October 22 marks the 56th anniversary of the day the Feds first nuked Mississippi. This underground nuclear explosion was in the vicinity of a community known as Baxterville, in the Tatum Salt Dome, roughly 28 miles southwest of Hattiesburg, 100 miles northeast of New Orleans. Baxterville, in Lamar County, was the area in which my late father, his parents, and nine siblings scratched out a living from circa 1920 to the early 1940s, before the days of food stamps, WIC, Social Security disability checks, and EBT cards. If one didn't work, one didn't eat. It was just that simple.
These people didn't riot, and they didn't whine. They worked, hunted, and fished to survive from day to day.
Fortunately for my father, he was no longer living near Baxterville the day the Feds detonated the bomb. However, he did have relatives and friends still living in the area. Unfortunately for those still living there, the earth shook, homes were severely damaged, and underground water supplies were contaminated.
Many of his family and acquaintances later told my father of seeing sidewalks rippling, chimneys cracking, and pine and pecan trees swaying.
The governments of the U.S., the United Kingdom, and the USSR, had signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty on August 5, 1963. This treaty banned underwater, atmospheric and outer space nuclear detonations. Of course Uncle Sam, devious as usual, decided to circumvent the treaty, and perform the detonation underground, figuring the Russians wouldn't be able to detect it.
The explosion was initially supposed to take place on September 22, but the wind was uncooperative, and the project was postponed. Conditions were finally deemed favorable, and at 10:00 A.M. on October 22, 1964, the Feds 'pulled the trigger.' The bomb was a 5.3 kiloton behemoth, and was detonated 2,700 feet underground. The explosion had the equivalent power of about 5,000 tons of TNT. About 400 residents were evacuated from the area; adults were paid $10 each, and children $5 each. Horace Burge lived about two miles from the blast site, and returned home to discover considerable damage to his home. The fireplace and chimney were damaged, and bricks were scattered across the living room. Broken dishes and jars littered the floor, and the shelves inside his refrigerator fell. The pipes beneath the kitchen sink burst, causing flooding in the house. Damage of this type happened to dozens of other homes in the area. The shock wave was felt as far away as downtown Hattiesburg.
Uncle Sam has always been fond of coming up with names for each destructive, money-wasting project it undertakes, (Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, the Manhattan Project, and, of course, the latest fiasco – Operation Warp Speed), and this one was no different. The Atomic Energy Commission dubbed this one 'Project Salmon.' On December 3, 1966, Project Sterling detonated a 380 ton bomb in the same salt dome.
Apparently the only reason given for these completely unnecessary nuclear explosions was to confirm how easily they could be hidden and detected. Washington politicians and bureaucrats thrive on deception and stealth, being part and parcel of the way they operate. All the politicians want and require from us serfs is to keep our mouths shut, be good, unwaveringly compliant citizens, pay the taxes they extract (by force, if necessary), and vote them back in for term after term. The unelected bureaucrats and government technicians frankly don't care what we think.
Southerners have long been used as convenient guinea pigs in one federal experiment after another, whether it's the men of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, or the 'poor white trash' in Lamar County, Mississippi. In the wicked, collective mind of the U.S. Government power elite, we're basically all the same, and all very expendable.
Anthony Powell is an unreconstructed Southerner, a married, home-schooling father of seven, four of whom are still at home. He and his wife own a screen-printing business. He is a life-long resident of rural Wayne County, Mississippi, who has lived on the same 20 acres his entire life. In his spare time, he hunts, fishes, enjoys Scrabble with his children, and plays bluegrass music.