Aboard the USS Fall River, Bikini Lagoon, 1 Jul 1946, Test Able – Finally, the big day arrived, 1 July 1946 by the Bikini calendar (30 June in New York). Millions of people around the world waited anxiously by their radios for the results of Test Able. No one knew what to expect,
At 0540 Vice Admiral W. H. P. Blandy ordered the Superfortress B-29, nicknamed “Dave’s Dream”, to take off from the Kwajalein Atoll some 250 miles away. At 0859, the 23 kiloton atomic bomb, nicknamed “Gilda” for the 1946 Rita Hayworth movie of the same name, was released into the air. The bomb detonated 520 feet above the target fleet.
The Fall River’s Ship Log simply noted: 0900 Atomic Bomb number 4 exploded.
In the days following, early reports of the success and failure of Test Able were emerging. “Gilda” had missed its target, the battleship Nevada, by about 2,100 feet, even though the ship was painted a bright orange-red to aid the bombardier.
It seemed the results of Test Able were less cataclysmic than expected. There were no casualties. No tidal waves. No earthquakes. Many observers and members of the press expressed their disappointment and left. They didn’t know it, but they would miss the really big show — Test Baker on 25 July.
Excerpted from Operation Crossroads, Lest We Forget! An Eyewitness Account, Bikini Atomic Bomb Tests 1946 by William L. McGee with Sandra V. McGee.