Atomic Cleanup Veteran – Johnny Deardorff



We are but a few of the Survivors of the 1977-1980 Enewetak Atoll Atomic Debris Cleanup Mission in the Marshall Islands.

Our main focus is to help each other with information and moral support during challenging times.

Our secondary focus is to urge Congress to change the current laws and recognize soldiers of the atomic cleanup mission as “veterans who participated in radiation-risk activities during active service.”

Do you know a Veteran who suffers emotional challenges that were acquired while serving in the U.S. Military?

In a recent semi-private Enewetak Cleanup Vets group conversation one of our members shared his experiences in dealing with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). But first, let me give you some insight regarding Johnny Deardorff’s back story. Even though he says he is currently retired and enjoys life, there’s more to why he can say that.

 Johnny Ray Dearorff and a LARC

 From April – September of 1978, while serving in the U.S. Army’s 84th Engineer Battalion, Johnny Deardorff worked on the hottest island at Enewetak Atoll filling a 35’ deep 375 foot diameter crater in the coral reef of Runit Island with radioactive atomic debris and concrete until it became a concrete capped dome 55 feet higher than the surrounding ocean. It is the only island the U.S. Government will not return to the Enewetak People.

Deardorff’s duties involved quarry and asphalt paving, drill and blasting. He was the specialist responsible for operation of all crushers, generators and batch plant operations and all related equipment on Runit Island. He supervised debris separation from all foreign materials, bombs, shells, mortars, mines, bullets, wood, metal, all radioactive debris, machine guns, occasional grenades. All left over from WWII. He carried what was HOT to the crater to throw it in. At the end of the day, when not in operation at the plant, he detonated all the old ordinance. He policed the area of HOT junk and made 270 loads of hot concrete a day at peak production times.

Instead of treating him for radiation poisoning, he says the military claimed he had the flu in the 130 degree weather. After he left Enewetak Atoll, he joined the NBC Corps in 1984 and learned a lot about radiation poisoning and symptoms, doses, dose calculating. In his words- “We were screwed big time there and they knew it.”

Here are his comments and the advice he offers to Veterans suffering with emotional health issues:

I have a Counselor/Doctor out of West Linn, Oregon and she is the Best!!! Each VA Clinic and facility can set you up with a tele-conference person. I went to Klamath Falls CBOC and now I go to North Bend Outpatient Clinic.

Demand to talk to a person for mental health. They have to by law set you up for one. They’re all across the country. Once they schedule you an appointment at their facility, this is for their safety and yours, in case the stress gets to be too much, they can call help for you.

REMEMBER THIS IF NOTHING ELSE: He or She (the counselor), is required by law to report anything you say in which you make a statement. Even jokingly. Such as:

  • I was / am going to hurt myself or others.
  • I am thinking about suicide.
  • I am going to go shoot somebody.
  • I feel like going to shoot ANYONE.

Tip: Go to and set up your accounts at eBenefits and myHealtheVet – these are ways to keep in contact thru private messaging and secure messaging to your counselor or doctor, order meds, get records, forms data, 201 files on digital discs.

It all started from me going and asking to see a counselor, because for years, all I was offered was drug after drug. Now I can manage. I’m NOT cured my nightmares. But it has helped me greatly. I can actually sleep three to four hours a night now, it has been a break-thru for me.

I highly recommend it to any veteran struggling to cope with problems. It is free and if after a few sessions, when they feel it necessary, you can be given the link and set up appointments to see your counselor at your home privately, but the same rules apply, if they think you’re a threat to yourself or others they will report it.

MyHealtheVet is where I would start, and if you do not yet have next. Make sure when you sign up to make a separate file on your desktop to keep all your security questions handy. Because every 120 days you will be asked to change your password and you must remember all the answers to change anything. I have it a safe location, but this is the best thing I can tell you for now.

I have my counselor personal number in case I need to talk to her about anything, I am not sure all counselors will do that but mine does.

I have an appointment soon and I can/will find out from her where there are clinics in your areas if you e mail me your location. I’m here to help in any way – a brother vet.

Also if you tell them how many guns and that you have them in your home your name also goes on federal agency lists. As well I say I love hunting I love shooting sports and that’s the extent of my information to any government agencies that will do a check.

I have a tele-conference therapist in Oregon who is and has greatly helped me with the same thing because of that hell hole. You can be set up at most clinics or home depending on your internet capabilities.

Trust me. It destroyed two marriages. I am better. Just learned to deal with it with different methods. Not cured. But have better mental tools now.

We urge our supporters to encourage their politicians to create legislation which will include all Marshall Island Atomic Cleanup Veterans in the U.S. Government Veterans Administration’s definition of a veteran “who participated in radiation-risk activities during active service.”

Article written by Girard Frank Bolton, III. 1977-1979 participant with C Company and HHC S-3 (Operations) 84th Engineer Battalion (Combat Heavy) (Fwd) Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands.

Testimony of Johnny Deardorff’s personal experiences and opinions provided by Johnny Deardorff an Enewetak Atomic Cleanup Veteran and Facebook Group Member.

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