Dr. Irwin Lebish


In 1957, Dr Lebish was asked to be an observer and participant in a nuclear military test project known as Operation Plombbob.  The test’s purpose was to study the effects of various size fission bombs on animals and humans.  For this purpose there were some 1200 Hormel pigs and 16,000 troops involved.  The tests had the nuclear devices fired off using three different methods; bombs placed on the top of a 500 foot tall tower, bombs attached to missiles fired from aircraft and underground explosions.  These all took place in a twenty-five square mile area in Nevada.

There were three types of effects that were studied: blast, thermal and radiation.  In all, 29 bombs were set off during the course of Operation Plombbob.  After each explosion, Dr. Lebish would perform physical exams, blood tests and necropsies on the exposed pigs.  No follow up work was done to evaluate long-term radiation effects.  He noted that the pigs were protected or unprotected from the blasts to varying degrees.  Some were given shelter while others were given various types of clothing and still others received no protection of any kind.  All pigs within 1000 yards of ground zero died immediately.  Either they were incinerated, or those within 500 yards were vaporized.  Pigs beyond that range suffered from various degrees of burns, or blast injuries.  

While not involved with the human evaluation, Dr. Lebish learned from his later readings that the human participants experienced increased incidents of thyroid cancer and leukemia.


Q.  When was this work declassified?

A.  It happened at various times depending on the material involved, but it started around 1980.

Q.  What did the government do in response to the various illnesses that resulted from these tests?

A.  As far as I know nothing.

Q.  How many countries have these weapons?

A.  I don’t know for sure, but we are all familiar with the names of a lot of the countries that do.

Q.  What animals are used in testing today?

A.  Most are rodents such as rats and mice, some dogs (primarily Beagles) and some mini pigs.