Bombs over Bikini: The World's First Nuclear Disaster

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Annie Laura Smith
America engaged in a chilling military and political competition with Russia from 1945 to 1991, the Cold War era. In 1946—one year after America dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—the U. S. military launched a scientific program to test nuclear bombs in the Marshall Islands of the Pacific Ocean. Sixty-seven nuclear bombs were detonated over the region’s Bikini and Enewetak Atolls. The program for Bikini, called Operation Crossroads, involved dropping three bombs. The Bikininians agreed to move to an uninhabited island so that the bombs could be dropped on or near their ancestral atoll. Although the testing was planned to advance scientific knowledge about the nuclear age, the bombs dropped on the Bikini atoll, Nam, and in the water were a disaster. A toxic snowfall of radioactive white ash—vaporized coral—rained down on the islanders in their new location. They became ill within hours. Although the U.S. government had promised there would be minimal risk to humans, the test was instead a catastrophe. The six chapters of this book cover the event from the toxic snowfall through what will happen in the future to these islands. Black-and-white photographs and sidebars complement the text. This scientific program served as a wake-up call about the long-term effects of radiation. Four pages of source notes detail the author’s research. A glossary defines relevant terms. A selected bibliography and a list of further research materials, books, and websites of interest are provided. This book is an excellent source as a supplement for both history and science curricula as well as addressing environmental concerns. Reviewer: Annie Laura Smith; Ages 10 up.
Kirkus Reviews
2014-01-29
A brief chronicle of the nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands from 1946 until 1958, in which the U.S. military detonated 67 atom and hydrogen bombs over the region's Bikini and Enewetak atolls. The story begins with Operation Crossroads, two tests conducted at Bikini Atoll in mid-1946 to investigate the effect of nuclear weapons on warships. Bikini's native residents agreed to evacuate the island. More tests followed. The detonation of Bravo in 1954, the 12th device and first hydrogen bomb, is identified as the world's first nuclear disaster. With an explosive yield 1,000 times more powerful than the weapon used on Hiroshima, the fallout from Bravo contaminated the entire atoll and spread downwind to the east, where more atolls were contaminated. More than 200 Marshallese were subjected to high levels of radiation, as were 28 Americans and 23 Japanese fishermen in the vicinity. The long-term suffering of the Marshallese and American military personnel from radiation poisoning due largely to the ignorance and reckless disregard of the U.S. military is tragic, but readers familiar with World War II history may wonder why this is called "the world's first nuclear disaster" instead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Goldsmith does not explain her rationale. A less notable shortcoming is a factual error identifying the world's first atomic bomb as Trinity. The test in which the device was detonated was code-named "Trinity," but the device was nicknamed "the Gadget." A critically flawed chronicle of a significant chapter in the Cold War nuclear arms race. (source notes, glossary, further reading, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 12-16)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781467716123
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/1/2014
  • Series: Nonfiction - Young Adult
  • Pages: 88
  • Sales rank: 322,997
  • Age range: 11 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Connie Goldsmith writes about science and health for children and adults. Most of her books are published by Lerner Publishing Group's Twenty-First Century Books imprint. Her works include books about malaria, skin cancer, hepatitis, influenza, meningitis, antibiotic resistant infections, and emerging infectious diseases.

As an RN with a master's degree in health, Connie also writes continuing education articles for nurses on a wide variety of topics, and has written for other healthcare professionals as well.

Other writing venues include "The Book Report," a monthly children's book review column for California Kids, a Sacramento regional parenting magazine.

She has had articles published in the children's magazines Cricket and Highlights, among others, and has written for the SCBWI Bulletin, Children's Writer, and Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market.

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