Operation Crossroads was a pair of nuclear weapon tests conducted by the United States at Bikini Atoll in mid-1946. The purpose of the tests was to investigate the effect of nuclear weapons on warships. The Crossroads tests were the first of many nuclear tests held in the Marshall Islands, and the first to be publicly announced and observed by an invited audience.
About Operation Crossroads in brief
Operation Crossroads was a pair of nuclear weapon tests conducted by the United States at Bikini Atoll in mid-1946. The purpose of the tests was to investigate the effect of nuclear weapons on warships. The Crossroads tests were the first of many nuclear tests held in the Marshall Islands, and the first to be publicly announced and observed by an invited audience. The first proposal to test nuclear weapons against naval warships was made on August 16, 1945, by Lewis Strauss, future chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. A third deep-water test named Charlie was planned for 1947 but was canceled primarily because of the U.S. Navy’s inability to decontaminate the target ships after the Baker test. Bikini’s native residents agreed to evacuate the island, and were evacuated on board the LST-861, with most moving to the Rongerik Atoll. 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 2017, though it is occasionally visited by sport divers, and is now used as a diving base by professional divers and scuba divers. The tests were conducted by Joint ArmyNavy Task Force One, headed by Vice Admiral William H. P. Blandy rather than by the Manhattan Project, which had developed nuclear weapons during World War II. It involved between 80 and 100 target ships, most of them surplus U. S. Navy ships, and involved two detonations of Fat Man plutonium implosion-type nuclear weapons of the kind dropped on Nagasaki, each with a yield of 23 kilotons of TNT.
The second test was known as Helen of Bikini and was detonated 90 feet underwater on July 25, 1946. A quarter century earlier, in 1921, the Navy had suffered a public relations disaster when General Billy Mitchell’s bombers sank every target ship the Navy provided for the Project B ship-versus-bomb tests. A study showed that the life expectancy of participants was reduced by an average of three months. The Baker test’s radioactive contamination of all the target fleet was the first case of immediate, concentrated radioactive fallout from a nuclear explosion. It was designed to demonstrate the vulnerability, rather than survivability, of ships. The test was canceled because only nine target ships were able to be scrapped rather than scuttled. The next day, the Army proposed dropping an atomic bomb on captured Japanese ships and suggested, \”The resulting explosion should prove to us just how effective the atomic is when used against the giant naval ships. \” The Army set aside ten of the thirty-eight captured ships for use in the test, which was revealed at a press conference on October 27 by the Commander, United States Fleet, Fleet Admiral Ernest King. As the Army and Navy maneuvered for the tests, the public observed, the future of the Navy is at stake in which one test looms as one which is at the stake.