resson Kearny, an inventor and specialist in jungle warfare who wrote a best-selling manual on surviving a nuclear attack, died on Dec. 18 in Montrose, Colo. He was 89.
The cause was complications of a stroke, said his daughter Stephanie Kearny, who is writing a biography of him.
His manual, "Nuclear War Survival Skills," is available free on the Internet at www.oism.org/nwss. It includes instructions on how to build and furnish fallout shelters, complete with a do-it-yourself fallout meter, his own invention, which can be made of materials commonly found in the home.
The manual includes a foreword by Edward Teller, the architect of the hydrogen bomb, as well as an admiring biographical note by Eugene P. Wigner, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, who writes that in 1964, when he was authorized by the Atomic Energy Commission to set up the Civil Defense Project at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, Mr. Kearny was among the first researchers he hired.
First published in 1979 by the laboratory, the book had sold more than 600,000 copies by the mid-1990's. Mr. Kearny also allowed it to be republished by anyone without obligation to pay royalties.
Updated in 1987, the manual offers designs for six basic types of shelter, suitable for environmental conditions in different parts of the United States. Designed to be built in a trench or above ground by untrained people in 48 hours or less, the shelters are made of wood, dirt and other materials found around the house. They have been tested extensively by amateurs at Oak Ridge and around the country and have been improved upon over several decades.
Cresson Henry Kearny (his last name is pronounced Carney) was born on Jan. 7, 1914, in San Antonio, the elder of two sons of Clinton Hall Kearny, a civil engineer, and Mary Chabot Cresson Kearny. While he was attending Texas Military Institute in San Antonio, his father died and his mother declared bankruptcy. He later went to Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania for a year and won a scholarship to Princeton, from which he graduated in 1937 with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering.
He attended Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship and graduated in 1939 from Queen's College with a degree in geology.
After Oxford, Mr. Kearny joined a Royal Geographic Society expedition in the Peruvian Andes. He then worked as an exploration geologist for Standard Oil in the Orinoco jungles of Venezuela.
Persuaded that the United States would soon be at war, he quit his job in 1940, packed his specialized jungle gear and reported for active duty in Texas as a first lieutenant in the Army Reserve. In February 1941 he transferred to Panama, where he helped develop tactics and special equipment for foot soldiers. Later, as a major, he was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services in Southeast China.
In 1943, he married May Willacy Eskridge of San Antonio. They had five children: a son, Cresson, now of Oakland, Calif., and four daughters, Adelia Willacy Kearny, Diana Catherine Kearny Fosse, Susanna Joyce Kearny and Stephanie Kearny, all of Albuquerque. They survive him, along with six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
After the war, a poliolike disease left Mr. Kearny incapacitated for decades, but he continued to invent and promote specialized combat equipment, some of which was used in the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars. His health later improved.
Increasingly concerned about nuclear war, Mr. Kearny began to work independently on nuclear survival.
In 1961, Herman Kahn, a prominent nuclear strategist, invited him to join the Hudson Institute to study nuclear defense issues. Three years later, Dr. Wigner recruited him to Oak Ridge, and he began the projects that led to his book on surviving nuclear war.
As the cold war thawed, he shifted his concerns to the danger of a limited nuclear attack by rogue nations and terrorists, his daughter Stephanie said.
"Throughout his life," she said, "he believed in being prepared for trouble."
|Posted: 12 January 2004 at 10:33am I IP Logged|
|Cresson Kearny, 89, the author of a best-selling manual on how to survive nuclear war, died Dec. 18 in Montrose, Colo., after years of declining health, his daughter, Stephanie Kearny, said Monday.|
His book "Nuclear War Survival Skills" includes instructions on how to build a fallout shelter and a radiation meter. First published in 1979, the book had sold more than 600,000 copies by the mid-1990s.
Kearny, a native of San Antonio, earned a degree in civil engineering at Princeton and was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. At Oxford, he earned a degree in geology. After Oxford, he did geological exploration work in Peru and Venezuela.
During World War II, Kearny developed specialized jungle equipment, training and tactics for U.S. servicemen. He also served in the Office of Strategic Services as a demolition expert.
