Skip Navigation

Atomic Testing on the Marshall Islands-A Legacy


WHEREAS, in the Old Testament the Lord spoke to Moses saying: "Speak to the Israelites: When a man or a woman wrongs another, breaking faith with the Lord that person incurs guilt and shall confess the sin that has been committed. The person shall make full restitution for the wrong, adding one fifth to it, and giving it all to the one who was wronged" (Numbers 5:5-7). And in the New Testament Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." (Luke 19:8, NRSV)

WHEREAS, The Marshall Islands government has indicated that new information on the health of its people exposed to radiation from atomic and nuclear testing by the United States in the Marshalls requires more just compensation and expansion of medical care than the $150 million trust fund provided in the Compact of Free Association; and

WHEREAS, evidence from recently declassified US government reports and studies shows that many more Marshall Islanders were exposed to nuclear fallout from the 67 US atomic and nuclear tests than American negotiators admitted when the compensation package in the compact was negotiated in the early 1980s; and

WHEREAS, many questions are arising about the accuracy of medical research done by US government labs on Marshall islanders who were exposed to fallout from atomic and nuclear testing; and

WHEREAS, although the US government provided full compensation to American citizens living downwind of the Nevada Test Site, Marshall Islanders have not received more than sixty-one percent of their total awards because the compensation level is inadequate; and

WHEREAS, fully one-third of the 1,074 Marshall Islands recipients of nuclear test awards have died without receiving full compensation; and

WHEREAS, the US government provided full compensation to American citizens living in a significantly larger area compared to the Marshall Islands, despite the fact that the total tonnage of US tests in the Marshall Islands was almost 100 times greater than the yield of tests at the Nevada test site; and

WHEREAS, documents now show that the people of Ailuk and other nearby islands were exposed to dangerous amounts of radiation, yet purposely were not evacuated; and

WHEREAS, the Marshall Islanders are increasingly becoming aware that islanders were not evacuated despite information that prevailing wind would blow fallout over a number of inhabited islands and that they were likely being used as "guinea pigs" in radiation studies; and

WHEREAS, US government representatives deceived the people of Bikini Atoll by telling that their island would be used "for the benefit of mankind"; and

WHEREAS, the March 1, 1954 "Bravo" hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll was detonated despite weather reports the previous day that winds were blowing to the east toward the inhabited atolls of Rongelap, Utrik, Ailuk and others; and

WHEREAS, a 1985-1989 health survey in the Marshall Islands revealed cancer rates 2-30 times higher among Marshall Islanders than in the US; and

WHEREAS, a nationwide survey of thyroid problems in the Marshall Islands in the mid-1990s by doctors from Tohoku University in Japan confirmed a high rate of thyroid disorders among Marshall Islanders; and

WHEREAS, the economic provisions of a Compact of Free Association implemented in 1986 will expire in 2001 and are up for renegotiation in 1999; and

WHEREAS, the US government has not yet apologized to the Marshallese people for the death of Marshallese citizens and for the damage done to their homeland, waters and people; and

WHEREAS, the $150 million trust fund provided in a Compact of Free Association with the Marshall Islands is woefully inadequate and not just compensation for the health injuries and deaths caused by US nuclear testing to the population, and the loss of the use of their atolls because of radiation contamination since 1946; and

WHEREAS, US funding for medical surveillance and treatment programs is inadequate to meet the needs of the exposed population in the Marshall Islands,

Therefore, be it resolved, that this General Conference of The United Methodist Church call upon The United Methodist Church through the General Board of Church and Society and the General Board of Global Ministries to work closely with the Marshallese people and our ecumenical partners, to bring about an official apology and full redress including all necessary funding from the US government; and

Be it further resolved, that copies of this resolution be sent to the US attorney general, the secretary of the department of energy, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, with copies to the Republic of the Marshall Islands Embassy Office in Washington, DC, and to the people in the Marshall Islands.

readopted 2008
Resolution #288, 2004 Book of Resolutions
Resolution #267, 2000 Book of Resolutions

See Social Principles, ¶ 165B.

From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church - 2008. Copyright © 2008 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.