Government Films and Photographs Depict Test "Able" on 1 July 1946
Removal of 167 Bikinians from the Atoll Preceded the Atomic Tests
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No.553
July 6. 2016
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Washington, D.C., July 1, 2016 - Seventy years ago this month a joint U.S Army-Navy task force staged two atomic weapons tests at Bikini atoll in the Marshall Islands, the first atomic explosions since the bombings of Japan in August 1945. Worried about its survival in an atomic war, the Navy sought the tests to measure the effects of atomic explosions on warships and other military targets. The test series was named Operation Crossroads by the task force’s director, Rear Admiral William Blandy. The first test, Able, took place on 1 July 1946. Of the two tests, the second, Baker, on 25 July 1946, was the most dangerous and spectacular, producing iconic images of nuclear explosions. A third test was scheduled, but canceled. Photographs and videos posted today by the National Security Archive document Crossroads, focusing on the Able test whose anniversary is today.
Also documented is the U.S. Navy’s removal, in early March 1946, of 167 Pacific islanders from Bikini, their ancestral home, so that the Navy and the Army could prepare for the tests. The Bikinians had the impression that the relocation would be temporary but the islands remain uninhabitable due to subsequent nuclear testing in the atoll.
The second test, Baker, was an underwater nuclear detonation which created intense radioactive fallout effects in the lagoon, eventually putting a halt to efforts to decontaminate the ships. A subsequent posting, to be published later in July, will document the Baker test, with more background material on OperationCrossroads, including additional photographs, government films, and declassified reports and memoranda.
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