Marshall Islands Memorial and Nuclear Victims Day

Marshall Islands Memorial and Nuclear Victims Day

March 1
The Republic of the Marshall Islands is comprised of 29 atolls in the North Pacific Ocean. An atoll is a group of coral islands that form a ring around a shallow lagoon.
After World War II, the United States occupied the Marshall Islands for several decades. In 1946, the United States began a nuclear testing program in the Marshall Islands to test post-World War II nuclear weapons.
In 1954, the United States detonated Bravo, the most powerful hydrogen bomb ever tested by the United States, on Bikini atoll. The fallout radiation from the test forced the evacuation of Marshallese and U.S. military personnel on four of the atolls. Many of the people exposed to the radiation began to experience nausea, vomiting, and itching skin and eyes. Those who were most heavily exposed suffered skin burns and later hair loss. The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission issued a statement to the press calling Bravo a "routine atomic test" and stating that some Americans and Marshallese were "unexpectedly exposed to some radioactivity. There were no burns. All were reported well."
Throughout the remainder of the 1950s, the U.S. government declared the islands safe for rehabitation and returned the islanders to their homes. The U.S. government gave the islanders money and set up trust funds to compensate for the damages, and nuclear testing continued. By 1963, the first thyroid tumors began to appear among those who had been exposed to the Bravo test, and U.S. doctors noticed a higher than normal incidence of growth retardation among young islanders. In 1969, the Atomic Energy Commission stated, "There's virtually no radiation left and we can find no discernible effect on either plant or animal life."
By the mid-1970s, it became clear that the damage was much more extensive than originally reported. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the U.S. government set up trust funds for the Marshallese residents and paid the victims millions of dollars in total.
On Memorial and Nuclear Victims Day, Marshallese people from the four atolls that were affected by the bomb and fallout gather to pray and commemorate their atolls and those who were killed during the bomb testing.
CONTACTS:
Embassy of the Republic of the Marshall Islands
2433 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
202-234-5414; fax: 202-232-3236
www.rmiembassyus.org
Alele Museum, Library and National Archives
P.O. Box 629
Majuro, 96960 Republic of the Marshall Islands
members.tripod.com/~alelemuseum/Index.html
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