In 1964, he joined the civil defense project for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In 1972, he received the Army's decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service.
Kearny, who retired in 1979, was a consistent critic of what he considered inadequate civil defense preparations. Through the 1980s, he also spoke out against the mutual assured destruction stance of the U.S. and Soviet governments.
If you wanted to know how to survive a nuclear war, all you had to do was ask Cresson H. Kearny. He wrote the book on it.
An expert on jungle warfare, Kearny penned the best-selling text, "Nuclear War Survival Skills," in 1979. The book included instructions on how to build a fallout shelter and a homemade radiation meter. In 1987, it was updated and expanded to include a foreword by Edward Teller, the father of the H-bomb.
Kearny graduated from Princeton University with a degree in civil engineering, and attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He took a job with the Standard Oil Company of Venezuela after graduation, and conducted geological exploration work deep in the jungles of South America and Southeast Asia. In the 1940s, Kearny was assigned to Panama as the jungle experiment officer of the Panama Mobile Force. There he tested the military's specialized equipment for use in combat.
After he returned to the states, Kearny worked as a research analyst at the Hudson Institute. He later joined the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he designed do-it-yourself shelters, and edited a translation of the most comprehensive Soviet handbook on civil defense.
During the Vietnam War, Kearney again tested the military's combat equipment for jungle readiness. In 1972, he received the Decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service from the U.S. Army.
Kearny died on Dec. 18. Cause of death was not released. He was 89.
From a lifetime of personal field experience, single-minded dedication and involve- ment in four wars, Cresson H. Kearny offers here a detailed description and understanding of many of the major problems, solutions and specialized personal equipments — much of his own invention and design — necessary for US foot soldiers to survive and prevail in jungle combat.
Born in San Antonio, Texas just prior to World War I, Cresson demonstrated before age six his ability to handle guns in hunting small game. In his early teens his interest in military affairs and jungle environments was ignited by a summer trip to the Orient, where he visited Japan and spent several weeks with his Uncle Charlie, a US Army major assigned to the Philippines. Upon return he attended the Texas Military Institute, where he lettered in track and the rifle team, and graduated in 1932 as Valedictorian and Battalion Commander. A further year at Mercersburg Academy launched him on a scholarship at Princeton University, from which he graduated in 1937 with highest honors, a Bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering and a Rhodes Scholarship. Attending Queen's College at Oxford in 1937-9, he inaugurated his lifelong devotion to democracy and freedom by serving during the Munich crisis as courier for a British underground group spiriting Jews out of Czechoslovakia. Along the way, he earned Bachelor's and Master's degrees in geology and represented Oxford against Cambridge in track and swimming. This combination of physical and mental exertion in behalf of freedom has constituted the hallmark of his life.
After graduation from Oxford he served as a geologist with a mapping expedition of the Royal Geographic Society in the Peruvian Andes; and later as exploration geologist in the jungles of Venezuela, for which his employer, Standard Oil, provided excellent personal equipment. Becoming impatient with the Venezuelan government's fear-motivated subservience to Nazi objectives after the fall of France, and believing that the United States would soon have to fight Japan, he quit his job, packed his specialized jungle gear and reported for active duty in Texas as an Army Reserve first lieutenant.
In February 1941 a lucky encounter with Major General Walter Prosser, then Commander of the Panama Mobile Force, led to Cresson's transfer to Panama as Jungle Experiments Officer eight months prior to Pearl Harbor. There, building upon his knowledge gained in the Orinoco jungles, he developed and tested with the first Jungle Platoon many specialized equipments for the combat foot soldier. Impressed with a demonstration of these equipments, Lt. Gen. Frank Andrews, Head of the US Caribbean Defense Command, sent him to Washington to promote their adoption by the Army. There, he and his equipment met with strong resistance from the entrenched Engineer Corps. Some months later, however, his breath-inflated river-crossing boat received enthusiastic support from General Joseph Stilwell, who ordered several thousand of these inexpensive boats for use of his US and Chinese forces in the China-Burma-India theater. This proved the turning point, and Cresson spent most of the war in Panama developing and testing specialized equipments for US combat forces worldwide. This work was recognized in 1943 by award of the Legion of Merit. After three years in this role, and feeling that his rapid advancement to the rank of Captain and then Major should be justified by being closer to the action, he volunteered for assignment to the Office of Strategic Services.
