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- The Atomic Marines –
The Marines the Corps Couldn't Talk About

In 1947, Gen. Alexander Vandergrift, Commandant of the Marine Corps reorganized the Marine Corps to prepare it to take part in an all-out atomic war. The new organization was to provide a testing ground for new methods and weapons of amphibious warfare, as well as continue to serve the fleet in conducting its operations. Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego was called upon to be a part of this new era.

From 1948-1956, MCRD's Sea School provided 242 graduates who participated in many of the top-secret nuclear weapons testing operations in the Pacific including Operation Sandstone. Greenhouse, Ivy, Castle, Wigwam, & Redwing. When the first hydrogen bomb was detonated during Operation Castle, Sea School Marines were there & on duty.

The Marine Detachments were all handpicked Special Forces with expertise in top-Level security methods. The members of these highly trained security forces held top-secret "Q" clearances at the same level as the President of the United States. They were sworn to complete secrecy in accordance with the Rosenberg Act. Their primary duty was to transport and guard the nation’s secret arsenal of atom and hydrogen test bombs. These "top secret" Marines were stationed aboard the "ghost" ship. USS Curtiss AV-4, a ship that didn't officially exist. It was never listed in any newspaper columns reporting standard ship's activities. It refueled at sea and stayed out of regular ports when on a mission.

Many of the men in these special units were WWII and Korean War veterans. One of their members, SSgt Ambrosio Guillen, was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1953. Many others went on to become decorated Vietnam veterans.

*The plaque that bears these words is from the Seagoing/Curtiss Atomic Marine display. Located at the MCRD Command Museum in San Diego, Ca.


Who are the Curtiss Atomic Marines?

America's Secret Atomic Marines - Special Security Forces 1948 - 1957, Nuclear Weapons Testing - 8 Operations - 33 A-bomb, H-bomb Tests at Bikini Atoll, Enewetak, Pacific Ocean, who served aboard the USS Curtiss A V-4 the (Ghost Ship).

We band together after 50 years as Marines who shared in a unique and turbulent part of the American history. The testing of nuclear weapons on operations, Sandstone, Greenhouse, Ivy, Castle, Wigwam, and Redwing. The detachment has established a fund in which monies are used for preserving the Curtiss Marine legacy in the way of Memorials, Museum Contributions and Reunion Support. We are not an official organization in regard to non-profit or tax-exempt status. We do not participate in politics nor do we wear any rank at our reunions or social events. There is not a defined board of directors; individuals volunteer their time on an as needed basis. We gather several times a year to renew old friendships, forge new friendships and share in issues that surround us today as a result of our service together, 50 odd years ago. We are the Curtiss Atomic Marines...



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