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May 21, 2014

May 21, 1944

Saw this today on the twitter:

It was a Sunday afternoon a little after 3pm local time. An explosion aboard LST-353 moored at West Loch, Pearl Harbor set off a chain reaction of explosions and fires about other closely moored LSTs. It took 2 days of firefighting before the Navy got control of the catastrophe. Several LSTs moved or were moved to safety but others were abandoned and allowed to drift, spreading the fires.

163 dead, 396 wounded. The exact cause was not identified but the official inquiry determined that it was likely started by an exploding mortar round. It was also believed that a lack of training on how to handle mortar rounds was a factor.

Two months months later a similar munitions explosion at Port Chicago California resulted in 320 killed and 390 injured. Same conditions, the mostly black sailors had never received proper training on loading ammunition.

Not many people heard of the West Loch disaster because it was immediately classified (they were preparing for a major Marine invasion and OPSEC was mandatory). The incident was declassified and revealed to the public in 1960.


Boxcars in revetments at Port Chicago damaged by the blast

UPDATE: A couple of commenters mention the Port Chicago Mutiny that took place after the disaster. If you haven't read about it look it up, short version is several hundred men expressed concerns (understandably so) about continuing to load munitions in the same circumstances and and under the same officers. Some were persuaded by threat of court martial to continue the work, others were convicted in summary courts martial, with 50 of those being declared by the Navy as Mutineers. That story is worth your time, it wasn't my intent to go into it here but it is very relevant, and as Anna said " well that can stir up some controversy also."

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posted by Dave In Texas at 06:51 PM

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