American Experience (1988– )
13 user 10 critic

Radio Bikini 

It starts with a live radio broadcast from the Bikini Atoll a few days before it is annihilated by a nuclear test. Shows great footage from these times and tells the story of the US Navy ... See full summary »


Robert Stone
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Episode credited cast:
Kilon Bauno Kilon Bauno ... Self - Chief of the Bikinians
John Smitherman John Smitherman ... Self - Veteran of Nuclear Weapons Tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Warren Austin Warren Austin ... Self - US Delegate to UN (archive footage)
Bernard Baruch Bernard Baruch ... Self (archive footage)
W.H.P. Blandy W.H.P. Blandy ... Self (archive footage) (as Vice Admiral William H.P. Blandy)
Albert Einstein ... Self - Concerned About Bikini Test (archive footage)
James Forrestal ... Self (archive footage)
Vyacheslav Molotov ... Self (archive footage)
Woodrow P. Swancutt Woodrow P. Swancutt ... Self (archive footage) (as Woodrow Swancutt)
Harry S. Truman ... Self (archive footage)
Harold Urey ... Self - Concerned About Bikini Test (archive footage)
Lee Van Atta Lee Van Atta ... Self - Radio Reporter (voice) (archive sound)


It starts with a live radio broadcast from the Bikini Atoll a few days before it is annihilated by a nuclear test. Shows great footage from these times and tells the story of the US Navy Sailors who were exposed to radioactive fallout. One interviewed sailor suffered grotesquely swollen limbs and he is shown being interviewed with enormous left arm and hand. Written by <anon@anon.anon>

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From the dawn of the nuclear age
30 June 2005 | by DeeNine-2See all my reviews

What I found interesting about this documentary is the glimpse it gives us of the state of mind of the United States just after World War II, now sixty years past. We see in the newsreel and other film footage the style and substance of America in the afterglow of our greatest victory. But mostly we see ordinary soldiers and sailors who were stationed on or near the Bikini Atoll in the Marshalls in the South Pacific. We also see some of the islanders whom the United States military displaced so that the capabilities of the atom bomb could be explored.

An old uneducated Bikini islander recalls how his people were told that in the interest of "science" (but actually in the interest of weapons development) they would have to leave their home island and be relocated. Then at some point they were told that they would not be able to return to their island since it was "poisoned." Film maker Robert Stone shows us the big media build up orchestrated by the US to justify dropping the bomb on Bikini. (Actually one bomb was dropped. Another was exploded under water in the Bikini lagoon.) Dignitaries and scientists from all over the world were invited to watch. Stone shows them arriving and being greeted by the officer in charge as a voice-over gives their names, country of origin and their titles. I found that interesting. Two from India, a couple from the USSR, some Asians, and many more. Ah, yes, the US was going to make the world safe from nuclear power by experimenting with nuclear power.

Or some such argument. I thought the dignitaries were positively drooling. Not drooling were the goats and sheep (sheared so that the scientists could see the effects of the radiation on their bare skin) who were trapped in little stalls aboard strategically placed ships near the island. Also not drooling, but having a good time were the sailors who with dark glasses viewed the blast from some safe distance on their ships. They were happy because it looked like an easy duty, and were told that there was no danger. Radiation was never mentioned, and in those days, the dangers of radiation were only just becoming public knowledge. Stone has footage of an interview with one of the sailors years later, only his head and shoulders shown for most of the documentary until near the end when the camera retreats a little and we can see what grotesque things the radiation poisoning did to him. It's pretty shocking footage, and you won't forget it.

We see the blasts and the mushroom clouds and the magnificent glory of the power of the bomb. Unfortunately some observers were down wind and radioactive dust fell upon them. Unfortunately some observers boarded the ships that suffered damage from the blasts (but were far enough away so as not to be destroyed) and got radioactive dust on their clothes and skin. Stone shows the sailors exploring the damage while being scanned by Geiger counters going crazy monitoring the radiation. One is struck by the innocence and playfulness of the sailors as the radiation begins its work on their bodies.

In other words this is a snapshot from the dawn of the nuclear age, strangely innocent and diabolical at the same time. I don't think this is a great documentary, but I will say it is effective. For the complete story of what happened at the Bikini Atoll and especially what happened to the islanders who lost their homes and to those exposed to the radiation, the viewer will have to look elsewhere. This is merely an introduction.

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)

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English | Marshallese | Russian

Release Date:

10 June 1988 (USA) See more »

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Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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