Northern California April 06, 2018
One Of The Deadliest Accidents In U.S. History Happened Right Here In Northern California
It’s been over 70 years since the Port Chicago disaster occurred. Despite the fact that it is considered to be one of the most tragic naval accidents in U.S. history, it’s surprisingly not talked about very often. The event is a reflection of a dark part of our country’s history, but it also acted as a catalyst for changes to be made. Today, you can visit the memorial of this deadly accident which is maintained and managed by the National Park Service. At the memorial you can learn all about the tragedy and even visit the site where it happened. It’s a sobering experience that everybody should do at some point.
On July 17, 1944, tragedy struck at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine. A massive explosion occurred, killing 320 sailors and civilians. It's considered to be the largest domestic loss of life during World War II.
Port Chicago was a sleepy little town located on Suisun Bay in an estuary of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. The naval magazine was constructed in 1942 and the job of the sailors that worked there was to haul ammunition and bombs from train cars to the ships.
This was extremely difficult and dangerous work. Since this was a time in which the Navy was still very segregated, most of the workers at Port Chicago were Black Americans. Despite the hazardous nature of the work, emphasis was put on loading up the ammunition as quickly as possible.
This proved to have deadly consequences. Disaster struck on that particular July evening. Residents of the East Bay Area heard a large eruption. A ship packed with 4,606 tons of high explosives and ammunition had exploded and chaos erupted.
Buildings in Port Chicago came crashing down and some damage was physically felt as far away as San Francisco. Tremors from the explosion reached Nevada. All in all, it's estimated that the explosion was rated at a 3.4 on the Richter scale.
320 sailors died in an instant that day and another 400 were injured. The incident had a profound effect on the Navy. It caused the largest mutiny ever in the Navy's history to take place and eventually called for the desegregation of the Navy's forces.
Today, you can actually visit the place where this devastating accident occurred. Since the area is relatively hard to get to, you have to make an appointment with the park service and arrange a tour of the monument.
The tours are led by well-informed park rangers who teach visitors all about the Port Chicago Disaster. The whole experience is a very well-thought-out and honorable remembrance of one of the most tragic events to occur in Northern California.
To learn more about visiting the Port Chicago Naval Magazine, you can visit the National Park Service website
Did you know the history behind this deadly accident? There’s a lot of history to be uncovered in our state. Check out these
11 Must-Visit Historical Landmarks In Northern California for more points of interest for history enthusiasts.