Letter to the Editor of the New York Times:
A reader shared a letter “Radioactive Fallout From the Trinity Test” that was published July 30 in the New York Times that was written by Pacific Palisades resident Dr. Janet Farrell Brodie.
Brodie is an emerita professor of history at Claremont Graduate University and the author of “The First Atomic Bomb: The Trinity Site in New Mexico,” that was published in June 2023, by the University of Nebraska Press.
She referenced a July 22 NYT Story “The Nuclear Test’s Fallout Reached 46 States, Canada, and Mexico, Study Find.”
The “Analysis Finds Fallout Spread Much Farther then Experts Thought” about fallout from the test of the first atomic bomb in New Mexico in 1945, is timely and very important. The article describes significant new findings about the extent and severity of the fallout but overlooks a few key issues.
A 2019 article in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists presents evidence of a dramatic increase in infant mortality in areas of New Mexico in the months after the Trinity test, although infant mortality in the state had otherwise declined steadily from 1940 to 1960.
My own research documents scores of investigations into the Trinity fallout (perhaps 40 studies) over the decades by various U.S. agencies and groups. Many were classified as secret and others were simply quietly buried and received little acknowledgment, but they document scientists’ concerns about residual radioactivity from the Trinity test in the soil, plants and trees in New Mexico.
Let us hope that this renewed publicity will help refocus attention on the long overlooked Trinity downwinders.
Janet Farrell Brodie
Brodie who lives in Pacific Palisades in a house built by her parents-in-law in 1953, received her bachelors degree in history from U.C. Berkely and her masters and a PH.D. in history from the University of Chicago.
Many Palisades residents might remember that she was the first speaker for the Palisades Historical Society inaugural Lorraine Oshins Lecture Series in 2018. She spoke on “Domesticity and Resistance: Women and Activism in Early Cold War Palisades.”
The professor’s main interest is primarily 19th- and 20th-century American history. Her research deals specifically with Cold War secrecy; war and American cultural history; and women, gender and Cold War history.
Brodie’s book Contraception and Abortion in Nineteenth Century America (Cornell University Press, 1994) received much praise for its careful research of contraception and abortion information and practices in the 19th century.
In the Women’s Review of Books, a reviewer writes: “One of Brodie’s many achievements is to denaturalize our sense of reproductive control by setting it firmly in historical context. Her insights into 19th-century meanings of contraception and abortion, however, are not without significance for current struggles.”
More recently Brodie has focused on the institutional response to the radiation from atomic weapons and the national security surrounding anything to do with nuclear energy.
ABOUT HER BOOK THE FIRST ATOMIC BOMB:
Weeks before the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that brought about the surrender of Japan and the end of World War II, the United States dropped the world’s first atomic bomb at the Trinity testing site located in the remote Tularosa Valley in south-central New Mexico.
Brodie explores the history of the Trinity test and the men and women who constructed, served, and witnessed the first test—as well as the downwinders who suffered the consequences of the radiation. Much of what she reports has never been discussed.
Concentrating on these ordinary people, laborers, ranchers, and Indigenous peoples who lived in the region and participated in the testing, Brodie corrects the lack of coverage with essential details and everyday experiences of those who experienced the event.
Her book also covers the environmental preservation of the Trinity test site and compares it with the wide range of atomic sites now preserved independently or as part of the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
A reviewer writes that Brodie presents “a timely, important, and innovative study of an explosion that carries special historical weight in American memory.”