During the US military occupation of Japan, US authorities censored all media discussions of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But by 1952, the end of the Occupation, accounts of nuclear survivors’ ongoing struggles with radiation sickness became widespread.
In 1954, 23 crew members of the Lucky Dragon Japanese fishing trawler were irradiated when the US nuclear test bombed the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. In protest, 30 million Japanese people — over a third of the population — signed a petition demanding the end of nuclear test bombings.
The US nuclear test bombed islands in the Asia-Pacific over 100 times from 1946 to 1962. Survivors of the Bikini Atoll bombings have suffered from miscarriages, profound birth defects, and high rates of cancer. The US also nuclear test bombed the American Southwest over 1,000 times.* Washington's most recent (underground) nuclear test bombing took place in December 2012, with almost no media coverage. Hiroshima mayor Kazumi Matsui commented, “I wonder why President Obama, who said he would seek a nuclear-free world, carried out the test."
Despite the well-known health and environmental consequences of nuclear radiation, and widespread protest, France nuclear bombed Mururoa, and its sister atoll Fangataufa in French Polynesia from 1966 to 1995. Greenpeace reported that France's first nuclear (plutonium) bombing sucked all the water from the lagoon, "raining dead fish and mollusks down on the atoll", and spread radioactive contamination across the Pacific to Peru and New Zealand.
The UK nuclear test bombed Australia from 1955 to 1963, exposing Australians, especially aboriginal Australians, to nuclear radiation. The Australian government forcibly removed tribal members from their homelands; when they attempted to return, they developed radiation-related health disorders. Radioactive contamination destroyed their way of life.
Although the human costs of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings are now known, the suffering of many hundreds of thousands of other nuclear (test bombings, depleted uranium weapons, uranium mining, nuclear weapons production, nuclear waste dumping) survivors worldwide remain much less known. However their suffering reflect a globally interrelated web of nuclear violence that touches us all.
* The National Cancer Institute runs a program to help Americans identify if they were exposed to radioactive 1-131 fallout from US nuclear test bombings between 1951 and 1963; this isotope can cause thyroid disorder or cancer.