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After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there was no doubt about what the atomic bomb could do to cities and armies. But what could it do to ships and navies?
The Japanese surrender came only nine days after the detonation of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. Whether the end of the war resulted from the atomic bombs dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or as U. S. Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., intimated in a 22 September 1946 Navy Department press release, the cumulative effects of four years of fighting, did not alter the fact that a devastating weapon now existed about which we knew very little.
In August 1945, the United States found itself a global power possessing, among other things, the world’s only capability to produce the atomic bomb. What to do with it and how to control it were significant questions facing the United States.
In October 1945, in response to direction from the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), the Joint Strategic Survey Committee—three flag and general officers who performed
long-range planning and advised the JCS on current strategic matters—analyzed the impact of atomic weapons on military organization and warfare. The Joint Strategic Survey Committee delivered its conclusion to the JCS on 30 October 1945. It reported that the most serious effect of atomic weapons concerned the dissipation of the security of North America. The report stated that the ‘‘ocean moat might now hide attackers and hinder defenders,” and that the “new menace” was not offset by an equal threat to the Soviets; therefore, U. S. defensive boundaries had to be pushed into the Atlantic and Pacific. The United States enjoyed an advantage in the nuclear field for about five years, according to the committee, and it was necessary to build “a system of mutually supporting advanced bases extending far out from the homeland.”
Development and use of the atomic bomb to end World War II had precluded a thorough scientific analysis of the atomic bomb. The first atomic bomb was detonated at Alamogordo, New Mexico, on 16 July 1945; and the bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki followed in August. There had been monitoring at Alamogordo, and extensive inspections and studies had been made of the ruins of the Japanese cities and the injured Japanese people. Still, no information existed with respect to the bomb’s effects on ships or specific military equipment, its residual effects, the toxicity it generated, or the methods for defense against it.
Vice Admiral W. H. P. Blandy, as Chief of the Bureau
ships be maintained during peacetime as —c .
testing the effects of new weapons on Navy s ^ to live testing program would permit the Navy s keep pace with new weapon developments.
Admiral Blandy s recommendation was als ^uguS Senator Brien McMahon (D-CT) in a speech on 1945: .
f the atolTliC
‘‘In order to test the destructive powers or ^ these bomb against naval vessels, I would like to ^01"^ Japanese naval ships taken to sea and an ato ^r0ve
dropped on them. The resulting explosion s o ^ uSed to us just how effective the atomic bomb is ll!
against giant naval ships.” [W. A. Shurclif > ssro<rfs Bikini: The Official Report of Operation (Wm. Wise & Co., Inc., 1974), p. 10.]
Momentum was gathering for a test using na’" ardi^ This eagerness was associated with the debate ^ future size and composition of the armed tot jg fla' were those who believed that the atomic bom sjjera^e vies obsolete. At the same time, there was
debate about control over nuclear weapons (i-e” 0\ th
civilian organization or the military would f 6rvicjj atomic energy program). There was also some1eS and rivalry concerning the roles of the Army Air naval air and aircraft carriers in the postwar y goffl On 18 September 1945, General H. H. Arn°’^demanding General of the Army Air Forces, reco ^ to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that Japanese s^'^0l1ib ai1 available to the Army Air Forces for atomic other weapon testing.
Meanwhile, Admiral E. J. King, Commande
conCern h ^ ^'eet a°d Chief of Naval Operations, was tine nafe t*lat ignorance regarding the atomic bomb’s Was jntUre Woul(i 'ead to dangerous “loose thinking.” He vis-a-viereK-te<^ *n determining the facts about the bomb include! S'I'^S ar|d expanded General Arnold’s proposal to
test cW° tests—an nirburst and a below water surface
ships r:0"^ the JCS and consisting of U. S. war-
»»ups A 1 . J U11U WUOlOllllg U1 . U . WU.1-
ttiendej tum*ra* ^*n§'s lb October 1945 proposal recom- dations t 3t t*1C *n‘^ate studies and make recommen- Verv h'°uh>e Pres*dent, and that the project be kept in a Ggne* | security classification, struct th^. ^rn°id then suggested that the Joint Chiefs in- tati°n6 °*nt Staff planners to develop a plan in consul- *he Ato ■ ^enerai Leslie Groves, Officer-in-Charge of taile[j t^lc ®orr,b Project (Manhattan Project), which de- and jnr e ^Pes of tests to be conducted, the requirements agency ?llat'on desired from the test program, and what 0n 29 be responsible for the tests. subrnittec| eceiT|ber 1945, the Joint Staff planners (JSP) e the following recommendations to the JCS: '§ure i T
1 OfHet A riYTII fnr Tact \ Mn
The Joint Chiefs approved the plan and requested that the secretaries of War and Navy obtain presidential approval so that a task force commander could be directed to proceed with planning. The secretaries sent a joint memorandum to President Harry S. Truman, and he approved the recommendation on 10 January 1946.
