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Sgt James Major Bradey Gates, Jr
Birth: Jul. 17, 1935
Cook County
Illinois, USA
Death: Mar. 20, 2004
Cook County
Illinois, USA

"Tread lightly! 'tis a soldiers grave, a lonely, mossy mound; and yet to hearts like mine and thine, it should be holy ground. Speak softly -- let no careless laugh, no idle, thoughtless jest escape your lips, where sweetly sleeps the hero at his rest. Tread lightly! for a man bequeathed ere laid beneath this sod -- his ashes to his native land; his gallant soul to God."
"Soldiers Grave" by P. Rivers

Jim is an incredible man, and a larger-than-life miracle. It is my belief that his testament of perserverance and integrity in the lying world he faced is a signpost of God's amazing grace; and is it not more important anyway to know God dearly loves him? Sometimes the simple purposefullness of our lives is hidden in God; other times, it screams its heart out to be heard. I am doing what I can to sustain Jim's voice. The following are some facts and quotes documenting Jim's history, and as he told it to me:

Jim's parents were from Kentucky and Mississippi and he was of mixed blood = American Indian (various tribes), European (Irish, English, etc.) as well as African-American. He grew up in the Southside of Chicago, sold moonshine at age 4, and drove a buggy to school.

Jim joined the Army at age 9 with parental consent. He saw combat in Korea at age 15, and was captured, jailed and beaten. Upon returning to the U.S. in 1954, he was placed in the 95th Engineers Combat Battalion (segregated) and taken under cover at night by train (to prevent AWOL) to Camp Desert Rock, NV.

Arriving in the time and place of the infamous cold war atomic tests, he and his unit were not immediately told the specifics that awaited them. Army ID card and dog tags were taken from them. Jim explained to me that his unit were to be test subjects (guinea pigs) for the survival of races -- "black vs. white genes." Soon enough a military memo was found stating that mission. Jim told me,

"Our officers confirmed we were to be test subjects. Even if we wanted to leave, it was not possible as the Test Site was surrounded by the CIA, FBI and military police. After 90 days, platoon sergeants ordered us to sign a "secrecy" document which barred us from talking to anyone about what we saw or heard at the Test Site."

They were to keep their mouths shut or face red balling in civilian life.

Jim's unit dug ditches, and built a fake town (a "Detroit") for blasting, and mannequins were created out of foam rubber to represent Detroit residents.

"The mock town was built near a shot tower to gauge the effect of the blasts heat wave and wind on it."

The shot on Detroit was postponed because "the wind was blowing towards Las Vegas."

After the shot was done,

"we heard that Mexican illegals trying to get to Vegas during the shot, got in the line of fire and were vaporized."

Jim was a demolition expert...

"My job was to check the integrity of the wire used to detonate the bomb in the desert. I picked up the wire in one hand and drove my jeep with the other. If there was a break, I stopped and fixed it by splicing the wire. The length of the wire was 10-20 miles long. When I reached where the mountains started, I dropped the wire, turned around and drove like hell [back] to my position."

To counter and delay detonation, he and others took a military jeep at night into the desert and cut the wires set up in the day. Of course, Jim was arrested.

"I was labeled the instigator and was confined to a brig for a week at Needles AFB 38 miles south of the Test Site."

His other written and verbal accounts:

Jim told me he saw black and white (Jewish) men tied together to fences or put in cages to be incinerated nearer to ground zero. The military used these sadistic racial experiments with impunity [non-military historical videos document this and are publically available - but these issues are NOT shown in military video accounts].

Among our conversations, Jim said,

"I personally observed dead bodies and bones in the debris, with lots of dog tags..."

Jim swept up and buried them in a culvert, which he helped dig for that purpose.

"I don't know the location of the culvert. The area is still off-limits; no planes can overfly it."

But before the tests, Jim was ordered to round up jack rabbits to sacrifice in other cages to cover military operations from public scrutiny.

If those dirty deeds weren't enough, the military chaplains lied about atomic safety issues. Troops were told there was more danger from the sun's radiation than witnessing bomb blasts and that, anyway, it was God's will they do it! The chaplains did much in undermining Jim's trust in God's true will. It was written that Jim "lived without hope."

For the first shot, troops were placed from 1 to 7 miles from Ground Zero. Jim was placed within 1/2 mile radius from at least 7 types of bombs (he told me), without protection or cover except a banana trench. One Test he endured was called "Operation Teapot" [photos of tests available online].

At shot "MET," Jim was blown out of his trench and

"... landed on a large piece of metal, suffering injuries to my left leg, knee, side and arm."

