Modern History of the Republic of the Marshall Islands  1953 - 1999

1954 Mar 1, The Bravo hydrogen bomb test exploded across Bikini atoll (Marshall Islands) with the force of 1,200 Hiroshima bombs. Radiation from the test forces evacuation of all people on 'Rongelap, Rongerik, Utirik, and Ailinginae.

 

A Nuclear Claims Tribunal, established in 1986, later awarded Bikini and Enewetak 500 million dollars but only a fraction of the amount was received. A Nov 30, 2004, deadline limited further suits.

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1954 Mar 1, The No. 5 Fukuryu-maru [aka "Lucky Dragon," see map above] was trolling for tuna off the Bikini atoll in the Pacific during the Bravo hydrogen bomb test. 11 crew members died in the half-century since the exposure, at least six of them from liver cancer. Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted 66 nuclear tests at Bikini as part of "Operation Crossroads."

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The Japanese fishing boat "Lucky Dragon" in a museum outside of Tokyo.  When Glenn met in Yaizu, Japan with the former captain and eight [of the original 23] of his former crew members in March 1990, he heard firsthand about their frightening encounter with the deadly radioactive fallout from "Bravo" on March 1, 1954.

Upon return to Yaizu following "Bravo" radiation scientists from Hiroshima ran their Geiger counters over the caught tuna on the deck of the ship, and loud clicking noises came from the Geiger counters.  Japanese coined these sounds as the "talking fish," and talking fish from the Pacific Proving Grounds dominated Japan's news cycle for days.  In protest, the Japanese ambassador to the United Nations proclaimed that "The United States has now used nuclear weapons twice against the Japanese people."  The following year - in 1955 - Japanese housewives collected 43 million signatures on a petition banning Atomic and Hydrogen bombs.

The perennial monster Godzilla [with 35 sequels] originated from the radioactive fallout of "Bravo." Finally, Nevil Shute's classic book "On the Beach" was based on "Bravo" and the plight of the Rongelap people.  

 

To watch the full (scary!) movie "On the Beach" click here>: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HusewgIe_1k

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This 88-ton building was essentially a gigantic refrigerator to keep the liquid H-bomb fuel, lithium-deuteride cooled.  This was the first successful ex-plosion of a hydrogen "device" insofar as it could not be used as a weapon. Note the men in the fore- ground to provide scale of this unit on Elugelab, Enewetak, November 1, 1952.  The vertical "sausage"

[L] contained the liquid lithium-deuterium fuel.

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Ivy-"Mike" [short for Micronesia, btw] was equivalent to 750 Hiroshima atomic [fission] bombs, and was history's first hydrogen

[fusion] bomb.  The trick now was to miniaturize an H-bomb that could be deliverable in an airplane. Please go to the "History of Nuclear Weapons" page on this website.

1954        Mar 26, The U.S. set off the second H-bomb blast in four weeks in the Marshall Islands at Bikini Island. The 15-megaton device was 750 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The blast contaminated the neighboring island of Rongelap and nearly 100 people on the island and other downwind atolls.
   
1958        Apr 28, The United States conducted the first of 35 nuclear test explosions in the Pacific Proving Ground as part of Operation Hardtack I.
   

1971        Australia joined with New Zealand and 14 independent of self-governing island nations to form the South Pacific Forum. The name was changed in 2000 to Pacific Islands Forum. Member states include: Australia, the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. Since 2006, associate members territories are New Caledonia and French Polynesia.
   
1972        Amata Kabua (1928-1996) founded and led the Political Movement for the Marshall Islands Separation from Micronesia.
  
1978        The Marshallese voted for independence from other districts of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.
   
1978        Doctors ordered a 2nd evacuation from Bikini due to high radiation.
   
1979        May 1, The people of the Marshall Islands ratified their own constitution and the constitutional government came into being. In recognition of the evolving political status of the Marshall Islands, the US recognized the constitution of the Marshall Islands and the establishment of the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Mr. Amata Kabua  (1928-1996) became the first president.
   
1979        July, Imata Kabua led a protest against US operations in the Marshall Islands, The country becomes self-governing.

 

1982 - It is renamed the Republic of the Marshall Islands

 
1983        The Marshall Islands received $183.7 million for the 1946-1958 US nuclear tests near Bikini.
  
1986        Oct 21, The US, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands formed a Compact of Free Association (CFA). Tens of millions in economic benefits along with security and defense of the islands was exchanged for the right to deny access to third countries. The US paid $270 million in compensation to nuclear victims under the 1st phase of the CFA (1986-2001), insisting that was a full and final arrangement.
   
1986        The Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia were granted independence.
   
1991        Sep 17, The U.N. General Assembly opened its 46th session, welcoming new members Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, North and South Korea, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia.
   
1996        Dec 19, Pres. Amata Kabua died.
   
1998        Jul 17, Rising seawater was attacking the coastline of the islands.
  
Please watch this short video on YouTube about climate change, rising sea levels and the Marshall Islands:     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uf-0q5VSyyY

 

​1999        Jan 31, Phillip Muller, the foreign minister, said his government would seek a rent increase from the US for the use of the Kwajalein Atoll, the only place where the US was able to test long range components of its missile defense program.

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Incoming missile Impact Area at Kwajalein Atoll

When the nuclear testing ended in 1958 a major battle was fought between the Interior Dept. and the Pentagon.  Interior pushed for eventual independence of the Marshalls, and the Pentagon pushed to retain Kwajalein for ABM missile defense. Guess who won?

Ground-based missile from Meck Island, Kwajalein to intercept an incoming ICBM or MIRVed warhead launched from Vandenberg AFB in California. 

 

About once a month a missile aimed for Kwajalein is launched from CA, with the awaiting ground-based missiles to attempt to intercept it. 

An incoming ICBM splashing into the Kwajalein lagoon, fired from 4,200 miles away.

Local Marshall Islanders watch from a nearby beach.

Kwajalein Missile Base

A MIRV [Multiple Independently-targeted Re-entry Vehicles] missile with 8 warheads splashes down in the Kwajalein lagoon.  Only one of the 8 warheads contains the weapon so as to "fool" the enemy. The system is easily fooled by mylar ballons as decoys.

Since 1960 the U.S. has spent over $400 billion on missile defense, and most honest scientsts say that it will never work:  "Like hitting a bullet with a bullet."

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  And if you dare:  Listen to this 6-minute NPR interview from 1986 with  Australian filmmaker Dennis O'Rourke about the 1954 "Bravo" H-bomb 

cover-up at Bikini Atoll. "Bravo" was equal to 1,000 Hiroshima A-bombs

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