ASSOCIATES (2006, July, v. 13, no. 1) - associates.ucr.edu
The Port Chicago Disaster
Michael D. Brooks
Saint Joseph’s University
Francis A. Drexel Library
Each May, Americans “celebrate” Memorial Day. It is a national holiday and a day most people associate with the official start of the summer season, backyard barbeques, baseball, and trips to the shore/beach. But despite the festive atmosphere of the holiday, it is also a day to remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.
In November, Veterans’ Day is observed as a day to honor all veterans who have served in all of the wars and conflicts the U.S. has been involved in. Originally observed as Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I in 1918, its name was changed by an Act of Congress in 1954.
Through the years, various days are remembered like December 7, 1941, September 11, 2001, and June 6, 1944 (more commonly known as D-Day), and, of course, the Fourth of July. There are even international observances of days like August 6 and 9, 1945 (Hiroshima and Nagasaki), but one day in particular is overlooked, ignored, or is simply unknown by the majority of Americans. It is July 17, 1944.
What is so significant about this date? It is the date of the worst wartime home front disaster during WWII. It is perhaps the worst home front disaster during any American conflict (hot war) to date. The disaster resulted in a court martial for mutiny—which many have called a serious miscarriage of justice—has inspired a book by Robert L. Allen (The Port Chicago Mutiny), a History Channel documentary ("The Port Chicago Mutiny"), a TV movie which aired on NBC (“Mutiny”), scores of newspaper and journal articles, charges of conspiracy by government officials, denials, mystery, intrigue, unanswered questions, and lots of fodder for conspiracy theorists. But despite this interest, the complete destruction of a military naval port, two ships, the near-destruction of a small town a mile and half away (over 300 dead and over 400 injured), and an explosion with a blast radius felt for 50 miles has largely gone unnoticed by the average person and forgotten by history.
The following Web sites are very good resources for those genuinely interested in learning about a little-known chapter of American history and some of the controversy surrounding it. For those history buffs out there, these sites just may rekindle an interest and a curiosity in a significant part of American history left out of most history books. Anyone working on a school project and is looking for something no one else has reported on, should find these sites helpful.
The Port Chicago Disaster – A Resource for the Classroom
The Port Chicago Mutiny
Port Chicago Update
Congressman George Miller Praises Legal Firm Appeal on Port Chicago
Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial National Park Service
Equal Justice Society
The Last Wave from Port Chicago
San Francisco Chronicle
Naval Historical Center FAQ page
Port Chicago A Mushroom Cloud
Port Chicago – 50 Years: was it an atomic blast?
This article is dedicated to the memory of Ira Glen Miller, Jr. and all those with whom he proudly served.
First Serial Rights Only.
©2006 by Michael D. Brooks