April 5, 2017 – Bill had a nice visit with former Fall River shipmate, Bob “Chris” Chrisman. In 1946, Chris and Bill did duty on the heavy cruiser USS Fall River (CA-131) at Operation Crossroads, the first postwar atomic bomb tests at Bikini in July 1946. Chris had just celebrated his 94th and his son, Rob, gave him a copy of Bill’s memoir, Operation Crossroads – Lest We Forget! When Rob saw that Bill lived nearby in the same county (Marin County, CA), Rob emailed to ask if he could bring his father over for a visit.
Chris and Bill began to reminisce… They were both in the Gunnery Department. Bill was in the Sixth Division, in charge of the 40-mm antiaircraft guns; Chris was in the Third Division, covering the 8″ guns in Turret No. 3 on the fantail.
Seventy-one years ago to the day, Bill and Chris were aboard the Fall River, anchored in Pearl Harbor, waiting to set sail to Bikini. Then President Truman postponed the date of the first atomic bomb test from May 15 to July. As Bill wrote in his memoir, “Under other circumstances, six more weeks in a liberty town like Honolulu would have been good news. However, there was a growing sense of restlessness and anticipation among the men onboard ship. No one knew what to expect from the atomic bomb tests and we just wanted to get on with it.”
Chris said Bill’s memoir triggered a lot of memories, one of them being the warm beer for sale for five cents a chit at the shack on Bikini. “It was terrible,” said Chris.
Chris was a 20-year Navy man. He was one of the lucky ones from Operation Crossroads who didn’t suffer any aftereffects from exposure to radiation. There aren’t many of these “atomic vets” from Crossroads left. Bill and Chris agreed to meet again, next time at Sam’s on the waterfront in Tiburon… a fitting place for two old salts.
Operation Crossroads – Lest We Forget! is available in Print and Kindle eBook editions from Amazon.