sailors, but it was something. He filed a claim concerning skin cancer and waited while the wheels of government turned.
As the years went by his health deteriorated. Severe arthritis in his neck, shoulders, knees and hands (which cropped up in 1957 when he retired) were his daily companions. His ability to receive the medical care which was promised to him back in 1937 was reduced, forcing him to pay more and more to receive civilian care. He was then treated for prostate cancer. Claims were submitted to the VA and other government organizations but always returned with delays, ‘that your claim is currently being researched.’ You see, if you wait long enough it won’t matter, as they will all be dead. That is what happened to my dad.
My brothers and I are grateful to the Navy, that we were able to receive the benefits when we were young. But the benefits which were promised to my dad evaporated and he became a non priority in his later years, denied the proper care he was entitled to and victim of the denial/omission of his official involvement in the Bikini tests and for coverage of service connected illness due to the limited records kept and research done to date.
Those who wrote the entries of the service records are no doubt dead, following the guidance of their superiors, under the guise of national security I assume. I don’t blame them for the testing that was done. Their knowledge of radiation was limited at the time and they had no way of knowing the long term effects of exposure. But to ignore the health complaints of veterans who willingly did their duty and to hide behind dated research or biased medical opinions is wrong. It’s financial, as I assume it will open up Pandora’s Box and all sorts of claims would be made if the standards were relaxed. I find it interesting that the cancers allowed by the VA is in inverse proportion to the amount of specific cancers found by the NAAV in their limited Morbidity Study. Veterans are dying at a record rate now and very soon now it really won’t matter, because if you wait long enough…