Countdown at Crossroads – 3 July 1946

 

5. Media observe Indenpendence after Able

Members of the media and other observers view the severely damaged light carrier USS Independence (CVL-22) from aboard LCT-52, 3 July 1946. (National Archives)

Bikini Atoll, 3 July 1946. The day after Test Able, the Fall River and numerous other support ships steamed back into the Bikini lagoon. Within one or two days after Able, almost all of the surviving target vessels were boarded for inspection. Early reports of the success – and failure – of Test Able were emerging.

The bomb nicknamed “Gilda” had missed its bulls-eye, the battleship Nevada, by about 2,100 feet, even though the Nevada had been painted a bright orange-red to aid the bombardier. The Able explosion sank five vessels: the attack transports Gilliam and Carlisle, closest to the detonation, sank almost immediately; two nearby destroyers, Anderson and Lamson, were severely damaged and sank within hours; the Japanese light cruiser Sakawa sank on 2 July. Other vessels were severely damaged, the most dramatic damage occurring to the light carrier Independence (see photo above) and the submarine Skate, both of which were for all intents and purposes wrecked.

It seemed the results of Test Able were less cataclysmic than expected. There were no casualties, no tidal waves, and no earthquakes. Many observers and members of the press expressed their disappointment and left; thus missing what would be the big show, Test Baker on 25 July.

Seventy years later, in hindsight, one can safely say: visible to observers were the combined results of the tremendous pressure wave and intense heat produced by Able; invisible were the dangerous effects of the bomb’s radiation.

(Excerpted from Operation Crossroads – Lest We Forget! by William L. McGee.)

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