The decision was consistent with previous Truman statements saying that the Manhattan Project, Congress willing, would continue with experiments in the peaceful uses of the atom, and that the United States was still manufacturing atomic bombs for “experimental purposes.”
On 11 January 1946, Admiral Blandy was appointed Commander, Joint Task Force One. He named this joint Army/Navy effort “Operation Crossroads” because warfare, he said, had come to a turning point or crossroads in history as a result of the atomic bomb.
In anticipation of presidential approval, the Joint Chiefs told Admiral Blandy to commence planning for the atomic bomb testing. The challenges the planners faced included
ate uinder-01 ^ree tests—a*r detonation, surface or moder- ?eVerai ater detonation, and a subsurface detonation of
Use the°USand feet
r|'fierce ~ests t0 determine the strategic and tactical sig- S t'°n of m l'le atorn‘c bomb and how the size and compo- arrr|cd forces and the details of naval ship
^ t)esigp°n Wou'd be affected.
C-S to n 316 a J°'nt task force operating directly under the <Cduct the operation.
j!(J*ntecl b6tests through an evaluation board ap- r°jeCt p ^ tbc JCS from the Army, Navy, Manhattan ers°nnel, and civilian scientists.
- Assembling a joint task force numbering about 230 ships, 150 planes, and 42,000 men
- Choosing a test site
- Developing procedures for carrying out the tests and recording their results
- Dispelling public concerns
- Dealing with the press
The public viewed the tests with some fascination, and there were misconceptions. The Washington Post reported on 14 January 1946: “The long awaited tests which may revolutionize modem naval warfare by rendering surface-
going ships obsolete, will not be held before spring.” Senator McMahon expressed concern that an explosion beneath the surface might set off a chain reaction of the atoms in the water, blow up the entire ocean, and with it the world—just some of the “loose thinking” to which Admiral King had referred.
Because of the unknowns regarding atomic bombs and because of the devastation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was important to dispel myths concerning the bomb and the upcoming tests.
According to E. B. Potter in Nimitz (Naval Institute Press, 1976), Admiral Chester Nimitz, who had replaced King as the Chief of Naval Operations, was called to the White House by President Truman in February 1946 to discuss Operation Crossroads. Among those present were the secretaries of State, War, and Navy. Potter wrote:
“Truman referred to suggestions that the test might be conducted in such a way as to establish whatever conclusions the military wanted to establish, and he read from an accusatory letter written by Secretary of Commerce Henry A. Wallace. He recalled how in 1921 General Billy Mitchell had rigged a test of the effect conventional bombs would have on warships, and thus made the experiment prove what he wanted it to prove. The President said he trusted his army and naval leaders to be objective, but that was not enough—the public must be convinced that they were objective.”
Thus, once Operation Crossroads was made public, a steady stream of accurate information was provided to the public. This information countered the three basic myths about the operation:
- This was an Army Air Forces versus Navy contest. The goal was to see how many Navy ships could be sunk with one bomb.
- The tests were rigged to show that the Navy was not obsolete.
- The Navy feared the deep-water explosion because of the possible extensive damage to ships.
To avoid any possible criticism that the armed forces were attempting to influence press coverage, the media were consulted in all important phases of Crossroads public information. In February 1946, the civilian media were asked to form the Civilian Press Committee with which the Crossroads staff would cooperate in selecting press representatives for the test site and for coordination in Washington, D. C.
