, On October 24, 1944, Admiral Osterhaus and the other six members of the court deliberated for 80 minutes and found all 50 defendants guilty of mutiny. Marshall had flown to the Bay Area on a special wartime travel priority arranged by Navy Secretary Forrestal. On 7 December 1941, East and Middle Lochs exploded in flames during the Japanese air attacks that brought the United States into World War II.  This series of actions was rough enough that damaged naval shells sometimes leaked identification dye from their ballistic caps.  In March 2008, NPS was directed by Congress to manage the memorial, after passage of a bill introduced in 2007 by Miller. Two formal lectures and several informal lectures were given to the enlisted men by commanding officers, but follow-up confirmation of retained knowledge did not take place. " Roosevelt forwarded a copy to his wife Eleanor, knowing of her ongoing advocacy of civil rights for African Americans. Veltmann pointed out that few of the accused had been ordered to load ammunition, meaning that they could not all be guilty of the charge of disobeying orders. , The site is contained within an active military base and requires prior reservation to visit. West Loch, spared from destruction at the hands of the enemy, fell victim three-and-one-half years later to a spectacular and devastating ordnance accident. Then, on July 17, 1944, two ships containing two thousand tons of munitions exploded for reasons that remain unknown. The WWII-era SS Richard Montgomery sits just over a mile from shore – and locals fear that its 1,400 tonnes of potent explosives could go off at any time. , Some of the men who had been named as having been given direct orders to work testified that they had not been given any such order. An officer who left the docks shortly after 10 p.m. noticed that the Quinault′s propeller was slowly turning over and that the men of Division Three were having trouble pulling munitions from the rail cars because they had been packed so tightly. Winch brakes—a safety feature provided for stopping the load from falling if the winch's main power was lost—were not often used by a skilled winch operator, as the load could be more quickly maneuvered using various power settings than by application of the brakes. Admiral Wright stuck by his reduced sentences. 'This story was submitted to the People’s War site by BBC Radio Merseyside’s People’s War team on behalf of Francis O'Neil and has been added to the site with his / her permission. During World War II, the Navy loaded thousands of pounds of explosives onto cargo ships headed to the Pacific theater at Port Chicago, near the mouth of the Sacramento River. Commander Joseph R. Tobin of Ryder Street Naval Barracks said that he personally ordered six or seven of the men to load munitions on August 9 but was unable to verify if any others were so ordered.  A few of them were held as witnesses in the upcoming mutiny trial. The men of Divisions One, Five and Seven were reassigned other duty in distant locations and shipped out. The documentary was nominated for the Peabody Awards and won an Emmy. In March 1945 a Seabee battalion of 1,000 African-American men staged a hunger strike at their base, Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme, California, in protest of discriminatory conditions. , The inquiry covered possible explosion scenarios involving sabotage, faulty fueling procedures, failure of the moorings of the Quinault Victory, defects in munitions, the presence of a super sensitive element in the ordnance, problems with steam winches and rigging, rough handling by loaders and organizational problems within the base. Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1940-1945 AE -- Ammunition Ships Click on "AE-##" for link to page … The Explosion On the evening of July 17, 1944 there were two ships being loaded at the pier. The Port Chicago disaster was a deadly explosion that took place on July 17, 1944 at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine in Port Chicago, California, in the United States. , Veltmann scored a victory at the beginning of his defense: he moved and was granted that each officer's testimony could be applied only to the men they had specifically named as having been given the order to work. In November 1944, Marshall wrote an incendiary piece for The Crisis magazine, published by the NAACP. He said the conversations at Camp Shoemaker were simply those of men who were trying to understand what had happened, and that these discussions were not mutinous nor could they provide the groundwork for conspiracy. The Liberty ship SS E.A. During the Second World War, in Liverpool, there was an armament ship that blew up. Newhaven WW2 memories. , A boxcar delivery containing a new airborne anti-submarine depth charge design, the Mark 47 armed with 252 lb (114 kg) of torpex, was being loaded into No. On August 10, there had been conflicts between the prisoners and their guards as the prisoners were marched to the mess hall for meals. The Port Chicago disaster had helped catalyze the drive to implement new standards. Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial. , Sixty-seven officers and crew of the two ships were at their stations, and various support personnel were present such as the three-man civilian train crew and a Marine sentry. referenced.  Incendiary bombs were being loaded as well; these bombs weighed 650 lb (290 kg) each and were "live"—they had their fuzes installed. 2 hold. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not
