Operation Crossroads was a series of nuclear weapon tests conducted by the United States at the Bikini Atoll in mid-1946. The purpose was to investigate the effect of nuclear weapons on naval ships. The US Navy was worried about its survival as a part of the US defense force in the atomic age, and the tests were set up to demonstrate that atomic explosions would not completely destroy war ships.
That was the purpose, and all other interests were deemed irrelevant. Bikini’s native residents agreed, after considerable pressure, to evacuate the island. The Crossroads tests and 21(!) subsequent nuclear explosions rendered Bikini unfit for human habitation. The 167 Bikini residents who were resettled were unable to gather sufficient food or catch enough fish to feed themselves in their new environment. Their new home also had inadequate water supply. The Navy left food and water for a few weeks and then failed to return in a timely manner. By January 1947, the islanders were suffering malnutrition, facing potential starvation by July, and were emaciated by January 1948. In March 1948 they were evacuated to yet another uninhabited island, Kili. With only one third of a square mile, Kili has one sixth the land area of Bikini and, more importantly, has no lagoon and no protected harbor. Unable to practice their native culture of lagoon fishing, they became dependent on food shipments. After their relocation to Kili, the Bikini residents continued to suffer from inadequate food supplies. US authorities were forced to start airdropping food onto Kili. Today, most of the four thousand descendants of the original Bikini residents are living elsewhere. No one was allowed to return to Bikini, and no one probably ever will. The atoll is still inhabitable today.
Some people even died as a direct result of the explosions. The horrible Edward Teller, father of the hydrogen bomb and architect of the Marshall Island tests, made himself immortal with the words: “It’s unreasonable to make such a big deal over the death of a fisherman.”
Admiral Blandy was in charge of Operation Crossroads. Blandy had reason to celebrate after the operation:
Why, by all means let’s have a cake in the shape of a mushroom cloud! It’s all in the best possible taste!
Blandy had been able to show that the US could still have a Navy in the atomic age and that atomic explosions do not completely destroy war ships. For him, this was reason enough to celebrate, never mind that the natives were starving in a strange land, and never mind the long term consequences of nuclear radiation.
And the heartlessness doesn’t stop there. It’s well-known that the name “Bikini” was adopted for bikini swimwear. Less well-known is the fact that the name “bikini” was reappropriated only days after Operation Crossroads and precisely because of it. The invention of the “bikini” was announced with the words: “like the bomb, the bikini is small and devastating”, and the “atom bombs reduce everybody to primitive costume” (source). LOL.
Ironically, the bikini’s design violates traditional Marshall Islander’s customs of modesty because it exposes the woman’s thighs and shoulders. Marshall Island women traditionally were topless and they don’t attach any social stigma to breasts common in much of Western society which the bikini does cover.
More in the annals of heartlessness here.