The purposes of the tests and their rationale were explained publicly on numerous occasions. The tests’ main purpose was to measure the effect of nuclear explosions on naval ships and obtain information that would affect possible required changes in ship design, tactical formations at sea, anchoring distances in port, numbers and locations of operating bases and repair yards, and strategic dispositions of ships.
The secondary purposes were to measure the effects of the explosions on aircraft and other military equipment to determine any design changes necessary; to learn more about the effects of nuclear explosions on living beings; to
gain general scientific data; and to gain inform' garding the value of atomic bomb attacks on nav ^ Admiral Blandy made amplifying statements following on many occasions:
“The tests stand out clearly as a defensive m ^jp$, We are seeking to primarily learn what types ^ olir tactical formations and strategic disposition own naval forces will best survive attack by faCe weapons of other nations, should we ever ^ . steps them. By no stretch of the imagination can s ^ of caution and economy be taken as a threa sion. If, because of such a false assumption. jess0ns to carry out these experiments, to learn aircraft
which they can teach us, our designers of s *P ’ strate-
and ground equipment, as well as our tactic13 \f gists and medical officers would be groping f and along a dark road which might lead to an worse Pearl Harbor.” [Public Information ssroads U. S. Naval Forces in Europe, Operation Background Material, 17 June 1946]
The test site had to meet the following recf^r
- A protected anchorage at least six miles W1
- A site which was uninhabited, or nearly s0^
- A location at least 300 miles from the neaI?Snt stoHllS
- Weather patterns without severe cold and vio ^ [evd
- Predictable winds directionally uniform fr°n1
to 60,000 feet . jne lane5,
- Predictable water currents away from shipP - fishing areas, and inhabited shores
- Control by the United States ted desp'^
Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands was selecfc an3
LKini mon in me marsnaii isianus . n(s, .
initial obstacles: the island had 162 inha _* ^rs0*
the fishing industry was concerned that large nu fish would be killed—whales and tuna in parties am
problems were resolved. The people were re <^ _artrlief|t the Fish and Wildlife Service of the Interior (ry vvefe stated that the concerns raised by the fishing m 1
unfounded. e as
The bombs used in the tests were the same y ^ |ci!°' one dropped on Nagasaki, with a yield ini1]3
uiic uiuppcu vjii dgd.bd.jvi, wiiii (x rT\\C
tons or the equivalent of 23,000 tons of TNT- t
_______ ^_______________ ___________________ for
test date was set for 15 May 1946, and the secon
early July. almOst a“
Time was a critical factor for several reason ’ .j^ti of which were associated with postwar c'ern° rjC cit#'1” Scientists were leaving the government’s scien izations, and civilian scientists who agreed to from universities” insisted that they be able ,t(jqavy ^, the universities by September. Also, Army 30 ^ c0$\d
gets were subject to reduction, the target cting
be held indefinitely, and demobilization was 3 ^ jnsi number of personnel available to man the ships ments required for the tests.
llj 1 1U1 lllvs IVOlO • JQ
The planners agreed that the focus should e data on the following aspects of the explosion-
- On the nature, range, and duration of radial ^poi1’
- On bomb efficiency, burst location, wave and ship movement
/ ju'y ’
t0 nnts °f damage and design modifications
' Assi^,rotect ships from future damage Mance in 1
>ich th^.n?e ’n Earning to detect nuclear detonations fVticj . 'ted States was not controlling 3rn t^g Pfdng ships began to move to the site in March West p 1 C°ast of the United States. Movement from °0 Cr0sL°ast began later, and by mid-May more than r°Ute ships were stopping over in Pearl Harbor
3 cOrner Qf ^he plan was to moor the target ships in
<:r,(i lo . “'kini’s lagoon, approximately 20 miles long Afe: 1 wide. Some of the ships included in the tests
■ '33te,, attleships Pennsylvania (BB-38), Arkansas )iCraft ca ■ Y°rk (BB-34), and Nevada (BB-36); the the hITlerSSaratoga (CV-3) and Independence (CV- [°/q (CaS? CruisersLake City (CL-25) and Pensa- and s ^ ’ destr°ycrs; submarines, some on the sur- t *Ps, con0016 submerged; transports, cargo ships, landing °re'gn wCrCte ^ar§es> and a concrete dry dock; and three v 3he tVv ,'Ps—two Japanese and one German, tl ^civn, aPanese ships were the Nagato and Sakawa. Cships -r? Was one °f Japan’s two heaviest prewar bateSakawa was commissioned in November
With the target ships positioned so that none would shield another (see diagrams on p. 67), the carrier Saratoga, the outermost major warship, withstood Test Able, above.
