On This Day

Bikini Atoll is Evacuated

Residents of Bikini Atoll are evacuated to make way for nuclear testing
Residents of Bikini Atoll are evacuated to make way for nuclear testing

Historical Context

When the United States was looking for places to test their newly discovered nuclear potential in the 1940s and 1950s, one place seemed perfect: the remote Bikini Atoll, free of naval and air traffic and in the middle of nowhere. So, the US government asked the 167 residents to relocate to another island. After deliberations, their king agreed.

The relocation was disastrous. The first island the inhabitants moved to, Rongerik Atoll, had nowhere near enough food, and the residents were found famished and starving in 1948. They were then moved to Ujelang Atoll, then to Kwajalein Atoll and then to Kili Island. Here they had barely enough food and rough seas meant it was almost impossible to fish, and they had to rely on authorities to airdrop them food.

In 1968 Lyndon B. Johnson promised the islanders they could return to Bikini Atoll after studies showed radiation levels from the testing had reduced sufficiently. Though dangers remained, including some food sources being far too high in radiation, residents returned in 1972. In 1978 however, the residents were again relocated to Kili Island over health concerns.

The islanders received $75 million in damages in 1986 under a new agreement with the US government.

Photo Info

Photographer: US Navy
Location taken: Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands

Source: Wikimedia Commons

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