Government records show 36,500 Americans were sickened from exposure to uranium, plutonium and beryllium since 1945, most from building or transporting atomic weapons.
At least 4,000 people have died from related illnesses, although an investigation by the Rocky Mountain News suggests many more were affected than the government is willing to compensate.
Former atomic bomb manufacturers say no one ever told them it would be dangerous to breathe in, eat next to, or sit on piles of uranium.
Well into the 1960s, soldiers were ordered to march toward nuclear bomb tests in the Nevada desert, putting them within three miles of the blasts.
Marines were exposed to nuclear blasts on the deck of an aircraft carrier 16 years after Hiroshima.
Government documents show officials were aware of the dangers but risked the lives of soldiers and civilians in the name of national security.
“Troops, workers paid steep price for nuclear weapons”
Rocky Mountain News, August 31, 2007