the decision

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[Tuttle went looking for anyone who knew about the atomic bombing, or what would happen next. He had a long ways to go.]

Battalion command was set up in a tent a half mile back from the bluff top camp. Inside two men worked radios through every frequency in the current book, and got nothing but wild static. A few officers were talking over a map table, wrapped up in tense conversation.

A decision of some sort was made, and some of them left. I approached the table and engaged the senior man. Lieutenant Colonel Ken Olson commanded the battalion. “If you’re wondering, no, I don’t have the slightest idea what happened or what we’re supposed to do. And yes, I’m furious that they would blind side us like this.”

I looked over the marks on the largest map. “This is about where each bomb went off,” he explained, “each atomic bomb. We know that much, but only from what anybody can read in a science magazine.” A two mile diameter circle was drawn around each spot, which might be the effective kill zone of each bomb, but that was their marginally educated guess.

“Here’s my current problem.” Colonel Olson laid out a local map. “We have a patrol out there. They were supposed to observe this road, camp overnight and scoot right back.” He outlined the path out and back. “Someone thought they saw Japs moving out there. I approved the scouting operation, despite the pullback order. I can’t stand being both blind and chained down back here.”

He wasn’t sure what they were going to do about it, but the other officers had gone out to gather up the best equipment they thought might help and assemble a team to go find the missing men. I was about to leave when another courier came in. I’m not sure how difficult it is to drive a jeep in hood and mask and gloves, but that fellow had been doing it all day.

The colonel got four carbon-copies of a typewritten instruction sheet to pass out to his companies. It provided little new information and reinforced previous instructions: We should have seen six atom bombs go off, near listed landmarks (if one didn’t go off as planned we were to steer well clear). Blowing smoke might be dangerous if it came our way. Fresh water supplies should be topped off immediately and not refilled from anything downstream of the blast areas. Any Japanese soldiers which might either attack or surrender should be treated like lepers and not directly contacted.

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