ABOARD THE USS Fall River (CA-131), Bikini Atoll, 13 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. Baker was scheduled for 25 July and the test bomb would explode from underwater. The first test, code-named Able, was on 1 July and the bomb was dropped from the air. According to scuttlebutt after Able, the 23 kiloton atomic bomb nicknamed “Gilda” (for the Rita Hayworth character in the movie) exploded without a hitch.
My duty was on the heavy cruiser USS Fall River (CA-131), Flagship for the Target Fleet. We were responsible for arranging the target vessels in the Lagoon. For Able, there were about 95 target vessels; for Baker, there would be about 75.
Meanwhile, the radio room was announcing world news about a different type of explosion. On 5 July, just four days after Test Able, the Bikini swimsuit was unveiled in Paris. The news reports said the brief swimsuit was named after the Bikini atomic bomb tests because it caused a cultural explosion.
(Caption to photo: Nineteen year-old nude dancer Micheline Bernardini, from the Casino de Paris, modeled the first-ever Bikini on 5 July 1946 at the Molitor pool, Paris. She is holding up a small box into which the entire swimsuit could be packed. Photo AFP/Getty Images)
(Excerpted in part from Operation Crossroads – Lest We Forget! An Eyewitness Account by William L. McGee. Available on Amazon.)