Half Life: A Parable for the Nuclear Age

Soon after dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the American military began looking for an “appropriate” place to test its nuclear weapons. They chose the Marshall Islands—tiny atolls in the mid-Pacific-for a number of reasons. The United States had recently taken these islands from Japan, they were a long way from America and they were populated by a small, and politically powerless group of natives. During the next decade the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission exploded at least sixty-six atomic and hydrogen bombs on these islands, contaminating them for centuries to come. HALF LIFE presents evidence that the U.S. government intentionally chose not to evacuate several populated atolls in order to establish the islanders as a control group—human guinea pigs—to test the long-and short-term effects of nuclear fallout.