With summer approaching, thoughts of the male readers of the RedState Department of History may indeed turn to the first title word in the headline — but if you know your history, you know we’re talking about a much different kind of Bikini.
This one is the Atoll. May 12 marks the anniversary of the first test-firing of a U.S. airborne hydrogen bomb, at Bikini Atoll in 1956.
There were 23 nuclear weapons tests at seven sites in or near the atoll between 1946 and 1958, 20 of which involved hydrogen bombs. The first H-bomb test had occurred March 1, 19546, with an expected yield of 6-8 megatons. The actual explosion was of the 15-megaton variety, roughly 1,000 times more powerful than the A-bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The bomb destroyed most of the instruments intended to measure it, produced a mushroom cloud that reached 130,000 feet and fallout which impacted four continents.
At this time there was still much to learn about fallout, and the impact of 23 atomic explosions went quite far beyond the estimated impacts authorities had predicted. The 167 residents of Bikini were told they could return to their home island when the tests were done, but as of 2016, radiation levels at the site are still considered too high for human habitation. The subsequent debate over nuclear testing eventually resulted in the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty which banned above-ground testing of nuclear weapons. The U.S. Government eventually paid the islanders $125 million in compensation for the tests.
For a summary of the tests and their impact, click here.
To see a newsreel film of the testing, click here.
To see NASA imagery of the Bikini Atoll area, click here.
Another anniversary on this date:
May 21, 1927 – Sunday marked the 90th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s landing at Le Bourget Airfield in Paris, completing the first solo transatlantic airplane flight. The Spirit of St. Louis had taken off the previous day from New York, making the flight in 33 1/2 hours. Flying both over storm clouds and at wavetop level at times, and navigating by dead reckoning and by the stars when visible through fog, Lindbergh gained instant worldwide fame for his adventure. 150,000 Frenchmen were on hand to greet Lindbergh’s landing, which won him both the first-ever Distinguished Flying Cross and eventually by special act of Congress, the Congressional Medal of Honor. Read Lindbergh’s Medal of Honor Citation here.
Lindbergh’s checked future, which included suspected pro-Nazi sympathies, his acceptance of the Order of the German Eagle medal from Hermann Goering and the discovery after his death of seven children he fathered with three European mistresses, still lay ahead. However, Lindbergh also flew 50 combat missions during World War II as a civilian, with at least one aerial victory. He is also credited with inventing the “Model T Pump“, a type of artificial heart which eventually made modern heart surgery possible, and which eventually led to the invention of the heart-lung machine.
That’s it for today — Happy Tuesday and enjoy today’s open thread!