Divisions Two and Four were split by the decisions of their men: Small and 43 others chose to form a group unwilling to obey every order. My father worked on the dock (reserved occupation) in chimneys as a landmark guide. Pearl Harbor contains three subareas, or “lochs,” named East, Middle, and West. Another of the 50, who had a broken wrist in a sling was also asked if he would load ammunition, to which he replied that he would not. The Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial Enhancement Act of 2008 was not put to a vote.  No enlisted man stationed at Port Chicago had ever received formal training in the handling and loading of explosives into ships. Ammunition Ship 'woomera' Blows Up The ship was about 40% full by the evening of July 17. Atlantic vessels were refit for their new duties in the Pacific.  The Navy refused to change its procedures and Cronk withdrew the detail. Petitions began to circulate, collecting thousands of names of citizens who demanded a reversal of the mutiny verdict. At 9:05 a.m., in the harbor of Halifax in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, the most devastating manmade explosion in the pre-atomic age occurs when the Mont Blanc, a French munitions ship, explodes 20 minutes after colliding with another vessel. Marshall's appeal made the case that no direct order was given to all 50 of the defendants to load munitions and that even if orders had been given to certain individuals, disobeying the orders could not constitute mutiny. Approximately two-thirds of the dead and injured were enlisted African American sailors. If we stick together, they can't do anything to us. Enjoy this [relatively] clear film of ammunition ship SS John Burke being completely destroyed in one of the largest manmade non-nuclear explosions in the history of the world.  In 1994, the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial was dedicated to the lives lost in the disaster. They discovered that not all of the 50 were experienced ship loaders. Freely downloadable at the Internet Archive, where I first uploaded it. Nearby boxcars—waiting within their revetments to be unloaded at midnight—were bent inward and crumpled by the force of the shock. All said they were afraid of another explosion. History. 1044: Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial Enhancement Act of 2009, Park remembers sailors killed in WWII blast, "Hazardous Duty 'The Port Chicago 50,' by Steve Sheinkin", U.S. Maritime Service Veterans memorial page, Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Monument, Shipwrecks and maritime incidents in July 1944, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Port_Chicago_disaster&oldid=989589941, African-American history in the San Francisco Bay Area, African-American history of the United States military, History of civil rights in the United States, History of Contra Costa County, California, Industrial fires and explosions in the United States, Non-combat internal explosions on warships, Articles with dead external links from June 2017, Articles with permanently dead external links, All Wikipedia articles written in American English, Articles with unsourced statements from August 2020, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 19 November 2020, at 21:40. Find out how you can use this. The Navy determined that the quality of African American petty officers at Port Chicago suffered because of the absence of high-scoring black men, and that overall levels of competence were further reduced by the occasional requirement for Port Chicago to supply drafts of men with clear records for transfer to other stations. Listing of U.S. Navy Auxiliaries of World War II -- Ammunition Ships (AE): by type, class, and ship. The fuel, taken aboard at Shell Oil Company's Martinez refinery mid-day on July 17, would normally be sluiced to other fuel tanks in the following 24 hours.  Petty officers were seen as having aims fundamentally different from those of their men—they were described later as "slave drivers" and "Uncle Toms". Congressman George Miller. Ninety-six of 104 refused and were sent to the prison barge, but all of these men agreed to work after hearing Admiral Wright's speech on August 11; none of Morehouse's men were on trial for mutiny. Just after 11:30 AM she suffered an explosion in her forward #2 turret ammunition handling room. Coakley began his prosecution by calling officers from Port Chicago and Mare Island as witnesses. Sad video of Loyce Deen being buried at sea with the plane he gave his life in during World War 2 on November 5, 1944.  