But, repositioned close to zeropoint for Test Baker, she survived the test less than eight hours because she was too “hot” to be boarded to repair her damage.
1944 and had never been operational. The German ship was the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen.
One of the strangest ships en route to Bikini was the Burleson (APA-67), which carried 200 pigs, 60 guinea pigs, 204 goats, 5,000 rats, and 200 mice. A refitted assault transport, she also carried grains so that the insects within the grain could be studied for genetic effects by the National Cancer Institute. One reason for exposing the animals to the bomb detonations was to study the bomb’s effects on humans. The primary purpose in using them was to show the symptoms generated by the explosions, to provide experience cataloging injuries and detecting the onset of slowly developing ones, to provide experience in treating injuries, and to reveal any new effects.
On 23 March 1946, President Truman announced that the Bikini tests, scheduled for 15 May, had been postponed for about six weeks, with 1 July set as the date for Test Able. The delay was attributed to the fact that members of Congress who wanted to witness the tests would not be able to do so because of the congressional legislative schedule.
Admiral Blandy participated in a New York Herald- Tribune youth forum which was broadcast over CBS radio
point above the Nevada.
Despite Admiral Blan- dy’s plan to position the ships assigned as targets in the tests “to inflict damage deliberately,” most of the ships—like the battleship New York, being washed down by a U. S. Navy fireboat after the second detonation—survived both atomic blasts.
on 13 April 1946. To the question, “Why test the atom bomb?” Blandy replied:
“While commentators, in this country at least, apparently wish this plan well, even the most hopeful agree that neither this nor any other arrangement for the international control of atomic energy can become successful after an indefinite period of planning, negotiations and trial. On the other hand, according to some of our leading scientists, other nations with even a moderate degree of industrialization can manufacture atomic bombs in a few years. . . . [But] our Armed Forces must be kept modem, and one of the first steps in mod* emizing them is to learn the full capabilities of any new weapon which may be brought against them.”
Much effort was directed at ensuring that the test ships were watertight since all ships leak to some degree, so that pumping would not be required to keep them afloat once they were left unmanned. The ships were loaded with some fuel and ammunition to simulate reality better.
On several occasions, the planners explained to the press that the mooring plan for the ships bore “no resemblance whatever” to the steaming formation of a task group at sea or of a fleet at anchorage. There was no thought of simulating an “attack.” The target ships were moored to guarantee a maximum amount of damage to the bull’s-eye group of ships and graduated damage outward from that center. There were to be 23 ships moored in an area that normally would be used for two or three capital ships at anchor and not more than one at sea. At a 26 March 1946 press conference, Admiral Blandy said of the arrangement, “It is our intention to inflict damage deliberately, not to prove that the damage may or will not be inflicted in a real attack.” Simulation of an actual bombing attack was also prevented by the fact that only one bomb was to be used. Another step to ensure extreme accuracy was painting the battleship Nevada, the center target, a bright red-orange and installing a radar beacon on board.
In addition to orthodox instruments to measure blast pressures and velocities, temperatures, radioactivity, uncontrolled planes which could fly close to the e ^ js- were rigged. Television cameras, also mounte 0I1 to lands, were designed to show the results in the observers on board ships 20 miles to seaward. ^ c0de Each test day had a “dry run” scheduled, a^,gst name was assigned to it. The rehearsal date for „ pay. was “Queen” Day and for Test Baker, “Wtl13 ,» ^oiir- The hour of detonation of the bomb was Ho QUgen By mid-June the task force was in place.
