Biography of Bud Norris

Damage Control 2nd Class, USS Curtis AV-4, United States Navy

   I participated in Operation Castle in 1954 aboard the USS Curtiss AV-4

   I served aboard the USS Curtiss from the summer of 1953 to December 1955. I was a Damage Control 2nd,and worked out of the carpenter shop. The ship operated out of San Diego, CA. and was moored at North Island Naval Base.

  When we went to the Marshall Islands in 1954 on Operation Castle, the ship anchored near a very small island that for all appearences was completely barren except for some palm trees. Later on we would find out why we were at this particular island.

   For recreation, they sent the Ships Company on picnics to this island periodically by alternating port side one day and starboard another. The ship had brought several cases of beer and liquor to be used at these picnics; needless to say we had quite a few drunken sailors.

   Myself and a couple of other guys had taken a senior life saving course before we went on Operation Castle, and we had to play life guard at a few of these picnics. They gave us a little dingy boat to patrol the beach with. Well, enough of the social life.

   We were about to find out why we had anchored at this island. On shot day we got underway and moved off from the island, I guess a good 25 to 30 miles, and on the morning of the detonation we lost our picnic island. That is where they had placed the bomb. When the smoke cleared there was nothing but ocean. I don’t remember the actual size of the island. Just guessing I would say at least three-quarters of a mile wide and a mile long.

   During the Operation Castle tests in the Marshalls, I had the duty assignment of Radiation Monitor. We had to wear protective gear and R.B.A. (Rescue Breathing Apparatus) and carry a Geiger Counter to monitor the radiation levels outside the ship after a detonation. After an explosion they would energize the washdown system for a period of time and then send us out to check levels of radiation. I don’t recall reading any high levels on the Curtiss. At the time the scuttlebutt going around was that some of the other ships in our task force got caught in the fallout and many ships personnel received high levels of radiation. We heard they shipped some out to hospitals for treatment.

   I do remember on one of the tests, I think the first, we were all above decks to observe the blast, 15 Megatons. The only ones who could face the detonation were the ones with infrared goggles.The rest of us had to turn our backs and cover our eyes for so many seconds, until the fire ball dissipated.

   I think they said we were about 30 miles from ground zero,and I remember the heat on the back of my neck was like it feels with a severe sunburn,and the flash was brighter then the daylight, and the sun was out. We received the shock wave several seconds after the blast and I think every sailor that was wearing hats, lost them. It sure is an experience you never forget.

----- C.V. (Bud) Norris

Email: cnorris1 AT socal.rr.com

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