During the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union, it seemed the Atomic Energy Commission could only be blamed for poor judgment and faulty planning in connection with the May 19, 1953 detonation.
Years later, when it became known that a subtle form of death had rained down on an unsuspecting population, the mistakes and subsequent cover-ups took on the proportions of a major crime committed by the federal government against its most trusting citizens.
Glen Alan Cheney in his book (They Never Knew: The Victims of Atomic Testing, 1996) said Shot Harry was detonated on a 300-foot tower. The 32-kiloton explosion heaved a vast amount of earth into the air, much of it vaporized, most of it as a fine powder, all of it radioactive. The particles came to earth in a relatively small area, exposing the lower half of Utah to intense radiation rather than exposing a broad swath of North America to relatively diluted radiation, he said. The Harry shot is notable for the heaviest contamination of "Downwinders", civilians living downwind of the Nevada test Site, of any U.S. continental test, as measured by external gamma ray exposure. Just before the detonation of Shot Harry, the winds changed so that more of the fallout was concentrated over St. George, Utah.
Shot Harry sent so much fallout over St. George, Utah, that it became known as “Dirty Harry”. Estimates place fallout doses of Iodine-131 in the St. George area at 136 to 500 times higher than normal. Tourist brochures often called the St. George area The Land of Color. U.S. News and World Report, however, soon dubbed St. George "Fallout City,” Cheney wrote.
“Dirty Harry” was detonated at 5:05AM on an overcast morning and would go down in history as contributing to the largest off-site contamination blast among the 105 announced atmospheric tests conducted at the Nevada test site between January 1951 and July 1962, when all testing went underground.
At the time of the detonation for Shot Harry, Groom Mine owner Dan Sheahan, located on the northeast edge of the test site, wasn’t notified of the detonation until it was too late for him to take cover.
Sheahan noticed that the hides of deer, horses and cattle that grazed in the area were speckled with burn marks and there seemed to be fewer rabbits where the fallout was heaviest.
Others that day in the downwind region complained about health-related symptoms; Headaches, fever, thirst, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, hair loss, discoloration of fingernails, hemorrhaging and burns - all indications of radiation sickness and exposure to relatively high doses of radiation.
Fradkin said that the downwind residents who lived in portions of Nevada, Utah and Arizona were predominantly rural, Mormon and Anglo-Saxon who were unusually patriotic and innocent. They mostly endured rather than questioned or objected. They trusted and that was their downfall.
In the end, Fradkin said that these people were betrayed by their government. The nuclear testing program became a crime of betrayal perpetrated against US citizens in the name of National Security.