U.S. Department of Defense/Public Domain
- In the summer of 1945, the Navy assembled a large fleet of ex-warships and dropped atomic bombs on them.
- The test was designed to determine what effects nuclear weapons would have on naval warfare.
- The Navy learned nukes scorch ships but to really hurt them, detonate the bombs underwater.
At the end of World War II, the U.S. Navy faced an existential question. The Navy had ended the war with a fleet of 6,768 warships, including 28 fleet carriers, 23 battleships, 232 submarines, and 2,547 amphibious ships.
It was the strongest, most powerful fleet in human history, and yet, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki promised even greater power concentrated in a single aerial bomb.
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So, the Navy wondered: What kind of effect would such a bomb have on a fleet of warships? And could A-bombs make assembled battle fleets obsolete?
To solve that question, in June and July 1945, the U.S. government conducted a pair of the most infamous and unsettling nuclear weapons tests of all time: Operation Crossroads.
For the test, the Navy assembled a fleet of 90 warships at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. The ships included the battleship Nevada, the aircraft carriers Saratoga and Independence, and a collection of cruisers, destroyers, submarines, and amphibious ships.
All were wartime veterans, and some were less than 5 years old. The postwar Navy, glutted with warships, was unsentimental and set them all at anchor at Bikini. The Navy even sent captured Axis warships to the island, including the Japanese battleship Nagato and the German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen.
Then, on the night of June 30, 1945, the Navy dropped an atomic bomb on the ships.
The resulting test sank five ships and turned others into floating, burned-out wrecks, and would have killed the crews of many other ships with lethal amounts of radiation.
Now, 76 years later, Atom Central has revealed astonishing footage from Operation Crossroads…
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