The Atomic Story “Oppenheimer” Fails to Tell

July 19th, 2023 - by Win Without War


The Story“Oppenheimer” Won’t Tell You
Win Without War

(July 17, 2023) — 78 years ago this week, the US government secretly detonated the first nuclear weapon in the deserts of New Mexico.

With the blockbuster film Oppenheimer hitting theaters this month, millions will learn more about nuclear weapons development. But the film won’t show you how the Trinity test ushered in an era of nuclear testing where the US government knowingly exposed tens of thousands of servicemembers, people in rural communities, Indigenous peoples, miners, and others to toxic materials and radiation.

The fallout from these tests was devastating — and the United States has failed to reckon with the consequences. The good news is that legislation currently in Congress could go further than ever before to acknowledge and compensate victims of the nuclear testing era.

The bad news? These bills, like the history of nuclear testing itself, may languish behind the scenes. We just can’t let that happen. Right now, families like the Greenwoods in Texas, who struggled to pay for chemotherapy as multiple family members lived with the cancer-causing effects of radiation exposure, are STILL suffering.

Extending and expanding the Radiation Exposure and Compensation Act (RECA) will provide a crucial lifeline to thousands of other families. But the reality is that this legislation doesn’t stand a chance if we can’t build enough power to get it passed. That’s why we’re launching an ambitious ad and advocacy campaign to keep this issue front and center — and we need your support to get it off the ground.

With all eyes on Oppenheimer, we have a crucial, made-in-Hollywood moment to push Congress to do right by victims of nuclear testing. 

Here’s our plan: We’re hijacking a Hollywood PR blitz to send powerful messages AND messengers of justice and accountability directly to Washington, DC. First, we’re blanketing the Capitol with ads and posters to educate more people on the human toll of nuclear testing. Then, we’re bringing impacted community members directly to the halls of Congress to share their stories in person. Will you help make it happen?

Atomic Bombing in Japan;
Atomic Bombing in the US
Many know that months after the Trinity test, the United States would drop bombs on and level Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instantly killing upwards of 120,000 people. Fewer are aware that Trinity marked the start of decades of dangerous experiments.

Despite the potential catastrophic impacts, from 1945 to 1962, the United States went back time and again — to places in Colorado, Alaska, Nevada, Mississippi, the Marshall Islands, and more — to conduct 1,054 nuclear tests. The fallout devastated generations of people who lived and worked near the blast radius.

Take just one story: In the decades since her Cedar City community was exposed to detonations at the Nevada Test Site, Claudia Peterson has watched multiple family members, including her daughter, suffer and die from cancer.

Now in her 60s, Peterson spoke with National Geographic about being given iodine pills and undergoing Geiger tests as a child: “We were very trusting, patriotic, family-oriented people…Yet it was my own government that was killing my family and my neighbors and my friends. Who does this to their own people?”

Let’s Recap
The Manhattan Project’s success was building a weapon capable of horrific violence. To get there, the US government conducted tests that harmed people it claimed to be protecting. We can’t right this wrong alone, and that’s why we’re reaching out today.

We’re working with partners from across the nuclear non-proliferation community to seize this moment, but flights, hotels, and ads aren’t cheap. Running this ambitious ad and advocacy campaign could cost upwards of $10,000, but we can’t let this crucial opportunity pass by.

Together, we’ll send Congress a crucial reminder that so much tragedy resulted from years of policy, politics, and people agreeing to build weapons that could devastate humanity. Today, it’s time to turn the page — and that starts with justice and accountability for people like Claudia Peterson and the Greenwoods.

Thank you for working for peace,
Sara, Faith, Amy, and the Win Without War team