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Remembering the Marshallese victims of US nuclear testing in the Pacific

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
A Marshall Islands flags waves in the Oklahoma breeze.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Today marks “Nuclear Victims’ Remembrance Day,” the day when the people of the Marshall Islands remember the catastrophic impact America’s legacy of nuclear-weapons testing had on their Pacific homeland.

And it is March 1st that the day the observance is held because it was on that date in 1954 that the U.S. military tested the hydrogen bomb codenamed Castle Bravo, that changed life for the Marshallese forever.

American writer Jack Niedenthal, who has lived in the Marshall Islands for many years, wrote a book in 2001 titled For the Good of Mankind: A  History of the People of Bikini and their Islands about how the Bikinians, and other Marshallese, were used and manipulated by U.S. military officials and had their atoll forever irradiated by the cacophonous nuclear detonations that altered the landscape and the mindscape of the Marshallese.

And while the Marshallese refer to events in their history, the impact of those tests still affect Marshallese people to this very day. In fact, it is the Marshallese people who are the most vocal anti-nuke voices in the world, having experienced firsthand their devastating legacy. (For more on this, check out this Mashable article "The poison and the tomb."

Today, the RMI’s President Hilda C. Heine gave keynote remarks in the capital of Majuro as part of the “64th Nuclear Victims’ Remembrance Day” observance, remembering an event that as Heine noted, is “referred to as the greatest single radiological disaster in American history.”

Heine said: “Unlike other holidays, which are cause for celebration and festivities, the Nuclear Victims Remembrance Day is an occasion for somber remembrance of the pain and suffering experienced by the victims and their families as a result of the Nuclear Weapons Testing Program conducted from 1946 to 1958.

“By remembering the victims and their families, and by continuing to raise our voices on the atrocities they continue to endure, we honor and pay tribute to their altruistic nature that unfortunately costed them dearly.

In our quest for nuclear justice, we continue to share our experience at the regional and international levels. Moreover, other peoples should not have to undergo the injustices borne on the conscience of the Marshallese people. Considered controversial by most, if not all, of the large, developed countries, some of RMI’s actions taken include the lawsuit against the nuclear powers in the International Court of Justice spearheaded by the late Ambassador Tony A. deBrum.”

We fully support the efforts by President Heine and the Marshall Islands, particularly, as we learn on this very serious day, that Russia had "unveiled an array of new nuclear weapons on Thursday, in one of his most bellicose speeches in years, saying they could hit almost any point in the world and evade a U.S.-built missile shield,” according to a report today from Reuters.

In the meantime, the Marshallese diaspora continues. A few recent stories address the successes and struggles of the Marshallese in Springdale, Arkansas and Enid, Oklahoma.

And please read Red Dirt Report's October 2017 article on the Marshallese in Enid, here.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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