U.S.S. Pictor (AF-54)

The Pictor and Operation Greenhouse

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The USS Pictor (AF-54) transported "timing devices" for a nuclear test (Item) carried out by the Atomic Energy Commission on May 24, 1951 at Eniwetok (Enewetak) Atoll as part of Operation Greenhouse. The USS Pictor arrived at Eniwetok on May 20, 1951.

Captain John V. Cameron, commander of the USS Pictor (AF-54), mentioned the important role the Pictor played in the delivery of the "timing devices needed for the H-bomb they were about to test" at Eniwetok. He stated to Don Meyers (Pictor Association historian) in a letter dated April 22, 2000:

"On the island trips nobody paid much attention to our course, speed, or location. During our last run we suddenly got orders from CincPac to report our position every six hours until we reached Eniwetok. When we got to Eniwetok we were boarded by all kinds of brass and security personnel who wanted one special box in our cargo as fast as we could dig it out. We learned later that the Air Force commander on Eniwetok had ordered several small trees to put in front of his quarters. He had insisted to Travis AFB that his trees be shipped priority air and the bumped cargo had been diverted to us for surface transport. Unfortunately one of the displaced cargo boxes held some of the timing devices needed for the H-bomb they were about to test. Everything had to be put on hold while they waited for Pictor to arrive. I don't think the general ever made Chief of Staff."

The USS Pictor (AF-54) is listed with other transient ships on pages 211 and 212 of the Operation Greenhouse 1951 report.

A record of the Pictor's support of Operation Greenhouse is recorded in the ship's Log Book (16 May - 22 May 1951).

The following is part of a transcript from a video on Operation Greenhouse, Click here for video and full transcript.

"This test took place in the spring of 1951. It was carried out by the 8500 members of Joint Task Force Three; men drawn from the Atomic Energy Commission, its contractors, military, industrial, and educational laboratories, and from the Army, Navy, and Air Force."

Operation GREENHOUSE was conducted in April and May of 1951.

This test series consisted of four weapons related test shots from the 300-foot level on towers on the Enewetak Atoll, Pacific Ocean, two of which greatly aided the pursuit of a hydrogen, or thermonuclear device.

Carried out by the Atomic Energy Commission, the shots were:

Dog, April 7, 81 kilotons
Easy, April 20, 47 kilotons
George, May 8, 225 kilotons
Item, May 24, 45.5 kilotons

The George experiment proved an thermonuclear bomb was possible and led to a crash development program of the "Super." The fusion contribution was roughly 25 kilotons equivalent yield.

Item was the first test of the boosting design principle, which involved increasing the yield of a fission implosion weapon. The effect often approximately doubled the yield for the same amount of fission fuel, effectively revolutionizing efficiency in weight versus yield of each warhead, excluding a dirty casing effects option of fast fission of uranium 238-lined weapon casings.