April 5 – Today I had a nice visit with a former shipmate, Bob Chrisman. In 1946, “Chris” and I did duty on the heavy cruiser USS Fall River at Operation Crossroads, the first post-war atomic bomb tests at Bikini in July ’46. Chris had just celebrated his 94th and his son, Rob, gave him a copy of my book, Operation Crossroads – Lest We Forget!, for his birthday. When Rob noted I lived nearby in the same county, he emailed to ask if he could bring his father over for a visit.
Chris and I began to reminisce … We were both in the Gunnery Department. I was in the 6th Division, in charge of the 40-mm anti-aircraft guns; Chris was in the 3rd Division, covering the 8″ guns in Turret No. 3 on the fantail. Seventy-one years ago to the day, we were on the Fall River, anchored in Pearl Harbor, and ready to sail to Bikini. Then President Truman postponed the date of the first test from May 15 to July 1.
As I wrote in my book, “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 my book triggered a lot of memories for him, 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, but I only served four years. 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 us “atomic vets” from Crossroads left, and we agreed to keep in touch. The next time we get together, we’ll meet for lunch 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 for Kindle from Amazon.com.