Big Joe Horn

1946. U. S Navy Sailors scrubbing down the German cruiser Prinz Eugen with brushes, water, soap, and lye to eradicate radiation. Five months later, the ship was still too radioactive to permit repairs to a leak, and she sank. Wiki Photo.

Today, for Veterans Day, we have a very special presentation.

It’s about Big Joe Horn.

Well, besides this being a digitally created, and read blog, and the fact that Big Joe is “no longer with us,” I hope you understand when I say that Joe will be “joining us” today.

I met Joe Horn years back. I liked him instantly. He was a funny, interesting, and an especially kind individual. Anyone of those three attributes would have been plenty deserving of my admiration, but Joe had also been an amazing husband to the late great Kay Horn, a loving father, an adoring grandfather, and a loyal friend. As if his cup wasn’t “runneth over,” Joe still had two more distinctions; 1. He was the father of “Rob and Laura Petrie,” who along with Joe himself, appear in one of this site’s “most beloved” blog posts “Defenestrate; Coolest Word In The Dictionary.“

2. Joe was a U.S Navy Sailor, during World War Two, who not only served, but was an “in-person” witness to the Nuclear Bomb Testing at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands of the South Pacific in 1946.


Operation Crossroads was a pair of nuclear weapon tests conducted by the United States at Bikini Atoll in mid-1946. They were the first nuclear weapon tests since Trinity in July 1945, and the first detonations of nuclear devices since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. The purpose of the tests was to investigate the effect of nuclear weapons on warships. Operation Crossroads – Wikipedia 


Initially, I was “aware” of a few slim details of this testing, but one afternoon at a cookout, I was engaged in a history conversation with one of Joe’s Son-In-Laws, Steve R, about Nuclear Weapons. Steve told me about Joe Horn being present at Operation Crossroads. I knew right then how I wanted to talk to Joe about it, and maybe document something, before “it” all slipped away; not Joe in particular, but the verbal account itself. 

Because Joe and I were both Navy Veterans, we would sometimes engage in “Sea Stories;” colorful anecdotes that on very rare occasions, would actually contain a “sliver of truth.” As a quasi-aspiring filmmaker, and occasional story-teller, I told Joe I wanted to “interview” him about his experience in the South Pacific at the testing. I was especially curious how a young man would recall the events, and how and if, that same man would change his views later in life.

As I edited this video, I was amazed and encouraged by the wisdom and compassion Joe spoke of; from the loss of life “on both sides of the war,” to the displacement of all the natives at Bikini Atoll, who “still can’t go home.” This is not an easy subject to discuss from a first-person perspective. 

In this case of a “proverbial surreal event,” it’s one thing to talk about the power, terror, and ethics of a nuclear device, but another things to be casually standing around the aft-deck, literally staring at it.  

Joe had also told me how the crew would be out on deck with bathing suits, and no shirts scrubbing the decks for radiation, as well as being told not to watch the blast, but still looking up to view the lingering mushroom cloud. 

I sat for my “interview” with Joe on Saturday, July 5th, 2014. The video and audio are not professional quality, and the story line is not the most well laid-out, but I believe the content is a worthy stepping stone of my craft as I spoke to this man by the pool as his grandkids played in the background. 

Life always does “get in the way” of things that people want to accomplish, and yet, I have never forgotten I wanted to make this blog and video.  Veterans Day is a deserving time to publish it.  

Joe, thanks for your time,

Your friend, 

Zulu Delta 

2 thoughts on “Big Joe Horn

  1. I love you Dennis! Thank you. You have no idea how appreciative i’am as well as my family. I had no idea that you had this information. So glad you put this together.

    Liked by 1 person

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