On 29 June 1946, I was one of 42,000 military, scientists, and civilian personnel stationed in or around the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
We were anxiously awaiting Test Able on 1 July 1946, the first postwar atomic bomb test. Men doing duty on the support ships were issued special stationery with the not-so-subtle suggestion to write a letter home – maybe our last. I wrote to my mother and oldest sister, Doris.
The artwork on my envelope (pictured below) shows my ship in black, the USS Fall River (CA-131), and a bomb blast in red. On 1 July, a special cancellation was applied to 200,000 pieces of mail, with the killer bars reading “ATOMIC BOMB TEST/BIKINI ATOLL”. (The word “TEST” was cut off of my envelope.)
Award-winning World War II military historian Bill McGee provides a complete account of his participation at Operation Crossroads in Operation Crossroads – Lest We Forget! An Eyewitness Account, Bikini Atomic Bomb Tests 1946 by William L. McGee with Sandra V. McGee. (BMC Publications, 2016)