nuclear weapon test series conducted at Bikini
Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the summer of
1946 in order to study the effects of nuclear
weapons on ships, equipment, and material
A fleet of more than 90 vessels
was assembled in Bikini Lagoon. This fleet
consisted of surplus U.S. cruisers, destroyers
and submarines, three captured German and
Japanese ships, and several auxiliary and
In addition to the target
fleet, a support fleet of more than 150 ships
provided crew quarters, experimental stations,
and workshops for most of the 42,000 men involved
in the tests.
In the ABLE test, conducted on
July 1st, the bomb was dropped from a B-29 and
exploded 520 feet over the target fleet. Five
ships were sunk as a result of this test. The
radioactivity created by the explosion had only a
transient effect, and within a day nearly all the
surviving ships had been safely reboarded.
In the BAKER test, conducted on
July 25th, the bomb was suspended 90 feet beneath
an auxiliary craft anchored in the midst of the
target fleet. This explosion sank eight ships and
damaged considerably more than the ABLE test had.
The detonation caused most of the target fleet to
be bathed in radioactive water spray and
radioactive debris from the lagoon bottom, and
most of the fleet remained too contaminated to be
reboarded for several weeks.
Naval Historical Center www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq76-1.htm
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