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Friday, January 17, 2014

Operation Crossroads and the Atomic Bomb Test Cake

It all started with Pinterest. Pinterest is a major social media site where members pin favorite photos, infographics, articles and recipes on virtual boards. Its usage has grown significantly over the years, with businesses turning to visuals to increase brand awareness and sales. "Pinners," as they are called, pin items that appeal to them. You can discover lots of history just by perusing peoples' boards or doing a keyword search. Pinners that share your interests will follow you, and you can reciprocate.

It turns out that I pinned a photograph of a rather unusual picture of an atomic bomb test cloud cake. Yes, I said atomic bomb test cake. Marshall Islands, where my father and other Montford Point Marine members of the 51st Defense Battalion were stationed, later became an atomic bomb testing site. The Marshall Islands are located in the Pacific Ocean. Bomb testing took place after World War II on the Bikini Atoll*. For obvious reasons bomb testing sites are in isolated low population areas.  Scientists are compelled to test the effectiveness of weapons in warfare, and atomic bombs were no exception. Specifically, US President Harry S. Truman wanted to test the effects of atomic bombs on war ships.

From Bikini
In February of 1946 Commodore Ben H.Wyatt, the military governor of the Marshalls, traveled to Bikini. On a Sunday after church, he assembled the Bikinians to ask if they would be willing to leave their atoll temporarily so that the United States could begin testing atomic bombs for "the good of mankind and to end all world wars." King Juda, then the leader of the Bikinian people, stood up after much confused and sorrowful deliberation among his people, and announced, "We will go believing that everything is in the hands of God."

While the 167 Bikinians were getting ready for their exodus, preparations for the U.S. nuclear testing program advanced rapidly. Some 242 naval ships, 156 aircraft, 25,000 radiation recording devices and the Navy's 5,400 experimental rats, goats and pigs soon began to arrive for the tests. Over 42,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel were involved in the testing program at Bikini.

When bombs were detonated, a thick cloud immediately appeared, pumping dangerous radioactive chemicals into the atmosphere. The US government allowed the Bikinians to return to their island in 1968, after declaring the island safe. However, many islanders were exposed to chemicals in their food supply and developed health problems such as thyroid cancer. Residents left their island again. (

 But the picture in question was celebratory in nature.
Infamous Cakes: In November 1946 the Joint Army-Navy Task Force Number One was celebrating the successful Operation Crossroads nuclear test at the Bikini atoll with a mushroom-cloud shaped cake. The photo, showing Vice Admiral William H.P. Blandy (commander of the task force), his wife and Rear Admiral Frank J. Lowry, was published in the Washington Post

 A cake designer saw the photo and was amazed that an elaborate baked good was created resembling an an atomic bomb cloud. I thought the idea was  "interesting" which is why I posted it. But the cake designer happened to live in the San Francisco Area. She read some of my posts via Pinterest since there is a Montford Point Marines and Honor Blogspot Pinterest page. Her candid comment was:

I am a cake designer and I wouldn't make a cake like this, ever! Reading about the Montford Point Marines brings to mind the black sailors who served in..... 

I replied that I never heard of them but I would look into it, and write about the incident.So my next story will be the controversial story about an incident involving African American Sailors.  Many theories and questions remain and it took decades to resolve. We have cake designer Shirley Wilson to thank for the post.  Follow the "Montford Point Marines and Honor Blogspot" board on Pinterest. Some of the photos you might find in future posts...

What are your thoughts about the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb test cake? Do any of my readers know about the incident that cake designer Shirley Wilson was referencing? (I omitted the rest of her remarks deliberately.)

Bikini Atoll Evacuation, 1946 on left.
Modern day Marshall Islanders on right.
In 2010 Bikini Atoll was designated a World Heritage Site.


Note: The above cake photo was denounced by a minister named Arthur Powell Davies. Davies wrote a scathing letter on how insensitive the celebration was, especially in lieu of the fact that hundreds of thousands died as a result of the atomic bombing of Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagaski. (August, 1945)

See also:

 Indigenous People of the Pacific.
Why the 51st Defense Battalion Were Sent to the Marshall Islands

*Atoll- An island made of of coral reef encircling a lagoon.
Bikini-The minimalist two piece bathing suit was named after the island in 1947 by a French designer.
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