The best books on the first postwar atomic bomb tests at the Bikini Atoll in 1946 (Operations Crossroads)

Who am I?

William L. McGee is an award-winning World War II Pacific war historian. His writing career has spanned six decades and his writing style has been described as journalistic and spare. Bill currently has nine titles in print; six with his co-author and wife, Sandra V. McGee.


I wrote...

Operation Crossroads - Lest We Forget!: An Eyewitness Account, Bikini Atomic Bomb Tests 1946

By William L. McGee, Sandra V. McGee,

Book cover of Operation Crossroads - Lest We Forget!: An Eyewitness Account, Bikini Atomic Bomb Tests 1946

What is my book about?

In the summer of 1946, William L. McGee, USN, was one of the 42,000 military, scientists, and civilian personnel assembled at the Bikini Atoll for the first postwar tests of the atomic bomb, code-named Operation Crossroads. The author witnessed Crossroads from the deck of the heavy cruiser, USS Fall River (CA-131), Target Vessel Control Ship, responsible for positioning 95 target vessels in the Bikini Lagoon. This is his story of what took place at Operation Crossroads in 1946.

The books I picked & why

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Operation Crossroads: The Official Pictorial Record

By Joint Task Force One,

Book cover of Operation Crossroads: The Official Pictorial Record

Why this book?

The book was published in November 1946 by the U.S. Government, just months after Tests Able and Baker in July at the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Serious safety concerns about radiation contamination were coming to light and the book was withdrawn from circulation shortly after publication. In 1947, a re-write of the book was published and titled Bombs at Bikini: The Official Report of Operation Crossroads. This book had fewer photographs and of a less graphic nature. However, for my memoir as a Crossroads participant, I was glad to find a copy of the original out-of-print book for my research.


The Bomb And Its Deadly Shadow: A Memoir

By Dean Warren,

Book cover of The Bomb And Its Deadly Shadow: A Memoir

Why this book?

The author of this book was a Crossroads participant. Furthermore, the author’s father, Dr. Stafford L. Warren, was head of the Medical Section of the Manhattan Project; then headed up the postwar survey of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and was then appointed by the Navy to serve as Chief Radsafe (Radiologic Safety Section) at Crossroads. Mr. Dean Warren and I had several phone conversations before his passing and shared our respective health problems that may — or may not — have been caused by exposure to ionizing radiation at Crossroads.


Voices From Ground Zero: Recollections and Feelings of Nuclear Test Veterans

By Lincoln F. Grahlfs,

Book cover of Voices From Ground Zero: Recollections and Feelings of Nuclear Test Veterans

Why this book?

The author of this book was also a Crossroads participant and today is regarded as one of the foremost experts on the effects of ionizing radiation. His book is a collection of interviews with atomic veterans of tests in the Pacific and Nevada. I am grateful to Dr. Grahlfs for agreeing to write the Foreword to my Crossroads memoir.


Bomb: The Race to Build--And Steal--The World's Most Dangerous Weapon

By Steve Sheinkin,

Book cover of Bomb: The Race to Build--And Steal--The World's Most Dangerous Weapon

Why this book?

Many books have been written about the development of the atomic bomb, most of them more technical than the average reader wants or needs. That is why I’m recommending this book. Don’t let the “Perfect for middle grade readers” in the Amazon book description put you off. The book was factual, yet read like a spy thriller. The only thing I missed was a cast of characters in the front matter, so I created a list as I read.


The Bluejackets Manual: United States Navy

By Norman Reeve Van Der Veer,

Book cover of The Bluejackets Manual: United States Navy

Why this book?

This manual belonged to me. It may seem like an odd recommendation. However, whenever my memory was fuzzy on some detail, such as the various boatswain’s calls, I consulted my well-worn bluejacket’s manual and found the answer.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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