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You are here -> HOME - RETROVILLE - 1952 - In the News - Hydrogen Bomb Test at Enewetak
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Welcome to Retroville! It's 1952!
Enewetak, also known as Eniwetok, is an atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. It is comprised of 40 small islands and islets totalling less than 6 square kilometers.  The islands are situated in a ring around a lagoon approximately 50 miles in circumference.

While Enewetak was technically a Spanish Colony, the islands didn't become well-known to Europeans until a British merchant ship, the Walpole, visited the islands in 1794. It was visited by only a dozen or so ships between 1794 and 1885, when it became a German Colony, the Marshall Islands. Together with the rest of the Marshall Islands, Enewetak was captured by the Japanese in 1914, and mandated to them by the League of Nations in 1920.

The Japanese paid little attention to the atoll until WWII. In November of 1942, the Japanese built an airfield on one of the larger islets, Engebi Island. They staged planes to the Carolines and the Marshall Islands from the centrally located airstrip. After the US took the Gilbert Ilsands, the Japanese sent their Army's 1st Amphibious Brigade to defend the atoll. They were unable to finish fortifications before the US Operation Catchpole captured Enewetak in February 1944.

In 1948, the US evacuated Enewetak residents--some voluntarily, others involuntarily--and began atmospheric bomb tests.

On November 1, 1952, the United States, in Operation Ivy, set off the first "H-bomb" or hydrogen bomb (codenamed "Mike") at Enewetak. A hydrogen bomb uses nuclear fushion, in which the light nuclei such as hydrogen and helium combine into heavier elements and release large amounts of energy.

The initial test was considered a great success by the Defense Department and the White House.  However, the testing of various thermonuclear devices on the atoll made the soil radioactive and prevented the natives from returning for almost 25 years.

On May 15, 1977, the US government began removing contaminated soil and other material from the atoll, declaring it safe for habitation in 1980. By 1999, the population of Enewetak was only 820.

Tell-tale fireball created by the detonation of a hydrogen bomb at Enewetak In this image, the fireball created by the detonation of the hydrogen bomb at Enewetak evidences the thermal power of the device. Detonated just above sea level, the bomb sent out thermal radiation for miles.
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