Doctor warned of health dangers of atomic weapons

Washington Post

David Bradley, who as an Army medical officer in the 1940s was among the first to warn Americans about public health dangers posed by atomic weapons, died Jan. 7 of kidney failure at a rehabilitation center near his home in Norway, Maine. He was 92.

Bradley, a Harvard Medical School graduate, was sent to Bikini Atoll in 1946 as a "Geiger man," or radiological monitor, during atomic tests in the South Pacific.

Bikini, in the Marshall Islands, was a major site of the United States' postwar nuclear testing, which required removing the area's native people.

After the tests in the summer of 1946, Bradley said, he heard military peers speaking of the inevitability of nuclear war with the Soviets. He soon abandoned medicine to lecture for the United World Federalists peace movement and to write "No Place to Hide," his 1948 diary of what he had seen at Bikini.

In a review, New York Times science writer William L. Laurence said the book would "be welcomed not only as a contribution to world peace but also as firsthand raw material for future historians of the early days of the atomic age -- and (last but not least) as a real contribution to literature, atomic or otherwise."

In a subsequent interview, Bradley said the Bikini tests were unlike the explosions in the air above Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where rising heat lifted the radioactive particles to be "dispersed harmlessly" into the stratosphere.

The atomic detonations at the Bikini lagoon poisoned dozens of naval vessels, of which a few were successfully rid of contaminants, he said. "The Navy referred to the others as 'survivors.' That's a cute way of putting it," Bradley said. "For my money, that lagoon will always be deadly."

In speeches and opinion pieces, he continued for decades to criticize the atomic blast at Bikini and what he called miserable treatment by the U.S. government of veterans exposed to radiation.

David John Bradley was born Feb. 22, 1915, in Chicago and raised in Madison, Wis. He earned a degree in English in 1938 at Dartmouth College, where he was captain of the school's ski team.

In his senior year, he also was the U.S. national champion in the Nordic combined event, which involves ski jumping and cross-country skiing. He qualified for the 1940 U.S. Olympic ski team, but the Games were canceled because of war.

In 1960, he was team manager of the U.S. Olympic Nordic ski team, and he co-wrote an instruction book, "Expert Skiing," with champion skier Ralph Miller and Olympic ski coach Al Merrill.

In 1985, Bradley was inducted into what is now the U.S. National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.

After college, Bradley served as a European correspondent for the Lee newspaper syndicate and covered the Russo-Finnish winter war of 1939-40.

His subsequent visit to Finland decades later was the subject of his 1965 book "Lion Among Roses," an admiring look at the Nordic country and its people.

His other books included "Robert Frost: A Tribute to the Source" (1979), with photos by Dewitt Jones.

A marriage to Elisabeth "Lilla" McLane-Bradley ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife, Sally Tucker Smart Bradley of Norway, whom he married in 1998; six children from his first marriage; a stepson; two brothers; 11 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

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