Sunday, October 3, 2010

What is the Port Chicago explosion?

Let me tell you all about the Port Chicago Explosion. 
Port Chicago was a naval base in Contra Costa county, California.
African-American sailors loaded huge volumes of munitions under the command of White officers. The officers encouraged informal competition between the segregated all black units and even bet among themselves.
The sailors were never taught how to properly load and were told that the munitions were not active.
The munitions were loaded on ships bound for the WWII Pacific war. The sailors loaded them in a frenzy, 24 hours a day.

On 7/17/44, 4,600 tons of ammunition were loaded from 16 railroad cars. Two ships exploded.
320 Negro (this was the forties term) sailors were instantly killed. The following day the remaining sailors were ordered to clean up the body parts. 
258 men refused (known as the Port Chicago Mutiny) and were imprisoned on a barge. 


  1. This was an instrumental event in our military history that helped desegregate our armed forces. What a shame 320 men had to give their lives. Were the men imprisoned for mutiny ever cleared of the charges? I would hope so. Thanks for sharing, I hope to hear more.

  2. Freddie Meeks, one of the few survivors in the 1990s, sought a received a pardon from President Clinton. Other survivors did not feel a pardon was suitable since they did not feel that they were guilty of anything.

    More information can be found at Wikipedia

  3. Jeane, you are doing such a wonderful service by bringing exposure to this piece of history that didn't make the textbooks. Had people like you been teaching people like me back when I was in school, I might have taken more of an interest in history. Thanks.