Foreword by F. Lincoln Grahlfs, Ph.D., author Voices From Ground Zero
134 pp, 52 B&W photographs & illustrations
Paperback $19.95 & eBook $9.99
BMC Publications, 2016
Operation Crossroads at 75
2021 marks the 75th anniversary of the dawning of the nuclear age
On 1 July 1946, millions of people around the world waited anxiously by their radios for the results of the first postwar atomic bomb test at Bikini, code name Operation CROSSROADS. No one knew what to expect.
Less than a year earlier, in August 1945, the United States dropped the atomic bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (6 August) and Nagasaki (9 August), thus effectively ending World War II in the Pacific. Now the U.S. military wanted to test the effects of this powerful weapon on vessels, equipment, and material..
Two tests were planned for the summer of 1946: Test Able from the air on 1 July and Test Baker from underwater on 25 July. The location chosen for the tests was the remote Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
William L. McGee, USN, was one of 42,000 military, scientists, and civilian personnel assembled at Bikini for Operation Crossroads. He had a front row seat for the tests as a crew member aboard the USS Fall River (CA-131), Flagship for the Target Fleet, responsible for positioning the 90-plus target vessels in the Bikini Lagoon.
The author adds to his eyewitness observation of Crossroads entries from the Fall River ship log, interviews with shipmates and other Crossroads participants, and the later opinions of the military, the media, and Crossroads experts.
In the author’s words: “Operation Crossroads in 1946 was one of the most important events of the twentieth century. I wrote this book to help preserve a part of history few know about today—the dawning of the nuclear age.”
Award-winning Pacific war historian William L. McGee is a World War II veteran of the Pacific theater and an atomic veteran of Operation Crossroads. His book, Pacific Express: The Critical Role of Military Logistics in World War II, is on the Marine Corps Commandant’s Professional Reading List. Another book, The Solomons Campaigns, 1942-1943: From Guadalcanal to Bougainville, won the Silver Medal for History from the Military Writers Society of America.
William L. McGee is a Lifetime Member of the National Association of Atomic Veterans (NAAV).
“Operation Crossroads is an account full of old photographs, personal mementos, statistics, copies of routine schedules, ship’s orders, logs, newspaper articles, other eyewitness accounts, and writings from experts in the field….This book preserves the legacy of those who participated in this operation. In the post-World War II era, this event and its lessons should be remembered, and warnings heeded.”
– Military Writers Society of America
“Well-written and engaging … The inclusion of material by other writers adds important elements to the story.”
– Giff Johnson, editor, The Marshall Islands Journal, and author Nuclear Past, Unclear Future
“A one of its kind firsthand story … McGee explains what he saw—from the dangers posed by radiation unknown to the men, to the lessons learned after his participation in one of the most important and pivotal events in human history. His experience illustrates that the greatest danger of nuclear warfare lies not in the immediate hellish blast from an atomic bomb, but from the deadly radioactivity lingering in the fallout. What a great educational lesson for us younger generations. Add another great masterpiece to the existing collection from gifted author and historian William McGee.”
– Zach Morris, editor, LST Scuttlebutt magazine
What readers are saying . . .
From a USS Fall River Shipmate
“The author and I both came aboard the new heavy cruiser USS Fall River in January 1946 in Norfolk, Virginia. I was a Quartermaster and he was a Gunner’s Mate. Little did we know, in a few months, the Fall River would be the Flagship for the Target Group of 95 vessels at Crossroads, and we would have a front row seat for two atomic bomb tests, Able from the air and Baker from underwater. When Mr. McGee’s book arrived, I read it in one sitting. I was impressed with the amount of detail and I learned a lot about the damage done by radiation to the ships and the men who served on them.
What also impressed me is that the author has been legally blind since 2003 from macular degeneration, and lives with multiple types of cancers, which he said may or may not have been caused by radiation exposure at Crossroads. Thanks his co-author and wife, Sandra, Mr. McGee was able to get his story told. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know what it was like to be at Crossroads and what happened afterwards. I’m placing my order for two more copies.”
– John W. Stambaugh, former Quartermaster 1/c, USS Fall River (CA-131), and Life Member of U.S. Navy Cruiser Sailors Association
“The recollections of Crossroads veterans raise serious questions about both the efficacy and the morality of nuclear weapons. . . I commend Bill McGee on his skillful effort at keeping the story alive, lest we forget.”
– From the Foreword by F. Lincoln Grahlfs, Ph.D., National Assn. Atomic Veterans and author of Voices from Ground Zero
“Have it! Read it! Love it! It’s an eyeopener! This is a concise account of the Bikini atomic bomb tests in 1946 by an eyewitness. He includes his own observations as well as those of his shipmates and the ship’s log. He describes in detail (and with photos) the awesome destructive power of nuclear weapons. Despite 50 years of discussion and negotiation regarding limiting or eliminating nuclear weapons, there are still thousands in the arsenals of several countries with more to come. Thank you for your service and thank you for reminding us that nuclear weapons should never be used. I give this book five stars.”
– Wyman Harris
“Excellent slice of life narrative following the end of WW2. First, the author’s journey to the East Coast, hoping for a stint in postwar Europe; then serving on the USS Fall River at the atomic bomb tests at Operation CROSSROADS in the Marshall Islands. Well done in terms of day-to-day life and filled with humor and the “hustle” of just getting by. The author’s descriptions of being at Crossroads put me there. Appendix I, “Later Lessons Learned”, was a great way to wrap up the book, as well as illustrating to the reader that this terrible legacy still lives on — lest we forget.”
– Brian Cowden, writer/director of the documentary Atomic Veterans Speak
“McGee has crafted a narrative that drew me in and would not let me go until I finished the book in one sitting.”
– Dennis R. Blocker II, Pacific War historian, National LCI (Landing Craft, Infantry) Assn., and researcher for The Heart of Hell
“The author has documented this historically significant event so succinctly–and made it come alive–that the reader is on deck of the USS Fall River, shielding their eyes, and awaiting the blast of a monster.”
– Marilu Norden, author, Unbridled, A Tale of a Divorce Ranch
“Includes a compelling, well-documented exposé of the cover-up after Operation Crossroads.”
– John Houck, beta reader
“I was so caught up in the story, I may have failed my assignment as a beta reader.”
– Michael Olson, author, Tales from a Tin Can, USS Dale
“An excellent book. . . I had to sit down and read it the day it arrived.”
– Robert L. Ruyle, Nebraska State Commander, National Assn. of Atomic Veterans
“The magnitude of Crossroads as seen by the author and his participation in it come alive. . . As a yachtsman, I particularly enjoyed reading the actual log entries of the USS Fall River (CA-131), the Flagship for the Target Fleet.”
– Mel Owen, Owen Wickersham & Erickson