Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Eileen Welsome uncovers the extraordinary extent of a fifty-year-old coverup begun by the medical doctors involved in the Manhattan Project. Desperate to know plutonium's potential for damaging the human body, they began an experiment in which 18 unsuspecting hospital patients across the US were injected with the substance. The race to beat Hitler to the construction of a workable nuclear bomb was on, and ethics were thrown out the window in their fervor to learn more.
Welsome's tone is a distinctly disapproving one, and with good reason. As awful as the prospect of being made sicker by the secret efforts of an arm of your government is, that's not where the coverup ended. Hundreds of enlisted military men, countless numbers of uninformed citizens, some juvenile wards of the state and many ham-and-eggers involved in the production of nuclear weapons have been exposed to physically devastating levels of radiation by military scientists who continued their experiments long after the pressure of WWII had passed. Welsome details events, makes the heretofore faceless victims known and enumerates the government's repeated failures to do right by the citizens it used as lab rats. The Plutonium Files is a long but necessary book, one sure to produce a shocked and indignant reaction in its readers.
[Welsome is concerned at the lack of media coverage given to what should be a front-page issue; an Associated Press report in late January 2000 which announced new government conclusions concerning nuclear weapons workers exposed to radiation was mostly relegated to inside pages of US newspapers. The findings, based on a review studies and medical data covering an estimated 600,000 workers, may lead to compensation for families of some workers. Government recompense in this matter has been sadly forthcoming.