Operation Crossroads: The Atomic Tests at Bikini Atoll

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Naval Institute Press, 1994 - History - 415 pages
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The two atomic tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946 - code-named "Operation Crossroads" - were the biggest news story of the year. Staged as grand public relations events, the explosions were witnessed by hundreds of reporters, congressmen, senators, other government officials, and international observers, along with some 42,000 military and scientific personnel. The blasts irradiated a guinea-pig fleet of 95 ships and sent 16 of them, including the Saratoga, the Arkansas, and the Japanese battleship Nagato, to their graves at the bottom of the lagoon. But, as this book makes clear, the fanfare masked bitter interservice rivalry, heated political and scientific debates, a tragic displacement of the islanders, and shocking denials of the radiological hazards. The first test, Able, on July 1, 1946, was an airdrop similar to those used against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The second, Baker, on July 25, was an underwater bomb that pushed a column of water a mile into the sky, unleashing the greatest amount of radioactivity known at the time. Calling the blast America's Chernobyl, the author describes it as the world's first nuclear disaster - one that had been predicted by our own scientists. This book, based on a wide range of previously unavailable material, is the first historical assessment of the Bikini tests not compiled by the U.S. government. Written by Jonathan Weisgall, a lawyer who has been investigating the operation for nearly two decades, the work covers in detail the opposition to the tests by Manhattan Project scientists, the public protests, the effects of the radiation released, and the fate of the 167 Bikinians who became "nuclear nomads". It also reveals the depths of the militaryinfighting and the impact of the tests on U.S.-Soviet relations, disarmament talks, and congressional efforts to secure civilian control of atomic energy. Weisgall explores how the tests were instigated in part by petty competitions that disregarded the dire consequences of atomic fallout. As a result, expert warnings were ignored and men routinely contaminated; concern over lawsuits led to a massive, three-decades-long cover-up. But the lingering effects of this dark moment in our history could not be avoided. Drawing on his own interviews with participants, material obtained in lawsuits and under the Freedom of Information Act, and other newly declassified documents, the author uncovers numerous revelations about the lasting impact of the Bikini explosions.

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