Countdown at Crossroads – 18 July 1946

1-JTF-1 press photo of lagoon

Joint Task Force One press release photo showing the area for target ships in the Bikini Lagoon, 1946. (U.S. Naval Institute)

Bikini Lagoon, 18 July 1946. William Day minus 1. On 6 July, five days after Test Able, Rear Admiral F. G. Fahrion, USN, commander of the USS Fall River (CA-131), Flagship for the Target Fleet, began preparing the arrangement of the target ships in a corner of the Bikini Lagoon for the second atomic bomb test code-named Test Baker scheduled for 25 July. Substitutions had to be made for the five ships that were sunk and the fourteen that were seriously damaged as a result of Able.

Baker would be an underwater bomb explosion. Scuttlebutt was the scientists expected the underwater explosion to create far more damage to the target ships than did the 1 July aerial bomb explosion. Some predicted the sea waters of the Bikini Lagoon might roll back like the Red Sea in the Bible and expose the Lagoon’s dry bottom for several seconds before the waters rushed back in. Others said the explosion might hurl huge target ships into the air and others thought the bomb might blast a huge crater in the Lagoon floor.

As with Able, there would be a dress rehearsal for Baker, this one code-named William Day and scheduled for 19 July. By day’s end on 18 July, all target ships were in position in the Lagoon and all support ships had moved out of the Lagoon. Though all had gone well with the Able rehearsal, there was no letting down when an atomic bomb was in the mix.

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

 

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