5. Operation Crossroads changed the public perception of radioactive fallout
Between the dropping of the Nagasaki bomb and the analysis of the results of Operation Crossroads it was widely believed that radiation sickness was relatively painless for the victim. Officials for Operation Crossroads deliberately fed this perception, announcing that the dying test animals did not suffer, but rather, “The animal merely languishes and recovers or dies a painless death. Suffering among the animals as a whole was negligible”. During the cleanup following Operation Crossroads the falsity of this statement was revealed, and the extent of the fallout as a result of the underwater shot was revealed to be outside the capability of the Army and Navy to clean up. Sailors at first scrubbed radioactive surfaces with soap, water, and stiff brushes, without protective clothing. The extent of the radiation was revealed in the presence of fish in the lagoon which could be seen as if they were an X-ray, glowing in the water.
It was eventually determined that the Geiger counters being used to monitor radioactivity were incapable of detecting plutonium. Shortly after that determination was made plutonium was discovered in the captain’s quarters aboard the Prinz Eugen, indicating that plutonium could be anywhere within the lagoon and the ships which had been present during the explosion. In 1948 a book by David Bradley, who had been a member of the radiation detection and cleanup crew at Bikini Atoll, was published as No Place to Hide, bringing public attention to the problems associated with atomic fallout, as well as accusing the military of hiding the results of the tests, “in the vaults of military security”. The book did much to focus public attention on the dangers of the aftermath of a nuclear attack at a time when only the United States possessed the atomic bomb, though its ability to handle nuclear fallout was quite literally thrown to the winds.