Day rehearsal occurred on 24 June. porce0&
At 0540 on 1 July, Commander Joint Task ^ ^9, to ordered the drop aircraft, a specially modify jsjaIiin
take off from Kwajalein, another of the ^arS3?Q rniles Twelve hours prior, all air operations within 50
been stopped. cvalaati°n
Observers present included a Presidential eSe0ta' Commission, the JCS Evaluation Board, U.N- at'LJ tives from 11 countries, including the Soviet media representatives. The bomb was released a pefote detonated with a yield of 23 kilotons 15 seC“n. t0[1ati°fl 0900, 1,500 to 2,000 feet west of the planned 0
■ this a13111
The pool news report described the blast in 1 ^
“The mushroom broke out suddenly at the t0P’ure. f°f cloud changed colors. It was a fascinating P1c0lle a few minutes, it looked like a giant ice cr<fan thr°U' it turned completely white. Looking at it t e jayers° binoculars, it seemed like floating layers uP°n^ a’ whipped cream. Again it changed colors> the
peaches and cream. It broke into two mUSv[°j1js tiIlie' second quarter of the way from the rest. A $ the
the trade winds were driving it hard. In 30 m 0f fa
cloud began to disintegrate into a crazy Pat ^ Zs. In an hour, the wind had so battered 1 disintegrating cloud began to look like a gian ’ dragon in a small boy’s dream.
The news report went on to describe the dama§ ships and aircraft:
l ‘ studv d ’ J/c Dy radioactivity, ana iuve during 1 e ^st pj ecause of the facilities provided to the press, °ne hourCtUre °fi blast was received in San Francisco ^cc0rdiaad TO minutes after the bomb’s detonation. 1 July nn®.to the Department of State Bulletin issued on n° largeSl&n*ficant unexpected phenomena occurred— |S CxPeete p'E,r Wave formed; the radioactivity dissipated ^ated ap ’ and no damage occurred on Bikini Island, <- ut three miles from the explosion center.
e to fire the bomb before or after the detonation
2 fi^35( homb was detonated as scheduled on 25 July v ^ilot0n below the surface. The weapon yield was
greatVhe6"1. and swift moving was the cloud and so scale of the explosion that to those of us,
at 7,000 feet and the firey blast seemed to enor °Ur wings. . . . It is impossible to guess what l(> hJclde'110118 sl10clc °f the underwater bomb has done fitll dest^ and ProPeHers °f the target ships. . . . The determinrUHCtiVe Power °f the bomb of course can be dent ^ e 0nly after close range studies, but it is evi- Ptore ietjj j , underwater atomic charge probably is
the first subsurface atomic burst in his; rats and 20 pigs were in four target ships.
Evaluation Board described the aftermath
\va, 'ne ater.
^ A dcsfrn
anoth °yer and two transports sunk ‘promptly’ and Cru: er destroyer capsized. It later sank and the
- The l[ fj^AWA sank the following day.
Skate'^ carr'erIndependence and the submarine wjt|f Were damaged; severely also. These ships were
- A|] tn one'half mile of the explosion point. 2eroar^et vessels within 500 yards of actual surface damaged detonadon P°‘nt’ were sunk or seriously
^marni6^-1^ yards had little induced activity or
Ur ■ normaHy occupied by people were 176 Tats ^ mice, 57 guinea pigs, and 3,030
i " by a' i Ur'n§ Test Able, 35% of these were killed— later-dvIrolaSt’ 15% by radioactivity, and 10% during
Test Bat’ ^ sb’Ps had been inspected and were ready ato . er’ which was set for 25 July. It was intended , st> the b 'C ?ttack on a Oeet in a harbor. For the second ^tjiiig Cr°y Was suspended in the water from a small a^'Pmentf1 The craft was fitted with the necessary j Poutsi(le0l.detonating the bomb by radio signals from a ti^0ssible ~ lagoon. A clockwork mechanism made it
Oils Tu, ^ ”
• i ne pool news report read:
Seemed d| lagoon from our plane 15 miles away, it a1ch0raa rnost as though the whole floor of the target "'ere fjv- bad^flung itself straight into the sky. We !^hfnplnl
IV . than the air blast.’
a smal/te allu AKJ p*gs were in lour larger snips. Abl nurr|ber were used since the direct blast and the to all th WCre n0t exPecteci- Radiation sickness was J'fiips 2pe because of the residual radioactivity on fjfie JCs p6rated from the “dirty” water.
as ■s 0f XP'os'on produced intense radioactivity in the the lagoon. Immediately after the burst, it is
estimated to have been the equivalent of many hundred tons of radium. A few minutes exposure to this intense radiation at its peak would, within a brief interval, have incapacitated human beings and have resulted in their deaths within days or weeks.
