In 1946, as part of the Cold War arms race, the US military launched a program to test nuclear bombs in the Marshall Islands of the Pacific Ocean. From 1946 until 1958, the military detonated sixty-seven nuclear bombs over the region's Bikini and Enewetak Atolls. The twelfth bomb, called Bravo, became the world's first nuclear disaster. It sent a toxic cloud of radiation over Rongelap Atoll and other nearby inhabited islands.
The testing was intended to advance scientific knowledge about nuclear bombs and radiation, but it had much more far-reaching effects. Some of the islanders suffered burns, cancers, birth defects, and other medical tragedies as a result of radiation poisoning. Many of the Marshallese were resettled on other Pacific islands or in the United States. They and their descendants cannot yet return to Bikini, which remains contaminated by radiation. And while the United States claims it is now safe to resettle Rongelap, only a few construction workers live there on a temporary basis.
For Bombs over Bikini, author Connie Goldsmith researched government documents, military film footage, and other primary source documents to tell the story of the world's first nuclear disaster. You'll meet the people who planned the test operations, the Marshall Islanders who lost their homes and suffered from radiation illnesses, and those who have worked to hold the US government accountable for catastrophically poor planning. Was the new knowledge about nuclear bombs and radiation worth the cost in human suffering? You decide.
Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California
Goldsmith, Connie. Bombs Over
Bikini: TheWorld’s First Nuclear
21st Century, 2014. 88p. PLB
The atomic testing over the Marshall Islands
from 1946-58 is described in this clear, lively narrative paired with historic
black and white photos. The author’s viewpoint is clear—the testing was an
environmental as well as a human rights disaster. Yet this is conveyed with
facts and avoids being heavy-handed. She quotes comedian Bob Hope to set the
scene: “As soon as WWI ended, we located the one spot on Earth that hadn’t been
touched by war and blew it to hell.” Other quotations from those involved,
sidebars, and maps are helpful and expand on some subjects, and back matter
includes source notes, a glossary bibliography (including many - primary
sources), and index.An excellent
resource on a little-known subject.
Penny Peck, San Jose State Univ,
School Library Journal
Goldsmith, Connie. Bombs Over Bikini: The World’s First Nuclear Disaster. 88p. bibliog. diag. further reading. glossary. illus. index. maps. notes.
photos. reprods. websites. Twenty-First Century. Apr. 2014. lib. ed. $34.60.
ISBN 9781467716123; ebk. $25.95. ISBN 9781467725453. LC 2013017576. Gr 7 Up–
“As soon as the war ended, we
located the one spot on Earth that hadn’t been touched by war and blew it to
hell” (Bob Hope, 1947). Thus begins this chronicle of the period after World
War II when the United States detonated 67 nuclear bombs over the
Marshall Islands, specifically the Bikini and Enewetak Atolls. Three bombs are
discussed in some detail—Able, Baker, and Bravo—but this is not a scientific
journal. The decisions of the U.S. to evacuate (or not) the inhabitants of the
islands, the countdown, the fallout, the cleanup, and the effects of radiation
on the inhabitants and military personnel are all included.
The author’s focus is on the
negative effects of the detonations on the people of the islands and considers
that the U.S. knowingly put the lives of the islanders in danger in order to
advance the study of radiation. The book ends with a discussion of the money
that was awarded to the inhabitants of the islands affected and how most of it
still has not been paid. The
black-and-white period photos are an excellent accompaniment to the text. A
well-written book about a painful piece of history, this is an excellent
addition.–Stephanie Farnlacher, Trace Crossings
Elementary School, Hoover, AL
Bombs over Bikini: The
World's First Nuclear Disaster.
Apr 2014. 88 p.
Lerner/Twenty-First Century, library edition, $34.60. (9781467716123).
Lerner/Twenty-First Century, e-book, $25.95. (9781467725453). 623.4.
On March 7, 1946, the
population of the Bikini Atoll bade their home good-bye. They did it for “the
welfare of all men,” but they were also promised by the U.S. government that
they would get their islands back once nuclear testing was completed. Four
months later, the navy exploded Able, a fusion bomb meant to test the effect of
an airdrop on warships. Later Baker, a nuke placed underwater, was exploded for
The damage done by Baker
alone made the islands uninhabitable, but test number 12 (Bravo, a fusion bomb
with 1,000 times the explosive capacity of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima)
created the first nuclear disaster, as fallout settled upon the nearby
unevacuated island populations of Rongelap.
With deft, well-researched precision, Goldsmith
explores the ethical implications of nuclear testing, which rendered portions
of the Marshall Islands unsafe for generations, as well as the ongoing fight of
the Bikinese and Rongelapese peoples in the Supreme Court for fiscal
compensation. A stirring addition to any classroom discussion about the