What happened to Odo Island

What happened
to Odo Island?

3.9.2024 (Rev 3.10)

March 1 was the 70th anniversary of the Bikini Atoll bomb test conducted by the U.S. in 1954. The radiation from the blast fell upon the Japanese fishermen aboard the Lucky Dragon No 5 miles away. This event spawned the creation of Godzilla in the mind of Product Tomoyuki Tanaka who recreated it in the opening scene of Godzilla (November 3, 1954) when the crew of Eiko Maru were blinded by his light and consumed by his fire. But they were not the only victims of the bomb in the film. Many now know of the not-so-lucky Lucky Dragon. But how many know who the Odo Islanders represent. After Dr. Yamane and his investigation team depart for Tokyo, moviegoers never see the island again. What became of the islanders after Godzilla came ashore. Going to Odo Island film location was the highlight of my trip to Japan last year. It was an experience that I will never forget. To see the hill where Godzilla first appears is a dream come true. But what would have become of me if I were running away from Godzilla with the crowd. The identity of “Odo Island” people and their fate is found in returning to the Marshall Islands at the time of Operation Castle.

Nuclear weapon test Bravo (yield 15 Mt) on Bikini Atoll. The test was part of the Operation Castle. The Bravo event was an experimental thermonuclear device surface event.

Nuclear weapon test Bravo on Bikini Atoll, part of the Operation Castle (Source: Wikipedia)

Godzilla is an hydrogen bomb monster born as a result of the dropping of Castle Bravo device on the Bikini Atoll. An irradiated surviving prehistoric dinosaur was transformed into a giant walking nuclear bomb spewing radiation. He was a victim of the bomb like the crew of the Lucky Dragon. But they were not the only victims. Godzilla’s appearance on Odo Island evoked not only memories of the battles of the world war on the Pacific islands between Japan and the U.S., but also the recent bomb tests of Operation Castle. From 1946 to 1958, the U.S. tested 67 above-ground nuclear weapons along the ring-shaped reefs of Marshall Islands in the Pacific, claimed after the war.1

Bikini Atoll aerial view

Bikini Atoll aerial view with crater on the top left side

Prior to the weapon tests, Island residents were asked to leave their homes. In early 1946, Commodore Ben Wyatt told residents of the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Island that their departure would be for “the good of mankind and to end all war.”2 At that time 167 islanders were relocated to the uninhabited Rongerik Atoll where life was difficult. And soon the island became a desert where the people began to starve. Two years later they were relocated to Kili Island, 500 miles from their home. Then, on March 1, 1954, back on their Bikini Atoll home, the U.S. secretly detonated the Castle Bravo that was 1000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The bomb left a mile-wide crater that was 250 feet deep. In addition, it obliterated three islands sending radioactive debris 90 miles away that reached other islands that included Rongelap, Rongerik, Utirik and Ailinginae. Children played in the fall out and women put it in their hair. Islanders quickly became ill with acute radiation sickness. Two days later they were evacuated but not all.3

Bikini Islanders board a landing craft, vehicle, personnel (LCVP) as they depart from Bikini Atoll in March 1946

Bikini Islanders departing Bikini Atoll in March 1946 (Source: Wikipedia)

Years later, those exposed developed various forms of cancers. Women gave birth to children with severed defects that led to death and non-human appearances. Until this day, there remain islanders who can never return home.4 Bikini representative Tomaki Juda commented on that day: “[W]e are sadly more akin to the Children of Israel when they left Egypt and wandered through the desert for 40 years. We left Bikini and have wandered through the ocean for 32 years and we will never return to our Promised Land.”5 That awful day of March 1, 1954, became a national holiday called Remembrance Day, originally called Nuclear Victims’ Day, then Nuclear Survivors’ Day.

Godzilla's appearance on Odo Island

Godzilla’s appearance on Odo Island

Godzilla’s appearance on a stormy night on Odo Island left a trail of death, destruction and radiation. The investigation team detected radiation along Godzilla’s path. Dr. Yamane immediately warned the people to evacuate the location. The story sounds familiar. Their story is like that of the people living on Marshall Islands who were exposed to the radiative fallout from Castle Bravo. They share similar stories with bleak futures. The Odo Islanders likely suffered from radiation sickness too. And like those on the Marshall Islands they would have had to leave their island home also.

Dr Yamane and investigation team detects radiation

Dr. Yamane and investigation team detects radiation

Sadly, the story of the Marshall Islands hasn’t been proliferated like the weapons that destroyed their homes. Watching Godzilla (1954), we most likely don’t readily make the connection between them and Odo Island like we can between the crew of the Eiko Maru and the Lucky Dragon No 5. Their story seems to have been lost to history. Their story is no legend, but it is a very real story. “Godzilla” destroyed their lives and “Odo Island” home. Under that mushroom cloud laid innocent victims, exposed, exploited and exiled. Unlike Godzilla they were powerless without recourse and land.


1 Outrider.org: Nuclear refugees in the Marshall Islands

2 Ibid

3 Ibid

4 Ibid

The Washington Post: Bikinians Must Quit Island for at Least 30 Years, Hill Told By Walter Pincus (May 23, 1978)

The Architectural Review: The double exposure of the Marshall Islands by Stuart Kirsch (23 March 2018)