Whilst it might sound like some tropical paradise Bikini Atoll is currently anything but that, as well as a bone of contention for both the people of the Marshall Islands, and indeed the atoll itself.
It was 2017 when I first caught sight of the “Bikini Atoll Office” in Majuro, to which I was obviously surpassed. When I eventually got the chance I asked a local if this meant things were ok there now, I received a short answer “no, they are not”.
The US Colonies in the Pacific
While it is now acknowledged that the US annexed Hawaii illegally, it is far from its only colony in the Pacific. Following World War 1 for the most part what is now Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia came into American hands.
Others to join were Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and even tiny American Samoa – with these still under American control.
Of the three former states, all now have some form of independence under a scheme known as the Compact of Free Association, but before these colonies they very much were colonies they were treated as.
Showing the USSR who was boss
While it has often been stated that the second bomb dropped in Japan, Nagasaki was meant to show the Soviet Union who was boss, the same can also be said for what transpired in 1946.
Fresh with a new colony “liberated” from the Japanese in 1946 Bikini Atoll, which consisted of 23 islands surrounding a 229.4-square-mile (594.1 km2) central lagoon had its inhabitants forcibly relocated to Rongerik Atoll
The US then conducted its first nuclear test in 1946, with another 24 until 1958 leaving the area unfit for human life.
And as for the Bikini Atoll refugees? Their new island was so bad they faced almost immediate starvation and had to be moved to Kwajalein Atoll. The US whilst being able to afford nuclear tests had not factored in money to feed people thrown off of their land. Sadly though things were not to end there for the former residents of Coconut Islands”.
The Bikini Atoll homecoming
By 1970 with the inhabitants understandably wanting to go home scientists amazingly allowed them to do so. Whether it was ill-judged, or the people were being used as an experiment is unknown, but within 8 years it was found that not only was the water contaminated, but residents essentially had radiation poisoning. Again they were evacuated in 1980, with scientists, divers, and a few caretakers being the only “residents” now.
The government of the Marshall Islands though still views the atoll as an integral part of the republic, as well as its people, hence the existence of the largely impotent government building in Majuro.
What now for the people of Bikini Atoll?
Sadly and much like the fate of the people of Chagos, all the disposed receive is words more than actions, although at least the tests have now at least stopped.
The Bikini Islanders do though try to retain their culture, which is unique from that of Majuro, and are still active politically. They also still hold their land rights, the traditional sign of wealth in the country.
And while there has been some compensation, many now feel they have become reliant on aid as they wait to go back to a place that for all intents no longer exists as a lovable, viable place.
Amazingly this has almost created a symbiotic relationship between some of these nations, with some Japanese survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki coming to live in these parts. We even met one, the owner of Carp Restaurant in Koror.
And all are in agreement, keep the Pacific free of nukes and out of any potential World War Three that does not concern them.