Commodore Ben H. Wyatt addressing the Bikini Island natives

The fourth atom bomb explosion of all time occurred in July 1946 in the Pacific in an Army-Navy operation named Crossroads. It was meant to test the effect of atom bombs on naval vessels. The test site, Bikini Atoll, needed to be evacuated, and its 167 natives relocated.
On a Sunday afternoon a few months earlier, Com. Ben Wyatt, the military governor of the Marshall Islands, traveled to Bikini. He had assembled the natives to ask if they would be willing to leave the atoll temporarily so that the United States could begin testing atomic bombs for "the good of mankind and to end all wars." The people met and voted to go to Rongerik Island, as advised by the Navy. Juda, the leader of the Bikinian people, announced that they would go "believing that everything is in the hands of God."
Commodore Wyatt can be seen sitting on the base of a palm tree, addressing the population moments before they were set to leave their home. Mydans was sent to the island to document the exodus of the people of Bikini. The story was published by LIFE (Mar 25 1946).
Currently not on view
Object Name
Date made
Mydans, Carl
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 8 in x 10 in; 20.32 cm x 25.4 cm
place made
Marshall Islands: Ralik Chain, Bikini
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Carl Mydans
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Carl Mydans
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Visitor Comments

7/16/2014 1:26:20 PM
William Barnes
I was a 17 year old kid just out of boot camp and was stationed on Kwajalean during operation Crossroads in 1946 .
10/13/2015 10:36:00 AM
Shannon Perich
Thank you Mr. Barnes for contacting the Museum. What was your role on Kwajalean? What do you remember about your experience?
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