Countdown at Crossroads – Bikini (the swimsuit) causes a cultural explosion, 5 July 1946, Post 12/20

bikini swimsuit

On 5 July 1946, the two-piece bikini was worn for the first time in public at the Molitor pool in Paris by 19-year-old Micheline Bernardini, a dancer from the Casino de Paris. She is holding a small box into which the entire swimsuit could be packed. The bikini’s unveiling by designer Louis Reard caused a cultural explosion and Ms Bernardini received more than 50,000 fan letters. (Photo AFP/Getty Images)

Aboard the USS Fall River (CA-131), Bikini Atoll,  5 July 1946 — My shipmates and I were sweating it out at the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, getting ready for Test Baker, the second postwar atomic bomb test scheduled for 25 July. Baker would detonate from underwater.

I was doing duty on the heavy cruiser USS Fall River (CA-131), Flagship for the Target Fleet, responsible for positioning the 75 target vessels in the Bikini Lagoon. (For Test Able from the air on 1 July, there were about 95 target vessels.)

Meanwhile,  the radio room was abuzz with news about a different type of explosion. On 5 July in Paris, four days after Test Able, the Bikini swimsuit was worn for the first time. The news reports said the brief swimsuit was named after the Bikini atomic bomb tests because the swimsuit caused a cultural explosion. 

-Bill McGee

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

One thought on “Countdown at Crossroads – Bikini (the swimsuit) causes a cultural explosion, 5 July 1946, Post 12/20

  1. Love the connection you’ve pointed out between a momentous moment in history and the beginning of a dramatic and enduring “fashion statement”!

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