The Controversy of Operation Crossroads: A Post-WWII Nuclear Weapons Test

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In the mid 1940s, my grandfather, Commander Larry Condon, witnessed the testing of three-nuclear powered atom bombs. Although all of his war stories have interested me in the past, upon learning of this particular experience, I became fascinated with the subject-especially given one particular comment he made when describing the explosions to me: "It was beautiful. Just beautiful." It seemed remarkable to me that anyone could call an atom bomb exploding at the destructive capacity of millions of sticks of dynamite "beautiful."

I decided to look into it, and upon researching the topic, I discovered that thousands of other sailors witnessing similar spectacles also joined in with my grandfather in admiration and astonishment at the explosion-but never fear. Not once did I find a comment relating how worried the witnesses were that they were in danger. Quite frankly, such blatant ignorance of danger on such massive a scale made me want to discover exactly what it was that had caused the ignorance.

Was it a naïve navy? Misleading scientists? A government cover-up?

Then I read of Operation Crossroads, which involved the detonation of two atom bombs on the island of Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the two detonations dubbed Operation "Able," an aboveground test, and Operation "Baker," an underwater test. I found that the navy had well-informed scientists who warned them of the danger, and yet the tests continued anyway, and that President Truman, whether he was misinformed, manipulated, or on a power trip, had, regardless, promoted the tests at Bikini Atoll.


Brett M. Condon November 5, 2002


Brett M. Condon in his paper, "The Controversy of Operation Crossroads: A Post-WWII Nuclear Weapons Test," describes the post World War II tests of the atom bomb on the island of Bikini Atoll and the shocking mistakes made by...