When it comes to the truth about radiation and health effects, there are no experts who are honest - not in government, not in science, not anywhere. Yet, people would rather listen to liars than challenge their assumptions about the sources of the so-called truth and disregard the purveyors of actual truth on this topic: the non-creditialed self-taught. - Andrew Kishner, May 18, 2013
|Chapter 6 - Rongelapese||
|1 of 4|
After the conclusion of World War II, the United States began a series of atom and hydrogen bomb tests over a vast section of the Pacific Ocean that comprised three main test sites known as the 'Pacific Proving Grounds,' or PPG. If superimposed on a map of the continental United States, the PPG would stretch from Los Angeles to Chicago to Miami. At the western edge of the PPG was Enewetak Atoll and Bikini Atoll (part of the Marshall Islands and located northeast of Papua New Guinea). At the northern edge was Johnston Atoll, the closest island systems to the southwest and south, respectively, of Hawaii. At the southern edge was Christmas Island.
All three 'test areas' were used for nuclear testing by the U.S. and the United Kingdom. The earliest exploited area of the Pacific Proving Grounds was the two-atoll-system of Bikini and Enewetak in the Marshall Islands. (The Marshall Islands, which is now its own sovereign country but formerly was a trust territory of the United States, comprises a total of 29 atolls - each a circular chain of small-sized, low-elevation islets.) The U.S. conducted 67 nuclear tests, chiefly atmospheric, on these two atolls. Forty-three tests occurred at Enewetak Atoll and twenty-three tests occurred at Bikini Atoll between the years 1946 and 1958. One of these 67 tests was the biggest nuclear test ever conducted by the U.S. It was part of a series of nuclear blasts called 'Castle,' and the test was dubbed 'Bravo.'
On March 1, 1954, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission detonated a nuclear bomb device on Namu Island on Bikini Atoll. Its yield, 15 megatons, was 1,000 times the yield of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
The massive 'Bravo' experiment was a test of a new type of weapon, the hydrogen bomb, which was first unveiled to the world in a test (by the U.S.) in October 1952; it was called 'Ivy-Mike'. 'Bravo' was the first 'deliverable' H-bomb tested by the U.S. It also turned out to be the largest nuclear device ever tested by the U.S.
Although Bravo has the distinction as the largest nuclear detonation conducted by the U.S., its immense yield wasn't intended or expected. Bravo's nuclear yield was in fact a whopping 250% larger than scientists anticipated. Unimaginably, Bravo's fireball stretched over 4 1/2 miles in diameter and the plumes of fallout reached beyond a preselected danger zone of an area of 50,000 square miles, or about the size of New England. Within this restricted zone, at about 65 miles east of ground-zero, the Japanese fishing vessel Fukuryu Maru Number 5 (known to Western newspapers as 'Lucky Dragon Number 5') had wandered into an unlucky place at a very unlucky time. The Lucky Dragon's 23 member crew was fishing for tuna and all persons received acute radiation poisoning from the heavy fallout; one crew member died several weeks later. The fallout also hit an atoll located 110 miles east of Bravo's ground-zero. That was Rongelap Atoll, where about four or five hours after the detonation a fine powder began falling. (According to the book "The Day of Two Suns: US Nuclear Testing and Pacific Islanders" (p. 25) by Jane Dibblin, the powder turned out to be lime particles from the vaporized coral reef off Bikini island). Rongelap, however, was not drawn in the danger zone. According to information presented in a law journal article in 2000 by John Babione titled 'Mission Accomplished? Fifty-four Years of Suffering for the People of the Marshall Islands and the Latest Round of Endless Reconciliation,' this atoll was a victim of nuclear 'safety' gerrymandering:
'In preparing for that test, scientists recommended that the Rongelap and Ailinginae atolls, several hundred miles east of the Bikini test site, be placed in the "danger zone" n39 for Bravo. n40 The U.S. Interior Department, however, was reluctant to displace islanders, as was done [*122] during the earlier Operation Crossroads. n41 Accordingly, the Interior Department and the AEC drew the danger zone boundaries precisely to exclude those atolls.'
Although the greatest deposition of the fallout plagued unpopulated northern parts of Rongelap Atoll1, populated southern areas were bombarded with levels that would be considered highly dangerous using today's standards. The most populated and largest (at 0.3 square miles) island in the 61-islet atoll system is 'Rongelap Island.' (The atoll is some 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii and the second closest system of islets to Bikini. Bikini, like Rongelap Atoll, belongs to present-day Republic of Marshall Islands, or RMI.)
