The atomic bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan were conducted by the United States during the final stages of World War II in 1945. The two events are the only use of nuclear weapons in war to date. But, that is not the only use of nuclear weapons for “testing” purposes. After witnessing the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki you would think the powers of the world would think twice about unleashing their power further, but quite the opposite happened. Pandora’s Box was open and has stayed open to this day. President Truman even used God to justify military action/might. After the bomb, this excerpt was in one of his speeches:
I realize the tragic significance of the atomic bomb… It is an awful responsibility which has come to us… We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes.
President Harry Truman, August 9, 1945
Personally, I cannot imagine such hubris, but it is true. And he is not the first to use God as a justification and he was certainly not the last. But this is not a religious piece and that will be my only reference to God except to say man seems to call on God quite often to justify dastardly acts they perpetrate on others. This is rather about how we and other countries would test such a weapon for years to come and try repeatedly to tell the people concerned that it was good for mankind.
I am going to concentrate on Bikini Atoll because that is where we did most of our testing. Imagine you are Kilon Buano, Chief of the Bikinis. It is the late 40’s and you still do not even know what a camera is, nor how to use one. Then one day a man shows up on your island wanting to talk to you. You certainly cannot understand him, so a translator is brought in to explain what the United States wants from you. This man tells you he is the most powerful man in America. Then he tells you that he is going to ask your people to leave your home, so he can drop a bomb. He further explains that by doing so “America hopes to turn this great destructive power in to something wonderful for the benefit of mankind”. Well you are just the chief of the Bikinis and this powerful man is telling you he wants your home, what choice do you have? It turns out, none. Not only are you forced to leave your lifelong home, but as you are leaving, you turn around for a last look only to see your homes being burned to the ground. It does not matter that you are sad, after all what could be a better reason for displacing a people – the benefit of mankind.
Perhaps the Bikini people should be grateful, they were steered away from the blasts (at least to what is thought a safe distance), our military was not as lucky. Servicemen and woman were sent to Bikini Atoll to prepare for the testing and the amount of effort put into the project was like building a brand new city. A brief history of Bikini Atoll is probably warranted here.
Bikini Atoll is an atoll listed as a World Heritage Site in the Micronesian Islands of the Pacific Ocean. It is part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. It consists of 23 islands surrounding a deep 229 square mile central lagoon. It has also conserved direct tangible evidence that conveys the power of nuclear tests. Sunken ships sent to the bottom of the lagoon and a gigantic crater called, Bravo remain to this day. It symbolizes the dawn of the nuclear age, despite its image of peace and earthly paradise. Within Bikini Atoll, Bikini Island is the northeastern most and largest islet, measuring 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) long. It was also part of the Pacific Proving Grounds and the site of more than 20 nuclear weapons tests between 1946 and 1958. As a side note in this serious piece, the two piece swimsuit was introduced in the islands within days of the first nuclear test, hence the name bikini. But that is probably the only good thing to have come out of our foray into the Marshall Islands post World War II.
Operation Crossroads is the name given by the Military to the initial tests on Bikini Atoll in mid-1946. It was the first test of a nuclear weapon after the Trinity nuclear test in July 1945, and the first detonation of any nuclear device following the Fat Man detonation on August 9, 1945. Its purpose was to investigate the effect of nuclear weapons on naval ships.
Crossroads consisted of two detonations, each with a yield of 23 kilotons of TNT: Able was detonated at an altitude of 520 feet on July 1, 1946 at 09:00:34 a.m. local time; Baker was detonated 90 feet underwater on July 25, 1946 at 08:35:00 a.m. local time. A third burst, Charlie, planned for 1947, was cancelled primarily because of the Navy’s inability to decontaminate the target ships after the Baker test. Crossroads Charlie was rescheduled as Operation Wigwam, a deep water shot conducted in 1955 off the California coast. The Crossroads tests were the fourth and fifth nuclear explosions conducted by the United States. They were the first of many nuclear tests held in the Marshall Islands and the first to be publicly announced beforehand and observed by an invited audience, including a large press corps. They even had a mother of one of the participants give a stilted speech to the world about how she had been told how safe her son would be in the process of this testing, and how she truly believed it. She might have believed it at the time, but to hear her announcement on the radio prior to the test, it sounded stilted and frankly, rehearsed.
Later, in the 1950s, a series of large thermonuclear tests rendered Bikini unfit for subsistence farming and fishing. Because of radioactive contamination, Bikini remains uninhabited as of 2012, though it is occasionally visited by sport divers (there is even a web page about this type of tourism on the island). Although there are claims that participants in the Crossroads tests were well protected against radiation sickness, all you have to do is put your education today up against the pictures you see to know it was a lie. The Oscar-nominated documentary, Radio Bikini, showed footage of Navy sailors wearing little or no protection during their inspection of the target ships only hours after the explosions, even though some of the observer ships were caught in the fallout of the Baker explosion. In addition, the documentary revealed that Navy ships used contaminated water from the area for drinking and bathing purposes after the blast. One study showed that the life expectancy of participants was reduced by an average of three months. The test further resulted in the radioactive contamination of all the target ships by the underwater Baker shot. Chemist Glenn Seaborg, the longest serving chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, referred to Baker as “the world’s first nuclear disaster.” What in the world did he call the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima?
Nuclear testing went on for years during the cold war but for now, at least, it seems to have stopped. I say, seems, because I am not sure I could trust any government nor the MSM to ever tell the whole truth of what is going on behind our backs. Fukushima is a good example of the world ignoring a real problem. Not long ago, there was a stepped up presence of radiation measurement flights over the San Francisco Bay Area. I heard about these flights but never saw on the news any information of what was detected. There is radiation contamination coming across the Pacific from the Fukushima Nuclear plant and no manner of ignorance by authorities can change that fact. I guess I just wonder why not many seem concerned? I also wonder what the Japanese government and TEPCO are hiding? No, I don’t trust them as I have read the story about the University hospital near Fukushima Prefect that has been dubbed, Dracula’s Castle. Then we have Southern Edison that is working to restart the San Onofre Power Plant. It is well-known that there are many problems with the plant, yet there is a tremendous push to restart it. What does it take to move a government, a country, a company, an individual to say No More? I believe that anyone involved in the nuclear energy business is well aware of the consequences but are gambling on the fact that there is no way to tell if a case of cancer was directly related to radiation poisoning, or how long it takes for radiation poisoning at that low level to manifest itself, or perhaps they do? Either way, we are dealing with what President Truman described as “ 20 tons of TNT that harnesses the power of the universe” and even though I cannot say we have tested a bomb with that power, or that any it would be that destructive at the nuclear plant level, it should scare people. And yes, I did watch Trinity and Beyond and was most dumbstruck by how we have justified our actions all along, when it comes to nuclear power for testing and as a source of energy. Am I against nuclear energy? Of course I still am, but it was not until Fukushima that I really truly thought of the imminent danger of such a plant at any time.
The world is an uncertain place, and to make it even more uncertain is not the brightest thing we could do, we could be putting many more of our resources in to alternate sources of power. But when you have a country filled with backward people who still think Global Warming is a hoax, and that Oil Companies are Gods, alternate energy is not going to get the attention it deserves and that we need in order to move forward in an ever-changing world. In fact, our lack of progress could very well someday bring us to another crossroad just like Hiroshima did in 1945. I hope we choose the safe road next time and I hope it is not too late.