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Lewis Strauss's Complete Statement After Bravo and the Japenese Government's Response

March 31, 1954
AEC Chairman Lewis Strauss made the following statement to the press on March 31, 1954 regarding the March 1st detonation of the "Bravo" hydrogen bomb test in Bikini Atoll. Initially, the test had been kept a tightly guarded secret. But when a Japanese fishing vessel that had been caught in the fall-out returned to port, the U.S. was forced to respond.

"The President has authorized me to make available those portions of my report to him the publication of which would not compromise information vital to our national security. I have just returned from the Pacific Proving Grounds of the Atomic Energy Commission where I witnessed the second part of a test series of thermonuclear weapons. Weapons powerful enough to take out a city. Early this January, men and supplies began to move out to the proving grounds for this series. The first shot took place on its scheduled date of March 1st and the second on March 26th. Both were satisfied. No test is made without a definite purpose and a careful determination that it is directed toward an end result of major importance to our military strength and readiness. The result which the scientists at Los Alamos and Livermore had hoped to attain from these two tests were fully realized. An enormous potential has been added to our military posture by what we have learned. It should also be noted that the testing of weapons is important likewise in order to be fully aware of a possible future aggressive ability of an enemy, though, we now fully know that we possess no monopoly of capability in this awesome field.

Now as to this specific test series, the first shot has been variously described as devastating, out of control and with other exaggerated and mistaken characterizations. I would not wish to minimize it. It was a very large blast in the megaton range. But at no time was the testing out of control. The misapprehension seems to have arisen due to two facts; first, that the yield was about double that of the calculated estimate, a margin of error not incompatible with a new weapon. The range of guessing on the first A-bomb covered a relatively far wider spectrum. And second, because of the results of the fall-out. For the day of shot number one, the meteorologists had predicted a wind condition which should have carried the fall-out to the north of a group of small atolls lying to the east of Bikini. The survey aircraft carefully searched the area and reported no shipping. The shot was fired. The wind failed to follow the predictions but shifted south of that line and the little islands of Rongelap, Rongerik and Utirik were in the edge of the path of the fall-out. A Japanese fishing trawler appears to have been missed by the search but based on a statement attributed to her skipper to the effect that he saw the flash of the explosion and heard the concussion six minutes later, it must have been well within the danger area.

The 23 man crew members on the ship, 28 American personnel manning weather stations on the little islands and the 236 natives on these islands were therefore within the area of the fall-out. The supposition, however, that the actual blast of the bomb extended over such enormous areas is of course entirely incorrect. The task force commander promptly evacuated all the people from these islands. They were taken to the island of Kwajalein where we maintain a naval establishment and there placed under continuous and competent medical supervision. I visited them there last week. Since that time it has been determined that our weather personnel could be returned to duty but they are still being kept on Kwajalein for the benefit of extended observation. None of these 28 weather personnel have any burns. The 236 natives also appear to me to be well and happy. Today, a full month after the event, the medical staff on Kwajalein have advised us that they anticipate no illness, barring of course, diseases which may be hereafter contracted. The situation with respect to the 23 Japanese fishermen is less certain, due to the fact that our people have not yet been permitted by the Japanese authorities to make a proper, clinical examination. It is interesting to note, however, that the reports which have recently come through to us, indicate that the blood count of these men is comparable to that of our weather station personnel.

I concluded my report to the President with the observation that one important result of these hydrogen bomb developments has been the enhancement of our military capability to the point where we should soon be more free to increase our emphasis on the peaceful uses of atomic power at home and abroad. It will be a tremendous satisfaction to those who have participated in this program that it has hastened that day."



On April 12, 1954, the Japanese government presented a response to Strauss's statement. The following are extracts.

Copy Of Aide-Memoire Prepared By The Embassy Of Japan
To The United States
April 12, 1954

It is reported that on March 31, Mr. Lewis L. Strauss, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, made the following statements, among others, concerning the thermonuclear test which took place at the Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954.

. . . . A Japanese fishing trawler, the 'Fortunate Dragon', appears to have been missed by the search but, based on a statement attributed to her skipper, to the effect that he saw the flash of the explosion and heard the concussion six minutes later, it must have been well within the danger area. . . .

. . . . The situation with respect to the 23 Japanese fishermen is less certain due to the fact that our people have not yet been permitted by the Japanese authorities to make a proper clinical examination. It is interesting to note, however, that the reports which have recently come through to us indicate that the blood count of these men is comparable to that of our weather station personnel. . . .'

The portion of Mr. Strauss' statement quoted above not being entirely consistent with information officially received here, the Japanese Embassy wishes to place it on record that facts ascertained by the Japanese authorities on these points are as follows:

1. Upon investigation, it has been established that the crew of the Fukuryu Maru No. 5 heard the detonation of the explosion seven or eight minutes after the crew saw its flash. It is estimated that the position of the vessel when they saw the flash and the spot where the ash fell upon them were respectively 19 miles and 26 miles outside the danger-zone which the United States Government had previously established and publicized by the official publication 'Notice to Mariners'. For the details as to the movement of the vessel, reference is made to the . . . Aide-Memoire handed in Tokyo to Ambassador Allison by Vice Minister Okumura of Foreign Affairs on March 27, 1954.

2. Dr. John J. Morton, of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission examined the Japanese crew members on the 19th of March in Tokyo and on the 20th at Yaizu. Dr. Merrill Eisenbud of the Atomic Energy Commission viewed the affected persons, accompanied by Dr. Morton, on March 25th, in Tokyo and on the 26th at Yaizu. Their visits included an examination of the injured fishermen both by external observation and by obtaining specimens of their blood and excreta.

The more thorough check-up offered by the doctors has not yet been undertaken because of the special psychological situation in which these simple fishermen find themselves. They resent and refuse the type of clinical examination which they feel might place them in he position of experimental objects. This is especially true where the examination is to be conducted by physicians other than Japanese. The Japanese authorities, however, are continuing their efforts to persuade the patients to undergo a more complete examination by American personnel at the earliest opportunity.
3. As to the question of the blood count of the exposed fishermen, information furnished to the American Embassy in Tokyo by the Japanese Government would appear to show that there is little ground to conclude the conditions of these fishermen are not serious, especially when the extraordinary nature of these cases are taken into consideration.

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