“Great quantities of radioactive water descended upon the ships from the column or were thrown over them by waves. This highly lethal radioactive water constituted such a hazard that after four days it was still unsafe for inspection parties, operating within a well established safety margin, to spend any useful length of time at the center of the target area or to board ships anchored there.
“As in Test ABLE, the array of target ships for Test BAKER did not represent a normal anchorage, but was designed instead to obtain the maximum data from a single explosion. Of the 84 ships and small craft in the array, 40 were anchored within one mile and 20 within about a half-mile. Two major ships were sunk: the battleship ARKANSAS immediately, and the heavy hulled aircraft carrier SARATOGA after seven and one-half hours. A landing ship, a landing craft and a concrete oil barge also sank immediately. The destroyer FIUGHES, in sinking condition, and the transport FALLON, badly listing, were later beached. The submerged submarine APOGON was sent to the bottom, emitting air bubbles and fuel oil, and three other submerged submarines sank; but two of these were later raised. The badly damaged Japanese battleship NAGATO sank after four and one-half days. It was found impossible immediately to assess damage to hulls, power plants and machinery of the target ships because of radioactive contamination. External observation from a safe distance would indicate that a few additional ships near the target center may have suffered some hull damage. There was no obvious damage to ships more than a half mile from the burst.”
The major difference between the effects of tests Able and Baker was the radioactivity Baker generated. More than 90% of the target vessels were contaminated. This result had not been anticipated. The fatality figures of the animals suggested that exposed humans would have also had a high mortality rate. The radioactivity was so severe, in fact, that it was not until ten days after Test Baker that all target ships could be reboarded; all animals had been removed by the five-day point, however.
As Hanson Baldwin wrote in The New York Times:
“The tests showed that the destructive radius of the atomic blast against ships was considerably more localized than the general public had expected, but only slightly less than Operation Crossroads personnel had anticipated. The form of the waterspout in the second test, which was much shorter than forecast, and the extent of the cloud of vapor, mist, spray, and gas, which had a diameter of perhaps 3 miles, were definite surprises.”
The cleanup after Test Baker was an information-gathering process also—particularly regarding decontamination of the target ships. The opportunity was used to deter-
mine which decontamination methods were successful. Some of the support ships, those not directly involved in the tests, were contaminated from radioactive lagoon water ingested into their salt water lines and evaporators (which are used for distilling water on board ship).
Meanwhile, according to the New York Herald Tribune, the prospects for the third atomic bomb test which the JSP had recommended to the JCS in December 1945 were growing dimmer. The Tribune reported that the Manhattan Project opposed the third deep water test because it would keep atomic scientists from other important work at Los Alamos. The cost of a third test was prohibitive since the Navy’s funds had decreased, and the third test would cost
nearly as much as the first two combined. Tec n sonnel to support the test were not available. tgSts. international climate was not favorable for W st-
On 8 September, President Truman inderinl jnforrna' poned the third test, ostensibly because sufficien tion was now available for scientific analysis - ^ ^ Blandy gave his impressions of the tests va ue ^ gep. implications for the future in a speech in Boston tember 1946:
“. . . I believe that if there is atomic war ^gr6 future, naval war will not be exempt from it- ■ those who believe that in future conflicts, gre
As I Recall .
used for sampling the water any- depths. When we weren t 0 „ 1
thing else, we’d castthes®.ne were»
' 5- ine v,ntoek
—thing' plankton samples and that
the senior one was a Public - s
vice doctor who knew
bomb, ft had only
three times before, and only anger.
atoll and on either side ot cl°
wind sector. Once the mus fan started blowing downwind, ^ fort tracks that crisscrossed bac . took under this downwind seCt°rhe fall011 Geiger counter readings ot there We were surprised by h°w cefI1ibl6' was; it was practically indi**^ But, of course, no one rea y w what might happen when^yo^^ (joe1
doing. The other “scientists mixed bag of generally nlC® . :0bs many of them had gotten t ^oSt of through political connection5• them wanted only to see t e explode at Bikini. j,„n of
ties in various locations couple of scientists on bu“‘"rt 0f plankton samples and that so' orjng We also had a crew of mom ^soaiiy entists with Geiger counters- ^ set • . „ Pnhhe Vea
, p was N
would never be conducted. ored
have been a deep water, n°n test, in the lee of the atoll- oCeafl' That was my first brush vvtre
ography. The working destroy ^ midfitted with special additions ^ 0f
ship winch and about a mi ® strange piano wire. We also had so w,ere things called nansen bottles ^oiis
& - -ater at
’t doing *
staying in the Navy at that time were career people. All of the nonrated people were mostly reservists who were getting out.