Sent by the OSS to the mountains of southeast China, he witnessed the pathetic plight of hordes of Chinese noncombatants fleeing before the onrushing Japanese forces. In the course of his tour in China he contracted a viral disease that virtually incapacitated him intermittently for years, and that still recurs periodically and is still unidentified.
Despite frequent bouts of illness during the Korean War, he contributed to the development of frogman gear under National Research Council auspices. Then with the growing Soviet nuclear threat he turned his attention to issues of survival — both military and civilian — under nuclear attack. Working first at Herman Kahn's Hudson Institute, then hired by Nobel Laureate Professor Eugene Wigner into the Atomic Energy Commission's Civil Defense R&D program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Cresson designed and personally constructed numerous do-it-yourself civil defense shelters, a homemakeable fallout radiation meter and other nuclear-survival equipments, and edited and published a translation of the most comprehensive Soviet Handbook on Civil Defense. Finally he described these developments in an Oak Ridge National Laboratory manual on Nuclear War Survival Skills, of which more than 400,000 copies have been printed privately by various organizations and sold worldwide.
It was at this point (1967) that Cresson brought to me, in my capacity as Science Advisor (MACSA) to General Westmoreland, COMUSMACV, designs and exemplars of many of his WW II special equipments for the foot soldier that had been allowed to drop out of the Army inventory despite being clearly of great utility to our combat forces in Viet Nam. Finally gaining an audience in the Pentagon, he persuaded General Harold Johnson, then Army Chief of Staff, to order large-scale production of these nonstandard equipments using the latest advances in materials. For those efforts he was awarded the Decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service in 1972.
Not least amongst Cresson's Viet Nam contributions was his provision of hundreds of waterproof wrist compasses, bought with personal funds, that served as welcome calling cards and conversation openers for all MACSA personnel visiting units in the field. But his hope to stimulate issuance of waterproof compasses was thwarted when the Army ordered only a nonwaterproof model.
Still concerned with the needs of the combat foot soldier, when the Gulf War erupted Cresson rapidly developed and tested a plastic sleeve-like bag to protect GI rifles and other small arms from desert sand. These bags were produced and supplied to US units in the hundreds of thousands. This contribution was recognized by Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney in 1992 by the award of the Department of Defense Certificate of Appreciation in Support of Operations in the Persian Gulf.
Cresson Kearny's crowning achievement is this convincing chronicle of the benefits stemming from his development and testing of specialized equipments for the US jungle infantryman — benefits once available but yet again largely lost through avoidable snafus. These snafus could be ended if only those in charge of Army and Marine procurement would heed the cogent lessons described herein so vividly.
W. G. McMillan
Los Angeles, 1994
Through my association with Dr. Art Robinson I have come into contact with men of great character and integrity. Among them are Arnold Hunsberger, Edward Teller, and Cresson Kearny.
I volunteered my services (my first foray into digitizing and publishing books) to Art Robinson in 1989 and our first project was Nuclear War Survival Skills. The results of this effort live on today at www.oism.org/nwss. Most recently we have digitized the companion video series at www.homelandcivildefense.org featuring Cresson on hours of film as he works with volunteers to build the expedient shelters found in the book.
He was first of all concerned with expediency and with testing. He would only put his name on something that he knew worked and that would be of use by ordinary people without specialized equipment.
The effects of the polio that periodically impacted his health never made him disabled in the least. He strove to be productive as long as he was conscious. His life was full of purpose; our survival, should the worst come to pass.
He was the best of the high quality breed of men that this country was still able to produce in the first half of the 20th century. He exhibited honesty of character, a deep concern for the welfare of the American people, and a realism about the what we can count on from the civil government when it came to civil defense (nothing).
Being around Cresson drew out the best in me, and of others around him I am sure. I felt that a piece of me had died when he did.