Kristof wrote this script after I made him aware of the ceremony last week for the 71st anniversary of Bikini Atoll being lent to the Americans to do nuclear testing.
These small islands that are part of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific were chosen for their remote location from all flight and shipping routes. It was however the middle of the world to the 167 local inhabitants who lived a life there in that tropical paradise.
It was the height of the cold war with the Russians at the time and they were convinced to move off the atoll by the Marshall Islands military governor Commodore Ben H. Wyatt. He gathered them together after a church service and told them that the testing of the bombs was for “the good of mankind and to end all wars.”
They were told they would be able to return to their homes after the tests were concluded and voluntarily moved to another atoll. However their new home Rongerik Atoll couldn’t sustain them and they starved. They were then moved to another island one sixth of the size of their original home. By the end of the tests in 1958 over 23 nukes were let off with a combined strength of 42.2 megatons. One bomb that was detonated was 1000 times stronger than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War 2. This detonation, and others, contaminated 22 atolls and single islands in the area.
In the 70s a few moved back to Bikini Atoll, but as you can imagine, there was dangerous levels of radiation still lingering, and they had to leave. To this very day the radiation levels are too high for any sort of life to safely exist there. Locals are given $550 a year for medical treatment and the decedents were given $2 billion as a “sorry” for fucking up their ancestral home.
The American policy and payout takes into account four islands exposed to the testing, and ignores the other 18.
Three islands were vaporized completely, and the crater of one was used as a dump for nuclear waste.
Speaking for the survivors of this time Enewetak Sen. Jack Ading said in a quote last week, “For most of us, the paradise that God created is just a legend from our elders. By the time most of us were born, our paradise was a paradise lost.”
Caption: They told us they needed our paradise.
Palm trees sway violently and debris flies as if in a hurricane.
Caption: They said it was for the good of all mankind.
The now iconic mushroom cloud rises from Bikini Atoll.
Caption: They never told us our paradise would be lost.