In 1998 while working on Capitol Hill I helped my boss, David Skaggs, handle an egregious veteran’s case: that of a man who had dumped atomic waste from a navy ship off the coast of Manhattan in the late 1950's. He and his family had been pursuing a VA claim for 18 years. He had had five out of five kids born with birth defects and died of a radiation-associated cancer. With our office's help, his family finally won their case.

I thought this was a great story. When my husband's career took us overseas, I decided to write a book on it. For four years I conducted research on the USS Calhoun County, a low-ranking navy waste dumping ship. I dug up the deck logs and tracked down the veterans. I interviewed more than a hundred sailors, officers, health physicists, and VA officials.

I uncovered the story of a veteran who came from a brutal family and carried his demons with him into the navy; a contaminated ship that the navy operated for years, with more than 70 sailors living, eating and sleeping aboard; and a true-blue Commanding Officer who was trying to protect his men and the navy from exposure.

I also found a highly disturbing, decades-long effort by the U.S. military to evade and deny radiation claims from veterans and met a torqued and litigious family that would stop at nothing to get its due.

Read the first chapter here > Read a PDF excerpt.
Deborah Derrick

Deborah Derrick is a U.S. government expert. She has a master’s degree in public policy from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School and extensive professional experience in Washington DC. She’s spent twenty years working on and around Capitol Hill, including seven years as a professional legislative aide, two years as a senior legislative advisor for the U.S. State Department, three years as Executive Director of the Better World Campaign, and four years as a senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She currently serves as President of Friends of the Global Fight, a bipartisan organization that seeks to keep the United States government invested in the fights against AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

Ms. Derrick is married to Baxter Hunt, a U.S. Foreign Service Officer now serving in Afghanistan. The couple has three delightful grown children.