On a prominent chalkboard, Kinne tallied each crew's average tonnage per hour. , On July 13, 1944, the day that the E. A. Bryan docked at Port Chicago, the ship's No. A memorial ceremony was held for the victims on July 31, 1944, at Port Chicago. Forrestal told Roosevelt that white units of munitions loaders were to be added to the rotation "...to avoid any semblance of discrimination against negroes [sic]. Marshall pointed to the men of Division One who had refused to load ammunition prior to August 9, but had been shipped out and given other duty, not arrested and court-martialed. He said to the men, "We've got the officers by the balls—they can do nothing to us if we don't do anything to them. There were also ARPs going around shouting, “turn that light out!”
", U.S. Navy Historical Page. Veltmann restated that the established legal definition of mutiny was a concerted effort to usurp, subvert or override military authority, and that there had been no such action or intent. Early in the afternoon, an enormous explosion of ammunition in the harbor set off a conflagration lasting for hours and killing hundreds and injuring more. Among the dead were all five Coast Guard personnel posted aboard the fire barge. The men were in a state of shock; all were nervous. The enlisted men were aware of the unsanctioned nature of the bets and knew to slow down to a more reasonable pace whenever a senior officer appeared. Questions focused on identifying "ringleaders" of the work-stoppage and on what was said by whom at the meeting on the prison barge. The next day, three-hundred and twenty-eight men were assembled and marched off. Chosen to head the seven-man court was Rear Admiral Hugo Wilson Osterhaus, United States Naval Academy, class of 1900. The ship arrived at the dock with empty cargo holds but was carrying a full load of 5,292 barrels (841,360 liters) of bunker C heavy fuel oil for its intended trip across the Pacific Ocean.  None of the new recruits had been instructed in ammunition loading. Keibel called attention to the stained glass windows, which were crafted in 1991 as a tribute to the disaster, noting that they could be dismantled and remounted at the memorial site. SS John Burke (MC hull number 609) was an American Liberty Ship built during World War II, one of the 2,710 type 'EC2-S-C1' ships that carried all kinds and types of dry cargo during the war. " Marshall said "I can't understand why whenever more than one Negro disobeys an order it is mutiny. The air raid on Bari (German: Luftangriff auf den Hafen von Bari, Italian: Bombardamento di Bari) was an air attack by German bombers on Allied forces and shipping in Bari, Italy, on 2 December 1943, during World War II. insisted the amount be reduced to $2,000 when he learned most of the dead were black men. ", On August 11, 1944, the 258 men from the prison barge were marched to a nearby sports field and lectured by Admiral Wright who told them that troops fighting on Saipan desperately needed the ammunition they were supposed to be loading and that continued refusal to work would be treated as mutinous conduct, which carried the death penalty in times of war. , On September 15, Delucchi continued his testimony, saying that some of his men told him they would obey all orders and perform all work except loading ammunition because they were afraid of it. Deen received a … This day, however, Thurgood Marshall, chief counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), sat in on the proceedings. 3111... Representative Miller Introduces Legislation to Activate Port Chicago's Bid to Become a National Park, "End of an Era: Port Chicago chapel's fate uncertain", S.3253: Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial Enhancement Act of 2008, H.R.  The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) responded to word of unsafe practices by offering to bring in experienced men to train the battalion but Navy leadership declined the offer, fearing higher costs, slower pace, and possible sabotage from civilian longshoremen. Collison interspersed interviews with contemporary news reports about the explosion. Osterhaus ruled that Coakley could not introduce the statements as evidence but that he could ask the defendants questions based on what each man's signed statement contained. Diagram from the Port Chicago board of inquiry's report showing the facility's munitions pier at the time of the disaster. § 173.59. The official proceeding lasted for 39 days and included interviews with witnesses who were officers, civilians and enlisted men. Forty-nine of the 50 "mutineers" were imprisoned in the camp's brig. Although Marshall was allowed to observe the trial, as a civilian he was ineligible to take an official role in the men's defense. Pamphlets were printed and distributed, and editorials denouncing the trial appeared from African-American publishers in January 1945. WWII Metal Detecting - German Waffen SS - Traces of War on the Eastern Front - Duration: 19:47. Wright sent an incident report of this mutiny to Washington, D.C., telling his superior officers that the men's "refusal to perform the required work arises from a mass fear arising out of the Port Chicago explosion. Full Title: The Liberty Ship SS Robert Rowan explodes after being hit by a German bomber off the coast of Gela, Sicily on July 11, 1943.  Handling of larger munitions, such as bombs and shells, involved using levers and crowbars from boxcars, in which they were packed tightly with dunnage—lifting the heavy, grease-coated cylinders, rolling them along the wooden pier, packing them into nets, lifting them by winch and boom, lowering the bundle into the hold, then dropping individual munitions by hand a short distance into place. Five to seven seconds later a more powerful explosion took place as the majority of the ordnance within and near the SS E. A. Bryan detonated in a fireball seen for miles. Statement of William D. Shaddox, ...National Park Service, ...Concerning H.R. Early in the afternoon, an enormous explosion of ammunition in the harbor set off a conflagration lasting for hours and killing hundreds and injuring more. Coakley characterized the statements as not being confessions requiring voluntary conditions but merely "admissions" that had no such requirement. ". In 1944, the town was a little more than a mile from a U.S. Navy munitions depot, the Port Chicago Naval Magazine, which was later expanded and renamed the Concord Naval Weapons Station but is now called the Military Ocean Terminal Concord. March 11, 2002. Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1940-1945 AE -- Ammunition Ships Click on "AE-##" for link to page with specifications, history, photographs (where available). , Commander Paul B. Cronk, head of a Coast Guard explosives-loading detail tasked with supervision of the working dock, warned the Navy that conditions were unsafe and ripe for disaster. , In 1990, Will Robinson and Ken Swartz produced the documentary Port Chicago Mutiny—A National Tragedy, about the explosion and trial. , The defense continued a few more days with testimony from a Navy psychiatrist who verified that the immense explosion would generate fear in each man. , Veltmann denied that there was a mutinous conspiracy, saying the men were in a state of shock stemming from the horrific explosion and the subsequent cleanup of human body parts belonging to their former battalion mates. The Coast Guard fire boat CG-60014-F was thrown 600 ft (180 m) upriver, where it sank. , After the surrender of Japan and the cessation of hostilities, the Navy was no longer able to justify such severe sentences as a warning to other potentially dissident servicemen and labor battalions. This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Jon Excell investigates. The Navy's General Classification Test (GCT) results for the enlisted men at Port Chicago averaged 31, putting them in the lowest twelfth of the Navy. , The 50 remaining men—soon to be known as the "Port Chicago 50"—were formally charged in early September 1944 with disobeying orders and making a mutiny "with a deliberate purpose and intent to override superior military authority". He called attention to three aspects: the Navy policy that put the great majority of African Americans into segregated shore duty, the unsafe munitions handling practices and lack of training that had led to the catastrophic detonation—and the unfair manner in which 50 of 258 men had been singled out as mutineers. We lived a half a mile away from the ship at Sylvester Street that was off Scotland Road.  Meeks pushed for a pardon as a way to get the story out, saying "I hope that all of America knows about it... it's something that's been in the closet for so long. The Navy found that racial inequities were responsible for the sailors' ammunition-loading assignments but that no prejudice occurred at the courts-martial. , Another one of the men gave the surprising testimony that Lieutenant Commander Coakley had threatened to have him shot after he refused to answer some questions during interrogation at Camp Shoemaker. She had been assigned as a Sonar Test ship. AMM2C Loyce Deen was a Gunner on a Grumman TBF Avenger who lost his life after attacking Japanese vessels during the Battle of Manila Bay. Coakley stated that conspiratorial talk among the men about refusing to work and trying to get out of loading ammunition was the root of their August 9 mass refusal. 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