Instead of being taken to a regular hospital, he was treated in the Camp Desert Rock infirmary. He went into an 11-day coma, awakening to find his arm and leg sewn back on.

With the other men in his unit, Jim ingested radioactive food, air and water. He suffered many burns to his hands and eventually lost all of his teeth. Soldiers were often ordered to stand up and face the explosions in regular uniforms and fatigue caps, and some wore T-shirts.

Of course,

"The military brass used protective cover and eye wear and witnessed the shots from a "lead[ed] cave" in the Test Site mountains."

Jim lived hell on earth, yet God was with him.

Opportunely, while he was hitchhiking just outside the base, Jim was picked up by journalist Paul Jacobs and there developed a chance in conversation for Jim to confirm the truth of what Jacobs was himself investigating. Jim's subsequent testimony is in the film "Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang," which film helped blow the lid of secrecy off the atomic tests. Now in public domain, there came stricter controls over the atomic commission and a nuclear testing ban was enacted into law during the Kennedy administration.

But as a result of Jim's whistle-blowing, the military destroyed his files and gave him no disability benefits. In July 1955, he and his unit were transferred to Ft. Ord and in 1956, shipped to Darmstadt, Germany (to avoid the press). By then in the Army Reserves, Jim was sent to Chicago to teach training in chemical, biological and nuclear war at Nike ABM bases. To make a living in civilian life, he drove cabs, worked in steel mills and in a post-office, and owned his own restaurant. But he also went homeless for 12 years in NYC. And Jim was denied Social Security.

In the course of his lifetime on the operating table, and to the amazement of doctors, he rose from the literal dead (14 times) after heart attacks and other organ failures.

Jim had the attributes of perseverance and compassion to make a difference. In his fight for the benefits denied him, he was interviewed many times, one story being in the 1994 "ABA Law Journal" entitled, "The Legal Fallout" [see photo].

"There is no reckoning why the government would hurt its own people."

He subsequently became a member of the Atomic Veteran Alliance and the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, supporting anti-war causes and befriending homeless vets [see].

He was the last soldier of his Nevada unit to survive. His Shoshone Indian friends [in Nevada] gave him recognition of his efforts. The Shoshones were possibly "down-winders."

Jim married, fathered 8 children, and lived alone the last years of his life. His wife preceded him in death.

My meeting Jim:

God orchestrates encounters. If I had not been relieved of my job in a law office that January, 2004, I would not have gotten around to reading all the very old "ABA Law Journals" piling up on my desk. They belonged to the law firm, which, instead of being trashed when I left the job, the firm had them boxed and shipped to my home (thank you very much). In the very last "Journal" I perused, that one already then a decade-old, I read about Jim, an atomic guinea pig, who was quoted as "living without hope."

Knowing "because God lives, one could have hope," my prayerful desire was to communicate the truths to Jim that Jesus not only loved him but that He had been with Jim through all the hell he endured. And that Jim had been raised from the literal dead (more than Lazarus!)for special purposes. So without knowing if Jim was even still alive or where he lived, the miracle of immediately finding his telephone number from a Chicago operator was extremely Providential. By telephone, I was able to befriend and encourage Jim for three months before his sudden death.

What a privilege I had been given...!

"Sometimes a silent heart, many a silent tear, but always a beautiful memory of one we loved so dear. God gave us strength to bear it and courage to take the blow, but what it meant to lose one will ever know."

Because of the resurrection of Jesus, Jim is alive with Him now; and some day it will be also again be my privilege to meet my telephone friend for the first time, face to face.

Photo credit to the "American Bar Association Law Journal." "Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang" is a Cinema Guild Release, directed by Saul Landau, Jack Wilgus and Penny Bernstein. Also read about and see photos of Jim online at (Vietnam Veterans Against the War), and in Wikipedia.

Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery
Will County
Illinois, USA
Plot: Sect. 9, site 600
Created by: msb
Record added: Oct 19, 2004
Find A Grave Memorial# 9677301
Sgt James Major Bradey Gates, Jr
Added by: msb
Sgt James Major Bradey Gates, Jr
Added by: msb
Sgt James Major Bradey Gates, Jr
Added by: msb
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Charles Dutton could portray your part well, if only I could contact him!
- Mary in Maryland
 Added: May. 12, 2016
It's been 11 years ago today but I'll always remember our previous conversations.
- Mary in Maryland
 Added: Mar. 20, 2015

- Tyler Harris Community Foundation
 Added: Sep. 6, 2012
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