Memoir of an Atomic Veteran
Tom Cuthbert has turned the stories of his past into published novels.
“All this time, I had different things going on in my head about different times, events,” said the 74-year-old veteran.
Cuthbert, who is a retired manager of information technology services for an aerospace company, found that throughout his career, the projects he was involved in often involved some degree of business or technical writing.
His career took him to Oshkosh, Detroit and California.
Last fall, he and his wife, Judie, decided to return to Oshkosh. Earlier this year, Cuthbert moved to the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King.
Born south of Chicago, Cuthbert spent his childhood years in Minocqua.
“I loved it. We lived in the country. I could hunt and fish and do whatever I wanted,” he said.
His experiences growing up there relate to the subjects of two of his published books.
One of those books, The Life and Times of a Chippewa Indian Medicine Woman, is about his great-great grandmother.
Cuthbert never met her, as she died the same year that he was born.
However, he heard stories about her through the family’s oral history and interviewed others as part of his research.
The book is about 100 pages long.
Another of Cuthbert’s published books is an autobiography about his experiences working at an atomic bomb testing site. That book is titled Memoir of an Atomic Veteran.
Cuthbert enlisted in the U.S. Navy right after high school, serving in it from 1956 to 1960.
“I had two uncles who were in World War II in the Navy. I remember as a young boy listening to them tell stories. It kind of intrigued me,” he said in explaining why he decided to enlist.
In the high school, Cuthbert played the trumpet and tuba. “Someone talked me into trying out for the Navy band,” he said. “I was told that musicians are a dime a dozen and why not go into communications, so I did.”
In 1958, he was among those that were part of Operation Hardtack I, which was a series of 35 nuclear tests conducted by the United States in the Pacific Ocean.
“During one test, we were 7 1/2 miles from ground zero. The wind changed direction and caused a fallout over the ships that were participating,” Cuthbert said. “That is how I ended up with a form of cancer about 15 to 20 years after I was in the Navy. I was exposed to radiation. I survived that.”
Cuthbert wrote Memoir of an Atomic Veteran for his two children and seven grandchildren.
“I did it really for the family. Everyone knew what I was talking about, but they didn’t know in detail what life was like on the aircraft carrier,” he said. “They knew the subject matter but didn’t know the detail.”
His two children have signed copies of the book.
Another of his books, The Sport of Hunting Ruffed Grouse, captures his love of hunting and fishing.
Cuthbert said all of the books were created through an online publishing company and are available at www.unibook.com, at book stores and also at public libraries.
He is currently working on yet another manuscript – this one about his mother’s family who joined the Mormon Church but eventually split from it.
When asked why he decided to start writing, Cuthbert said, “I know that my father was supposedly a reporter for a newspaper somewhere in Indiana, but I could never find anything that was published. I think that’s where I got that interest – from my dad.”
He enjoyed writing when he was in school and was always interested in history and science. He likes to read biographies about historical people.
“I’m not going to get rich on them,” Cuthbert says of his books. “The ideas were floating around in my head. It was just a matter of finding a way to get it down on paper.”