Nuclear Testing, Bikini Island

Months after the conclusion of the Second World War, President Harry S. Truman issued a directive to Army and Navy officials that joint testing of nuclear weapons would be necessary "to determine the effect of atomic bombs on American warships." Because of its location away from regular air and sea routes, Bikini was chosen to be the new nuclear proving ground for the U.S. government.
No one really knew what would happen to Bikini after the atomic testing was completed. The one thing that officials did know was that little would remain on the island. A bomb similar to that used against Nagasaki would explode several hundred feet over a "ghost fleet" of 97 ships anchored in a small lagoon of Bikini Island. Mydans was sent to the island to document the exodus of the people of Bikini. The story was published by LIFE (Mar 25, 1946).
Over the next eleven years, American soldiers participated in 23 tests at Bikini, during which hundreds of bombs were detonated. On March 1, 1954, the military released its largest bomb to date, a hydrogen bomb called Bravo. This blast was seen as one of the worst incidents of fallout exposures in all the U.S. testing programs.
The image shows an explosion in shallow water while native onlookers sit on boats still on shore.
Currently not on view
Date made
Mydans, Carl
place made
Marshall Islands: Ralik Chain, Bikini
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 10 in x 8 in; 25.4 cm x 20.32 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


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