By Gerry Roe
“The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them.” Saint Francis de Sales
Bikini Atoll Nuclear test July 1, 1946
Eugene (Gene) Roe was my brother. He was the eldest of the Roe children. He was born October 17, 1927 in Holly Bluff, Mississippi to Henry and Ruby Roe.
This is a story about the Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test event that Gene witnessed from aboard the USS Rollett as a Gunner’s Mate Third Class. In late January or early February of 1946 the ship sailed from Port Huenema, California to the sea off the coast of Bikini Atoll. They were considered the “floating Navy” while others were on the island building and preparing for the Nuclear Test. As best understood they were there to transport equipment and supplies to the island. The many ships around the islands provided survey information, housing many working on the project and miscellaneous tasks. Gene told us that on the day “Test Able” was dropped his ship was far out and they were on deck to take pictures and observed the blast. This test was initially scheduled for May 15th but due to delays in construction it was rescheduled for July 1, 1946.
He was on the ship traveling to and from Bikini, as well as the time there for a total of 6 months. He returned to Port Huenema. In a letter he wrote home, he expressed how good Port Huenema looked on return.
He received the WW11 Victory Medal and the American Area Campaign.
This information obtained from the “Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test” booklet each received that were present. (Unable to find a link to this pamphlet, much to many pages to attach.)This was considered the Crossroad Experiment and “Test Able” was the first of many nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands. J.D. Burky was Commander-CEC-USN of the 53rd Naval Construction Battalion. He was in charge of the assigned mission of accomplishing all the required shore construction. This was noted from the booklet that was compiled of this projection with pictures and dates. Gene kept his and it is now in possession of his children.
In this pamphlet it has pictures of the ships arriving and LST 881 bringing in the heavy equipment and unloading on the beach on March 14.
Each page of pictures show how the work of a water purification system and cement forms to install the tower were being done.
The bomb was named Gilda, after Rita Hayworth’s character in a 1946 film. It was dropped from the B-29 Superfortress Dave’s Dream of the 509th Bombardment Group.
For more on information on this and on other tests performed in the Marshall Islands follow the links posted below.
I was unable to find information about the USS Rollett
Gene’s letters do not report his duties other that watch duty and his experience of putting an 18 inch hole in a L.C.V.P. He doesn’t say how but feared reprimand-none came. He and other sailors managed to get it back on the ship without it sinking out of sight. In this letter is his willingness to send money if dad would go to Oregon.
The landing craft, vehicle, personnel or Higgins boat was a landing craft used extensively in amphibious landings in World War II. Typically constructed from plywood, this shallow-draft, barge-like boat could ferry a roughly platoon-sized complement of 36 men to shore at 9 knots.