Operation Crossroads atomic blasts captured in paintings from bridge of USS Fall River

In 1946, Arthur Beaumont was appointed the U.S. Navy’s Official Task Force Artist for Operation Crossroads

Arthur Beaumont was assigned to the USS Fall River (CA-131), Flagship for the Target Fleet, at Operation Crossroads, the first postwar atomic bomb tests in the Bikini Atoll. A relatively new heavy cruiser (the Fall River was commissioned in July 1945), the Fall River was responsible for positioning the 90-plus target vessels in the Bikini Lagoon for the two atomic blasts: Test Able from the air on 1 July 1946 and Test Baker from underwater on 25 July 1946.

Beaumont observed the spectacle of the two atomic blasts from the bridge of the Fall River, moored about ten miles from the blasts. He made over 180 sketches, both in pencil and watercolor, plus 16 refined studio paintings that he created in his studio aboard the Fall River. 

The National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada, has mounted an exhibition of Crossroads paintings by Arthur Beaumont

The “Operation Crossroads Bikini Atoll Collection” opened in March, but due to the coronavirus, the Museum closed shortly afterwards. However, you can take a virtual tour of the exhibit narrated by the artist’s son, Geoffrey Beaumont. (See below)


Beaumont painting of Baker bomb, Bikini 1946

The Baker blast on July 25, 1946 as seen from the bridge of the USS Fall River. Artist Arthur Beaumont

In Bill McGee’s 2016 memoir, Operation Crossroads, Lest We Forget! An Eyewitness Account, John J. Skarzenski, Yeoman First Class, USS Fall River (CA-131), recalled:

Cover Operation Crossroads“Personnel not required to be below decks were to be at quarters topside, sitting down with their arms over their eyes and heads cradled between their legs. Even though we did that, we could still see the light from the bomb with our eyes closed. We had these dignitaries aboard and one of them had a stateroom on the starboard side near the exec’s cabin. Right after the explosion, here was this gentleman calmly painting the cloud as it was forming.

The gentleman calmly painting: artist Arthur Beaumont.


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