“Lijon Eknilang was one of 82 Rongelap Islanders who were engulfed by a snowstorm of radioactive fallout from the United States 1954 Bravo hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll.
Our Marshall Islands correspondent, Giff Johnson says Ms Eknilang, who was just 8 years old at the time of the Bravo test, became an icon in the Marshall Islands for her international advocacy on behalf of nuclear test victims.
“She was probably one of the most well known Rongelap or Marshall Islands people who went out, went on speaking tours in Europe and the United States, attended conferences and just was a very passionate voice talking about the reality of what Marshall Islanders felt and saw.”…
The United States began to use the Marshall Islands as a proving ground for nuclear weapons. From June 1946 to August 1958, 67 nuclear tests were conducted there.
The most powerful bomb detonated on the islands was the hydrogen bomb “Bravo,” on March 1, 1954. Estimated to produce around four megatons of power, it unexpectedly produced 15 megatons, an impact equivalent to 1,000 Hiroshima bombs. In shifting winds, the fallout from the huge explosion reached the inhabited islands of Rongerik, Rongelap and Utirik, more than 100 miles to the east. Contaminating more than 7,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean with radiation, fallout from the blast also reached Australia, India and Japan. Ocean currents carried the radioactive fallout northwest, where the crew of the Japanese fishing boat Lucky Dragon Number 5 suffered radioactive poisoning resulting in the death of one fisherman.
But the greatest tragedy struck the heavily radiated northern Marshall Islands. In November 1995, Marshall Islander Lijon Eknilang appeared before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague and gave this chilling first-hand account of the effects of nuclear testing in the Pacific: “Women have experienced many reproductive cancers and abnormal births … In privacy, they give birth, not to children as we like to think of them, but to things we could only describe as ‘octopuses,’ ‘apples,’ [and] ‘turtles,’ ” Lijon said, who herself has had seven miscarriages and no live births.
“The most common birth defects … have been ‘jellyfish’ babies. These babies are born with no bones in their bodies and with transparent skin,” she continued. “Many women die from abnormal pregnancies, and those who survive give birth to what looks like purple grapes, which we quickly hide away and bury.”…
The Bikini tests released 130 times as much radioactive iodine as Chernobyl. The number of thyroid abnormalities in Fukushima prefecture children already exceeds the rate of Marshall islanders after one year… though the abnormalities and cancers may take years or decades to develop.
“Almost every person on this island have thyroid problems. That is why they are taking the lady on a small boat. She have thyroid. But they don’t know for sure which kind. They are going to take her to mainland, to US, and check. Same problem. There are other people but their thyroid is too small, they say, “not ripe, too small yet for operation”, but it’s growing. Those people they on Rongelap during bomb or went back in 1957, they also has thyroid. In 1960s was hardly any people have thyroid but now there are more. The number is growing.
And other cancers. Breast cancer and things. There are livers, kidney and bone, you know, cancer in the bone. Cataracts. I have cataract. Many miscarriages. All these women on the island have problems like this. If you talk to them you will find out how many and what diseases they have. Like Remeda. She might have leukaemia. She’s in Hawai’i expecting some news from her doctor. Everybody really scared if she have leukaemia, everybody really cross their finger and wait for the word. She was one of the people there was emergency for after Rose died. Rose, she died of miscarriage, too much bleeding…
“On our return in 1957 a lot had changed. Some of our food crops were completely gone. Others had no more fruit. What we ate, was causing blisters on our lips and mouth and we were suffering from severe stomach pains and nausea. We reported to the doctors about these problems. They just told us we were not cooking our food properly. We knew that could not be true, because our food had been prepared for centuries in this way.”…
“Then you all left Rongelap again, because life on the island was too dangerous. How was it for your people to leave their home behind?”
“It was very difficult for us, especially for old people. Three of them disappeared with grief into their huts and never came out again, until they died. It is our homeland. Where we belong to. It is our memory of our dead, the souls of our ancestors live there. Our land is everything to us, and it has been destroyed by the U.S.
government. But we had to think about the future for our children. We would not want them to get all the diseases we are suffering from now.”
Lijon’s daughter, Evelyn Ralpho, said “My mother’s health problems are recounted in Dr. Arjun Makajani’s book, Radioactive Heaven and Earth. In that book, she says that she has had seven miscarriages, one of which was severely deformed and had only one eye.
As bad as the health problems are, recently released documents suggest that the United States scientists conducted human radiation experiments on the Rongelapese. These experiments, known as Project 4.1, were planned before the Bravo blast contaminated my Island. This leads me to believe that the contamination of the Rongelapese was done on purpose.”
The uber-sociopath Edward Teller was the designer of the Bravo bomb. In his memoirs, he claimed that the huge radioactivity release was an accident. The 1954 newspaper story shows that it was no accident, it was planned. Wind had shifted towards Rongelap just before the nuclear blast, this was known, but the test went ahead anyway. The idea was to have a single nuclear bomb that could wipe out the Soviet Union from its radioactivity release.
The people of the Marshall Islands were guinea pigs, and still are. The radioactivity hit them the worst, but it actually contaminated the whole planet. North America and Japan were heavily contaminated also. The fallout reached the Chicago area at approximately the time that I was a 4-week-old fetus. I have scoliosis and autoimmune spinal disease, along with other autoimmune and sensitivity illnesses. My mother died of leukemia 12 years later. This is due to Bravo. And this is why I am here telling everybody I have metal mouth when I eat American food. I am sensitive to radiation because I was exposed to radiation in the womb. RADIATION EXPOSURE MAKES YOU MORE SENSITIVE TO RADIATION. In 4th and 5th grade, during the height of the bomb-test era, 1962-1964, whenever I drank milk, it would leave a metal aftertaste, and I would become nauseous. I was just a kid… I thought milk was supposed to have a metal aftertaste. I am a guinea pig too.