Largest US Home Front Disaster During World War II May Be Next Park Unit

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Port Chicago Aftermath
Loading Ordinance at Port Chicago Before the Explosion
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Eugene Sayles survived the terrible explosion at Port Chicago on the night of July 17, 1944, but many of his colleagues did not. Located near San Francisco California, the Port Chicago Naval Magazine was a place where ordinance was transferred from rail cars to ships during World War II for operations in the Pacific. A small fire led first to a small explosion then 6 seconds later, a massive explosion that was felt up to 500 miles away. The explosion was the largest U.S. home front disaster during World War II, killing 320 men, 202 of whom were African American.

The explosion, work stoppage, and subsequent mutiny trial provide insights into the injustice of racial discrimination, the African American experience in the US military, and home front life during the Second World War. These events ultimately led to the desegregation of the armed services in the United States. It is for these reasons that the site is now being considered before Congress as a site to be preserved unimpaired, managed by the National Park Service

The explosion at Port Chicago happened more than 60 years ago. And while the accident is worth remembering, it is the significance of the events which occurred after the explosion regarding civil rights that makes the story relevant today, and worth preserving unimpaired for our future generations. If you would like to support this park effort, contact your congressional representative and ask them to support House Resolution 3111. I'm Jeremy Sullivan, thanks for listening today.

More Info:
Book - The Port Chicago Mutiny: The Story of the Largest Mass Mutiny Trial in U.S. Naval History
Wikipedia - Port Chicago Disaster
Photos - Declassified Naval Photos, Before and After
Press Release - Congressman George Miller Release
Music Used in Podcast - Jacob Heringman: The Art of the Lute Player :


This is surely long overdue and worthy of support from our city, states, and federal governing bodies. It is the more relevant to young Africans who have for decades been forced to view themselves as worthy only of occasional spasms of national concern, and largely for the wrong reasons. Marking the place where the modern Civil Rights movement began allows today's young people to see themselves in a heroic context; the legacy earned by the valor of those who fought but only now may be gaining recognition for having pressed the sitting president, Harry S. Truman, and eventually the nation toward the more just society it was meant to be. At a time when our country's image is in danger of being forever sacrificed to the excesses of empiric behaviors worldwide, Port Chicago's designation as a fully recognized National Park would benefit us all.

Yes, remember the Port Chicago explosion and the victims, but also remember that there wa a -town- there, named Port Chicago. The 1944 blast killed 320, but the Navy's forced eviction of town residents in 1968 "to save the village from another explision" displaced 3,500 innocent Americans. The blast was an accident; the eviction was a crime. Port Chicago was my hometown (1950-1964). It's not there anymore, but I still call it home. I remember. Will the Park Service remember?