Do yourself a favor and have a look at the youtube video in the NPR link. It was produced by the war department. It's fascinating. I especially like how the solders were handling the fuel rods in t-shirts and no protective equipment at all. I am quite sure every single one of those poor guys died a horrible death not long after.
Why would every poor guy handling fuel rods be dead already? Looking at how everyone seems to smoke back then, I expect more solders died of smoking that any radiation issues. (Remember they are handling new fuel rods, which are not all that dangerous.)