Site Where WW2 African American Servicemen Lost Their Lives Given National Park Designation

wwII explosion af amer

In case you never heard the story, which most of us haven’t, in northern California right off the Sacramento river the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial is five acres of land set aside to receive a National Park designation for the lives that were lost there.

On July 17, 1944, out of 320 navy sailors, 202 were black  and were killed as they loaded munitions for a naval boat during World War II.  According to the report in USA Today, they were ordered to “work as cargo handlers, loading explosives, incendiary bombs, depth charges and ammunition onto ships for delivery to the war in the Pacific.”  Naval record shows that they had no training in handling munitions.

On that day, the entire area lit up like a roman candle igniting 5,000 tons of munitions in seconds.  These sailors were not qualified and during the time of a segregated military they were not going to be given the proper hazard training that this assignment required.

They were expendable and munitions were just the place for them.  But, what they thought would be a few dead negroes dropping  incidental weaponry resulted in the worst home-front disaster of World War II’s history.  The incident leveled buildings, took out the entire pier and crumpled rail cars like aluminum foil.

What happened after the explosion may have been paramount to what happened during the explosion.  The incident proved that there was no lesson learned in the devastation.  Over 300 African American navy men were ordered to resume loading munitions by August 9, while their white counterparts were given 30 days to recover from the incident.  Almost 260 refused and were court martialed and given 8 – 15 years hard labor while others were given a dishonorable discharge.

Read more here on the horrible incident that President Obama is trying to honorably acknowledge.  This incident was a major factor in the inception of the Civil Rights Movement.

7 thoughts on “Site Where WW2 African American Servicemen Lost Their Lives Given National Park Designation”

  1. That’s good that the President is honoring those sailors. I saw a movie based on this event and I didn’t realize it was in Sacramento. It was an awful ordeal, one which we should not forget.

  2. I am 30+, and college educated. I grew up and currently live in the SF/Oakland Bay Area not more than 10 miles from Port Chicago, yet I am saddened and appalled to admit that I knew nothing of this historical and tragic event until THIS YEAR.

    Thank you for sharing this…I look forward to visiting this when it becomes a National Park with my sons.

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