The Port Chicago Disaster


One is quite sure exactly what happened but at ten eighteen pm there was a loud crash. The seminars reported as sounding like metal and timber falling down. This probably a crane or one of the booms which had collapsed then. There was the sound of an explosion and then a fire about five. To seven seconds later there was a massive explosion that destroyed the entire facility. It was one of the largest explosions in history up until that point pilots in the air at the time saw a fireball three miles into the air. The blast was felt in boulder city nevada. Four hundred thirty miles away. There was damaged onto buildings in san francisco forty eight miles away debris landed over two miles away and the plane which witnessed it said it's all white hot debris shooting past it. At an altitude of seven thousand feet. It coastguard fireboat near the pier was thrown six hundred feet or one hundred and eighty meters away where it eventually landed in the water and sank. There were three hundred and twenty men and the peer when the explosion occurred all of them died instantly. Two thirds of the dead. Were african american enlisted men who were working on the dock. In fact this explosion by itself was responsible for fifteen percent of all of the african american deaths in the second world war. I've got a previous episode on the halifax harbour explosion during world war one. The portugual explosion wasn't quite as large. But it wasn't too far away the biggest difference and the reason why the fatalities were lower. Portugal is that there were no civilians on the base. There were two hundred and fifty other injuries and of the men who were killed only fifty one wherever identified an inquiry was launched only four days after the explosion and the ruling was that it was probably the fault of one of the enlisted men. Nothing was mentioned about the poor safety conditions and the lack of training

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