It was difficult for us to keep our two engine rooms running with the eight chief machinist’s mates we had. The normal wartime complement was one chief for each engine room. I got the eight together and said, “Who are the two senior guys?” When they finally figured out who were the two seniors, I said, “Well, one has the forward engine room and the other has the aft engine room. The rest of you might just as well forget those caps and buttons because you’re going to be throt- tlemen and work for your living.”
They took it very well.
We started for Pearl Harbor where we were to pick up Admiral Frank G. Farion’s flagship and go on to Bikini with him. On the way to Pearl, we developed a hot bearing on a cruising turbine. We tried various methods of flushing it, but they didn’t work; it kept heating up. We got permission to drop back in the formation, lock the affected shaft, and catch up again on the remaining shaft. Then we held our place in formation on one shaft. These eight chief machinist’s mates took out that bearing while under way and put in a spare—a very difficult job.
The Bikini operation was exciting.
Of course, the eight assigned destroyers became the work horses, doing all sorts of things. This included looking for aviators and Air Force planes that went down between Eniwetok and Kwaja- lein. I took Vice Admiral William H. P. Blandy to inspect the reef and to look at a proposed location for the “Charley” part of the test, which
In June 1945, then-Commander Waters assumed command of the USS Laf- fey (DD-724) and remained in that assignment until October 1946, when he went on with a career that culminated in his selection as Oceanographer of the Navy in the latter half of the 1960s. The following account of his experiences during Operation Crossroads was taken from the as-yet unpublished transcript of an interview on 27 May 1981 with Dr. John T. Mason,
Jr., who was then director of oral history at the Naval Institute. Admiral Waters passed away in May 1986.
I got to Pearl Harbor in the fall of 1945. While we were there, my destroyer squadron, under the command of then-Captain E. N. (Butch) Parker, was designated as the operating squadron for the atomic tests at Bikini, Operation Crossroads.
The ships designated to be in Crossroads had priority on getting personnel and equipment and everything else.
Our problem was that there were no personnel left in Pearl to get. But there were some people who wanted to be in on what promised to be a landmark event. For example, a reservist, either an officer or an enlisted man, was allowed to extend for about one year or less if he wanted to go to Operation Crossroads to see an atomic bomb exploded. We had quite a few who did that, but not as many as needed. I argued that I should be sent back to the West Coast where the pool of people to draw from was larger.
It took me about a month on the coast before I got the people I needed, but they were a strange assortment. There were a lot of chiefs and few indians because, of course, most people
Plod' 6S W'-^ cross oceans and continents and ex- ther£ at0m'c warheads over cities, and that therefore jn(j £ wd* be no need for navies. Such weapons may belief f16001116 a reality, but I do not subscribe to the fargtdat they will eliminate all other kinds of war- mav ,ae sb'PS, weapons, and tactics of sea fighting lead C an^C radically> and we shonlrl always take the sea fln SUC^ cbanges. But I can visualize traffic on the fj„L,.0r a long time yet, even in war, and therefore sating on the sea.
cal I]ess some P^n which is at the same time practi- for re lable, and acceptable to all nations, is devised °ut awing the atomic bomb, there will be atomic
warfare, and I believe it will include naval warfare. But as a result of Operation Crossroads, the United States will at least be better prepared for such warfare than any other nation on earth.”
Captain Daly graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968, received a master’s degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and attended the German Command and General Staff College, Hamburg, Germany. He has served in a number of ships, including the USS Rowan (DD-782), Wiltsie (DD-716), and Roark (FF-1053). He was commanding officer of the USS Esteem (MSO-438) and Fahrion (FFG- 22). He is currently serving with the Strategic Concepts Group (Op-603) on the Staff of the Chief of Naval Operations.