The Port Chicago Disaster Essay Example
The Port Chicago Disaster Essay Example

The Port Chicago Disaster Essay Example

Available Only on StudyHippo
  • Pages: 8 (2029 words)
  • Published: November 16, 2017
  • Type: Essay
View Entire Sample
Text preview

The Port Chicago Disaster occurred on July 24, 1944 when Captain W. wrote a memorandum.

In a report to Rear Admiral W. R. Purnell, USN, S. Parsons detailed the most devastating explosion known to have occurred on American land up until that point in time.

Captain Parsons was chosen for the job of Liaison Officer in the Bureau of Ordnance due to his capability and expertise. He played a crucial role in the aftermath of the Port Chicago Explosion, which Rear Admiral Purnell oversaw as the head of the Military Policy Committee.

The main goal of this memo was to gather information and pinpoint the exact time of a major explosion, rather than imprison individuals, establish causation, or identify flaws in munitions depot design. Captain Parsons utilized seismic activity to ascertain that the detonation happened on July 17, 1944, roughly between 2218-


2244. It was discovered that around 2000 tons of highly explosive material were present on the dock during the explosion. Additionally, Captain Parsons noted that damage from the explosion extended up to roughly 1500 yards away.

Despite being minor, the damage was still noteworthy. Absolute destruction extended from ground zero to about 1000 feet, but three civilian survivors were found at the 1000-foot mark, making them the closest individuals to the explosion's aftermath. The tragic event could have been avoided if certain issues had been addressed beforehand. The presence of racism within the Port Chicago munitions depot played a role in this disaster, as indicated by Akers who noted that the black ratings stationed there were classified in the "lowest twelfth of the Navy" by the general classification test used at that time.

These men were deemed by thei

View entire sample
Join StudyHippo to see entire essay

superiors as unreliable, emotional, lacking comprehension or memory of orders, susceptible to group mentality, lacking mechanical abilities, distrusting of unfamiliar officers, averse to receiving orders - especially from white or junior officers, and prone to detect discrimination. This was generally true for young black men with limited education who were assigned to arduous work groups regardless of their test results. Those who performed well and if vacancies existed, were likely to be moved to alternative duty posts.

Consequently, a shortage of competent leaders existed, which exemplifies discriminatory practices. At the munitions depot, racism also manifests in the fact that African American sailors do not object to the task of loading ammunition, but rather question why the responsibility falls solely on them. Additionally, they seek answers regarding segregation and promotion disparity.

According to the text, it was reported that racism among the sailors was severe and it had a negative impact on the morale of black sailors. This low morale led to decreased quality of work and more accidents. Additionally, white officers were appointed to lead the loading parties, which was unpopular among black sailors. Furthermore, Captain Kinne, the commanding officer, demanded a quota of ten tons per hatch per hour, a goal deemed too high by the white officers.

Despite the risk to their jobs, the workers had to meet the loading quota. According to Allen, some officers had even taken to holding races between working divisions in order to speed up the process. As a result, workers were forced to work at an unsafe pace which led to shells frequently falling onto the deck. Carr, the wench maintenance personnel, witnessed one such incident where a worker

lost his grip on a shell and it dropped two feet before hitting the deck with a thud. These occurrences served as evidence that the ammunition loading rate was dangerous.

The Captain Kinne and the white officers overlooked signs of danger due to their quotas, which increased the likelihood of a disaster. Slowing down the load rate could have prevented the disaster. Proper training could have also played a role in prevention, as Julius J. suggests.

During his court martial trial, Allen claimed that there was no training provided on ammunition handling. This lack of training extended to the black junior sailors, who were not taught how to handle high explosives. Additionally, the white officers tasked with supervising the loading process were also inadequately trained. Freddie Meeks recounted how the bombs, covered in grease, would bump into each other while being loaded and create a frightening noise that would make everyone pray to God.

The potential for exploding bombs was a constant concern, causing fear and anxiety. The black sailors were especially cautious due to inadequate training from the white officers who had misled them into believing that larger munitions were inactive and could not detonate until armed at the combat theater. Despite their weariness, the sailors trusted the officers because of their own limited experience with explosives.

Consequently, negligence in training resulted in a lack of knowledge about the potential for high explosives to explode among all loading party personnel. Additionally, handling larger explosives like bombs and shells involved using levers and crowbars to extract individual munitions from boxcars that were tightly packed with packing material. Due to their weight and cylindrical shape, black sailors would

roll the shells along the wooden pier, pack them into nets, lift them with a winch and boom, lower the bundle into the hold, and then drop the explosives a short distance by hand into place. This series of actions was rough and resulted in damage to naval shells, causing identification dye to leak from their ballistic caps.

It was a significant sign that an explosion was likely to happen as these black sailors were provided with unsophisticated gear to manage high explosives. This implies that the explosives were more susceptible to harm due to the use of unsophisticated gear. Alongside this, the cargo ships' powered winches were employed to hasten the handling of hefty loads, and each of the vessel's five cargo holds was equipped with one winch.

Maintaining the operability of winches was crucial during loading operations. Winch brakes acted as a safety measure to prevent loads from falling if main power failed, but skilled operators preferred adjusting power settings for faster maneuvering instead of relying on the brakes. Neglected brake systems could become stuck and malfunction. Furthermore, the SS E's winches were subject to these issues.

