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Pre-Test Atmosphere

Geography and Culture

Bikini Atoll is one of the 29 atolls and five islands that compose the Marshall Islands. These Marshall atolls are scattered over 357,000 square miles of an isolated part of the world, located north of the equator in the Pacific Ocean. They help define a geographic area referred to as Micronesia. The isolation of the Bikinians created a tightly integrated society bound together by close extended family association and tradition.



The first outsiders' visitors to the Marshalls were the Spanish in the 1600's, followed by Germans. The Marshall Islands were used as a source for producing copra oil from coconuts. In the early 1900's the Japanese took control of the Marshall Islands. In the anticipation of war with the United States, the Japanese realized the strategic position the Marshall Islands offered. The peaceful low lying coral atolls became a site of Japanese military preparation. In February of 1944, American forces won a gruesome and bloody battle for Marshall Islands.


Appropriating the Land

In February of 1946 the Bikinians were asked to leave their atoll so that the United States could test atomic bombs there. The United States chose the area because of its distance from regular air and sea routes. The Bikinians were told the move would be temporary and the tests were for "the good of all mankind and to end all wars." After confused and sorrow deliberation, the Bikinian people agreed to go, believing, "that everything is in the hands of God."



To Learn More About the Marshallese, visit the links below:

The Marshallese Nuclear Tests

Marshallese Displacement

Photo Gallery

Commemoration of March 1st Bravo Test Anniversary

"Ghosts" by Ravenna Woods

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Barker, Holly. Consequential Damages of Nuclear War (p95-100)

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