Sunday Service on Bikini Island

After WWII, President Truman issued a directive to Armed Forces officials on the need to test their nuclear weapons and determine the effect of an atomic blast on American warships. Bikini Atoll was chosen to be the new nuclear proving ground for the U.S. government because of its location away from regular air and sea routes. Mydans was sent to the area to cover the story, which was published by LIFE (Mar 25, 1946).
On a Sunday morning in 1946, Commodore Ben Wyatt met with the people of Bikini after church services had been held to explain the need for atomic testing on their island and the need for their consequent relocation. Bikini Atoll natives were strong Congregationalists, the legacy of conversion by New England missionaries. Although the missionaries had been gone for years, the natives held services with their own preacher. In this image, they can be seen engrossed in a religious service. Chief Juda spoke after reaching the decision to go to their new home on Rongerik: "We will go believing that everything is in the hands of God." On March 7, 1946, the natives left their island with hopes of someday returning home.
Currently not on view
Date made
Mydans, Carl
place made
Marshall Islands: Ralik Chain, Bikini
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 8 in x 10 in; 20.32 cm x 25.4 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Carl Mydans
Data Source
National Museum of American History


Add a comment about this object