Radio Bikini

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Radio Bikini
DVD cover of Radio Bikini.jpg
DVD cover
Directed byRobert Stone
Produced byKevin Rafferty
Robert Stone
CinematographyJohn Rayter
Robert Stone
Edited byRobert Stone
Distributed byPBS
Release date
  • June 10, 1988 (1988-06-10)
Running time
56 minutes
CountryUnited States

Radio Bikini is a 1988 American documentary film directed by Robert Stone. It was nominated for an Academy Award in 1988 for Best Documentary Feature.[1][2] It was later aired on the PBS series The American Experience.


The film documents the nuclear tests performed around Bikini Atoll during Operation Crossroads in 1946, and their effects on the indigenous population and American servicemen involved.



The film was produced in-part by attorney Jonathan Weisgall.  In 1975, he had been sent by Covington & Burling to meet with displaced Bikini Islanders from the 1946 atomic tests.  He eventually published a book on the subject, “Operation Crossroads: The Atomic Tests at Bikini Atoll.”[6][7]


The Los Angeles Times wrote, “The film by British film maker Robert Stone (an Oscar nominee for feature documentary) is an outstanding achievement on all levels. Stone conveys an enormous body of facts, figures, attitudes and effects in the most organically subtle fashion. There’s also a uniquely emotional quality thanks to the participation of two witnesses--Kilon Bauno, the chief of 162 Bikinians who were relocated throughout the Marshall Islands to clear the way for the nuclear invaders, and John Smitherman, a Navy pilot involved in dropping the bombs.”[8]

The Washington Post wrote, “Stone's film is an eloquent, if harrowing, examination of the psychic and physical fallout of the testing, both on Bikinians and on unprotected American servicemen who were drenched in radioactive mists while monitoring the blasts.  The most surreal footage comes from government archives -- never-before- seen film shot for a propaganda epic that was never made. Seven hundred and fifty cameras and half the world's existing movie film were shipped to Bikini to capture the Felliniesque events. Men shear lambs, grease them with Flashpoint cream and strap them to the decks of "target" ships in the Bikini lagoon to test the effects of the blasts. There is footage of uncomprehending Bikinians leaving their home, of fresh-faced sailors walking, naked, into showers jokingly labeled "Radio Active," of military men hand-painting the name "Gilda" on a fat 20-kiloton bomb. It's all perky, upbeat—Beaver Cleaver Drops the Bomb.”[9]

Michaela Pontellini wrote in Vancouver Weekly, “Radio Bikini, which is named for the temporary radio station positioned on the island shortly before Operation Crossroads began, is firmly against the destructive powers of nuclear energy. There are no interviews with anyone other than the victims of the disaster, and the focus is entirely on what is portrayed to be completely useless nuclear testing and the sheer callousness of the United States government for putting its servicemen at risk. Smitherman notes that none of the servicemen were informed as to what the tests were, nor the possible dangers of their involvement. The complete lack of consent is galling, and highlights the American governments decision to sacrifice a few for the ‘greater good’.”[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The 60th Academy Awards (1988) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved October 16, 2011.
  2. ^ The Ten-Year Lunch Wins Documentary Feature: 1988 Oscars
  3. ^ UPI Archives (June 26, 1987). "Bikini atoll residents tour atomic test site". United Press International.
  4. ^ Wicker, Tom (August 29, 1983). "In the Nation; Serving His Country". The New York Times.
  5. ^ Del Tredici, Robert (2020). "At Work in the Fields of the Bomb". Nuclear Files.
  6. ^ Weisgall, Jonathan M., 1949- (1994). Operation crossroads : the atomic tests at Bikini Atoll. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-919-0. OCLC 29477984.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Smith, Linell (June 12, 1994). "Representing victims of atomic testing has brought attorney to a "Crossroads" starting from ground zero". The Baltimore Sun.
  8. ^ Klady, Leonard (March 12, 1988). ""Radio Bikini": Documentary with Fallout". The Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ Hirshey, Gerri (April 19, 1988). "L.A. Law; D.C. Lawyer". The Washington Post.
  10. ^ Pontellini, Michaela (June 3, 2013). "Nuclear Nonchalance". Vancouver Weekly.

External links[edit]