Despite being only five months old, the ship A. Bryan was showing signs of wear due to factors such as equipment issues and a lack of personal protective equipment provided by the munitions depot. According to Carl Tuggle, employees had to purchase their own gloves if they wanted to use them while working, as they were not provided by the depot.

During our time on the dock at night, we were given clothing to protect us from the cold, but we had to provide everything else ourselves. Unfortunately,

black sailors were often overlooked for promotion and remained in the junior sailor position, which didn't provide them with much income to purchase proper personal protective equipment. As a result, work parties were more susceptible to accidents, which was even observed by Commander Paul B.

Cronk, who headed a Coast Guard team in charge of overseeing the loading of explosives at the working dock, informed the Navy of hazardous and potentially disastrous conditions. Despite Cronk's warnings, the Navy refused to revise their procedures, leading Cronk to withdraw his team. Ignoring the dangers of the munitions depot at Port Chicago, the Navy failed to prevent a catastrophic explosion. Although Captain Parsons had acknowledged the hazardous potential of Port Chicago, stating that it was "designed for large explosions," the munitions depot's design minimized casualties outside of the immediate area. Nevertheless, the explosion resulted in the immediate death of 320 on-duty personnel and injuries to 390 civilians and military personnel, with many sustaining severe injuries.

It was a significant setback for the black sailor community when they lost about 15% of all black casualties in the US Navy during the war. After the accident, Port Chicago introduced white and black sailors working together to load ammunition, which was the first attempt to desegregate. To address inadequate training, the Navy launched new procedures for handling high explosives. This memorandum would not have been written if the Navy had heeded the Coast Guard Explosives-Carrying detail's advice on loading explosives and avoided the Port Chicago disaster.

The citation by Regina T. Akers on the Port Chicago Mutiny of 1944 can be found in Naval Mutinies of the Twentieth Century: An International Perspective, edited by

Christopher M. Bell and Bruce A. Elleman, published by Frank Cass in 2003 (p. 200). The citation is enclosed in for a paragraph.The article "Final Outcome? Fifty Years after the Port Chicago Mutiny" by Robert L. Allen was published in American Visions volume 9 in 1994 and can be found at http://search.ebscohost.

On November 30, 2009, a publication known as "com. >" referenced a report from Robert L. Allen's article in the Black Scholar, volume 24 from 1994. Allen's research uncovered unjust handling of the Port Chicago Mutiny Trial by the Navy.

The text enclosed in reads: ", 56 (30 November 2009). 4. Robert L."The book "The Port Chicago Mutiny" by Allen (published in 1993 by Amistad) cites the case of Julius J. Allen, a Seaman second class in the U.S. Naval Reserve, in Volume 27.5.

The Washington Post reported on July 17, 1994 in the John Boudreau article titled "Blown Away, Fifty Years Ago Today, Segregation in the Military Ended With a Bang and a Whimper," about the Courts Martial Records concerning the Port Chicago Mutiny. Specifically, they referenced the General Court Martial that occurred on September 16, 1944, which contained 120 records.

The Port Chicago Mutiny website contains an interview with sailor Carl Tuggle, who served at Port Chicago in 1944. In the interview, Tuggle answers questions such as whether he wore gloves during his time at Port Chicago. The citation for the interview is F4.7.The text provides a couple of references. The first one is a link to a webpage titled "tuggle.html" located on the domain "com/personnel". The webpage was accessed on November 30, 2009. The second reference is a memorandum

written by William S. Parsons on July 24, 1944. The memorandum is part of the World War II Command File housed in Box 671 of the Operational Archives Branch at the Naval Historical Center in Washington, DC. The memorandum contains preliminary data related to the Port Chicago Disaster. Both references are enclosed in HTML paragraph tags.

Bell and Elleman's bibliography on the Port Chicago Mutiny in 1944 includes a source by Regina T. Akers.

The information is from a book titled "Naval Mutinies of the Twentieth Century: An International Perspective," which was edited by Christopher M. Bell and Bruce A. Elleman in 2003. The book was published by Frank Cass in London and can be found on pages 193-211.The article titled "Black Scholar Research Leads to Navy Review: Injustice upheld in Port Chicago Mutiny Trial" was written by Robert L. Allen in 1994 and can be found on the website http://search.ebscohost.

Robert L. Allen published an article on November 30, 2009, that can be found at com. ;, with the page numbers 56-59.

The article titled "Final Outcome? Fifty Years after the Port Chicago Mutiny" was published in American Visions 9 in 1994. The source of the article can be found at The article spans from pages 14 to 17. The and their contents remain unchanged.

(30 November 2009). The book "The Port Chicago Mutiny" by Robert L. Allen, published by Amistad in 1993 and an article titled "Blown Away, Fifty Years Ago Today, Segregation in the Military Ended With a Bang and a Whimper" by John Boudreau in the Washington Post (Washington D.).

C. ), 17 July 1994, sec. F4. Julius J. Allen, Seaman second class,


The first volume of the Court Martial Records regarding the Port Chicago Mutiny conducted by the United States Naval Reserve is available. This pertains to the General Court Martial held on September 16th, 1944.Within the

tag, there are two pieces of information about the Port Chicago disaster of 1944: a memorandum written by William S. Parsons containing preliminary data, and an interview with Carl Tuggle, one of the sailors who served at Port Chicago during the event. Both are sourced from the World War II Command File, Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center in Washington, DC.

The webpage "Port Chicago Mutiny" can be accessed at as of November 30, 2009.

Get an explanation on any task
Get unstuck with the help of our AI assistant in seconds