The twenty-three crew-members of the fishing boat Lucky Dragon #5 (Daigo Fukuryu Maru).
Intensely radioactive fallout from the first fission-fusion-fission bomb---exploded at Bikini Atoll, March 1, 1954---blanketed the boat, gently snowing down for three hours as the crew went about their business. No safety measures were taken, as they had no idea what the white ash was and ionizing radiation cannot be sensed. The "death ash" (shin no hai) stuck tenaciously to things, remaining on hair, fingernails, skin, clothes, and all the surfaces on the boat for their two week journey home. Breathing, drinking, and eating brought the radioactivity inside of their bodies. One man slept with a sample of the novel substance under his pillow.
The bomb, code name BRAVO, of the test series CASTLE, was the most powerful explosion ever, over 1,000 times greater than the A-bomb used on Hiroshima. The yield, some 15 megatons, was more than twice the expected maximum. The weather turned officially "unfavorable," i.e., the wind blew in the wrong direction, but they detonated it anyway. These factors help explain why the boat got hit from 20 miles beyond the perimeter of the "safety zone."
The Lucky Dragon introduced the world to fallout, adding a whole new dimension of fear and fatality to an already menacing nuclear reality: death dealt from a hundred miles away.
Treatment was problematic, partly because no one had ever suffered the effects of fallout before, the unique combination of doses from both inside and outside the body; in addition, the U.S. refused to tell the Japanese what the contents of the fallout were, under the rubric of national security.
Upon his death, Aikichi Kuboyama became the first hydrogen bomb casualty, as well as the first known victim of nuclear fallout.
The fallout over the fallout from BRAVO extended well beyond the lives of these twenty-three individuals. The nine tons of contaminated fish they brought home was sold in four major cities and eaten by at least 100 people before anyone realized what had happened. This discovery sparked a national crisis, the "tuna panic." People stopped eating marine products, usually their major source of protein. The fishing industry was devastated as the price of fish plummeted; the fishermen, living near poverty level already, were especially hard hit. Over the course of ten months 457 tons of fish were confiscated and destroyed.
Among the perverse benefits of BRAVO: As scientists tried to find out why contaminated fish continued to be brought in over the next ten months even as the radioactivity in the ocean dispersed they found that radioactivity in the ocean allowed them to trace out paths of ocean currents. They also discovered the principle of bio-accumulation: plankton "ate" the unusual chemicals, concentrating them, then got eaten by larger organisms; then, big fish eats little fish right on up the line.
The Lucky Dragon became a symbol for the world wide anti-nuclear movement.
The Lucky Dragon
posted by Jissen Joshigahuen High School
Lucky Dragon Incident
from Trade and Environment Database
Provides a detailed account of the incident, both the biological and social effects.
Health Physics Journal, July 1997, Volume 72, Number 7
see Merril Eisenbud
The fallout from test BRAVO in March 1954 has had scientific, political, and social implications that have continued for more than 40 years. ...
Secrecy, Louis Strauss, and the Bravo Test
Interview with Merril Eisenbud, key player in the incident.
The Japanese had reconstructed what had happened and were publishing it in the newspapers. The AEC would not admit that there was a fallout. And when they finally did come out with a statement, they made it seem very trivial.
Time to End the 40 Year Lie.
Some of the Americans were moved out of harm's way.
But the "natives" were left in place downwind.
Killing Our Own
Evolution of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Prime Minister Nehru of India was the first to propose a ban on nuclear testing. His proposal came in 1954, shortly after the US Bravo test in the Pacific.
History of Peace Research in Japan
... the `ashes of death' also fell on the Daigo Fukuryumaru (Lucky Dragon No. 5), a tuna-fishing vessel from Yaizu in Shizuolka Prefecture.
"Lucky Dragon No. 5" ("Daigo Fukuryu", 1958) a dramatised reenactment of the lethal radioactive contamination which befell a Japanese fishing trawler after a US hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific.
The "Human" Dimension
The Japanese also gave dramatic representation to the lethal characteristics of atmospheric nuclear testing in the ironically titled "Lucky Dragon No. 5" (1959), based upon and named after actual events...
Bikini Day = March 1st
Movement of the Marshallese from Nuclear Testing
The Castle Series
The Bravo test created
the worst radiological disaster in U.S. history.
Operation Castle was a series
of high yield thermonuclear weapon design tests.
Operation Castle, Pacific Proving Grounds 1954
from Portland Atomic Veterans
The Bravo fallout disaster
caught the Japanese fishing vessel Lucky Dragon,
all the fishermen became sick and one died.
Operation Castle: The Video
More Bomb Videos
BRAVO Test Fallout Pattern
Tokyo Must Be Destroyed
The year which saw the release of the first Godzilla movie
was also the one in which the crew of the Japanese fishing boat
"Lucky Dragon No. 5" were showered with fall-out
from the H-Bomb detonated on Bikini Atoll.
Bombed Site and Bathing Suit
You don't hear many people talk about The Bomb
any more. But at 50, even on the edge of respectability,
the bikini hangs on.
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last update: December 1998
* The Museum of Atomic perMutation * is a by-product of NUKEVILLE