As the heavier powder began to fall, trees, the ground and even the bodies of the 'Rongelapese' were coated in a white 'snow' that some children played in. The powder fell all day and all night. Some areas of the small island had received a total accumulation of 1.5 inches of the pale dust. (Of course, invisible particles of radioactive debris were also descending along with and attaching to this powder.) During the first 48 hours of the fallout, the islanders suffered from severe radiation poisoning effects, including burns, aches, violent illness, hair and fingernail loss, eye irritation, discolored skin, nausea, fatigue, and diarrhea. They had received no instructions on how to protect themselves. The fallout caused 'beta burns' on skin and dusted foods with fallout.
The islanders were utterly helpless during this radiological hell, which endured for just over 2 days as a U.S. government-organized evacuation was underway. As islanders' exposures over this time period were rapidly progressing towards lethal levels, three opportunities for evacuation (over the two-day period) were denied to them, which raises disturbing questions about U.S. motive and 'design'.
The 50 hour evacuation
What we know today is that during that 50 hour wait (for evacuation), the Rongelapese were actually three times denied escape from their radioactive ordeal by U.S. military transports.
According to Holly M. Barker, who contributed a chapter in the book Half-Lives & Half Truths: Confronting the Radioactive Legacies of the Cold War [edited by Rose Barbara Johnston, SAR Press, 2007], "During the Bravo detonation, a U.S. naval ship was anchored off the reef of Rongelap. When radioactive fallout from Bravo moved toward Rongelap, the boat chugged off, taking the US servicemen to safety but leaving the Marshallese behind in their highly contaminated environment." [p. 220] The book "The Day of Two Suns" also refers to ships (in the plural sense) in the area of Rongelap Island after the Bravo detonation: 'Not too far from Rongelap, US Navy ships were measuring the intensity of the radioactivity. They were not instructed to rescue the Rongelap people; indeed, the task force command ordered them to sail away from the area.' (p.26)
The second denied opportunity, according to Greenpeace, in their book Greenpeace Guide to the Nuclear Age (1989), came "on the day after the blast, [when] Americans wearing protective suits came to the island. They took readings with a Geiger counter from two wells and left after 20 minutes... according to the islanders." The moonsuit-garbed Americans were two members of the Combined Joint Task Force that traveled by seaplane to Rongelap Island, took radiation readings, and then left. A Rongelap Islander and magistrate of the population at the time, John Anjain, later stated in a testimonial he wrote in 1973 about the fallout ordeal on March 1-3:
"They said they would spend twenty minutes looking at all the wells, cement water catchments, houses and other things. The two men returned quickly to their plane and left without telling anyone that the food, water, and other things were harmful to human beings. Everyone was quite surprised at the speed with which the men surveyed everything in the island and then returned to their plane. People said maybe we've been really harmed because the men were in such a hurry to leave. Although they said they would look around for about twenty minutes, they probably didn't stay here for more than ten minutes. So in less than ten minutes after their arrival on Rongelap, the two men had already taken off."2
There was a third 'missed' evacuation: 28 American service personnel on nearby Rongerik Atoll were rescued 34 hours after Bravo's detonation.
The ship that was sent to evacuate the Rongelapese had set sail on March 2nd and arrived accompanied by a seaplane. The Rongelapese were asked to quickly board the ship and leave their belongings; the sick and elderly and one pregnant woman were taken away via the plane. The plane transport on March 3 collected 16 Rongelapese and the ship collected a total of 48 residents of Rongelap Atoll along with 18 residents camping on nearby Ailingnae Atoll. A day later, 157 residents on nearby Utirik Atoll were picked up by another U.S. naval ship. The Greenpeace Book of The Nuclear Age  states that (between March 2nd to March 4th) the U.S. evacuated "236 islanders and 28 American service personnel to the navy base on the nearby island of Kwajalein," (however Greenpeace's numbers are slighly wrong; 239 islanders were evacuated).4
No evacuation this time
'Bravo' wasn't the first nuclear test at Bikini atoll that impacted Rongelap Atoll. The Rongelapese had been evacuated before by the U.S. government prior to nuclear detonations on Bikini. For example, during 'Operation Crossroads,' the code name for the first nuclear tests in the Pacific in 1946, Rongelapese were moved to a tent camp on Lae Atoll for about three months. Why didn't the U.S. government evacuate the Rongelapese prior to Bravo? Evidence suggests that hours before the detonation U.S. task force officials in the Pacific had ignored information about a change in wind direction that would have directed the fallout from the nuclear blast towards Rongelap Atoll. The Final Report of the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments notes that the Bravo detonation went ahead despite 'an adverse meteorological forecast' [p.586] and also no 'evacuation capability.'
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