Sunday, May 22, 2016

PHOENIX and GOLDEN RULE (2) First Trial

     How long would the nuclear test zone be out of bounds? Skipper (Dad) and Ted looked up the Atomic Energy Commission in the phone book, found a local office, and went in person to ask. As Skip wrote in The Forbidden Voyage, "We learned nothing. . . No comment--or at least not for us."
     Next, they went to Coast Guard headquarters: "A young legal officer took care of us. He also knew exactly nothing. . . He asked us if 'we planned to do anything like the Golden Rule.' I answered that we had no plans for entering any forbidden zone. On the contrary, the reason for our being in his office right this minute was to try to find out how we could avoid the blasted areas."
     On May 7, 1958, Skipper wrote, "Today I had a new experience. At Barbara's suggestion, we went to see a trial. I believe it was the first time I had ever been in a courtroom." It would be far from the last. His familiarity with a courtroom would become much more personal before long.
     "It was the case of the Golden Rule. . ."
     Norman Cousins, then editor of the Saturday Review, summarized Capt. Bigelow's court testimony in an editorial, "Earle Reynolds and His Phoenix" (Oct. 11, 1958): "Bert Bigelow made it clear he believed as strongly in the defense of the United States today as he did when he served in the Navy, but he did not believe that setting off nuclear bombs contributed either to the defense of the United States or to our moral position in the world.
     "He condemned the Soviet Union and Great Britain for engaging in nuclear testing, presenting facts concerning the contamination of atmosphere, land, water, milk, and food. He presented evidence from the files of the AEC itself showing that radioactive strontium was already present, in detectable quantities, in the bones of children. (See also http://www.radiation.org/.) He pointed out that all peoples and all lands were being affected. . .
     "This was not the only moral issue involved, Commander Bigelow declared. He felt that the United States had the moral responsibility to take world leadership in putting an end to the tests. . .
     "That was why the crew of the Golden Rule intended to sail directly into the atomic testing zone, willing to be hit by radioactive fallout in an attempt to prod the consciences of their fellow Americans. . ."

 

     All four men were convicted of criminal contempt and sentenced to sixty days in Honolulu's 100-year old jail.     



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