AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive
Remembering Port Chicago
Port Chicago Committee Seeks to Remember Sacrifices by African American Sailors at Port Chicago During World War II
The Port Chicago Committee envisions a future Port Chicago National Memorial that will expand the current Memorial, located on the site of the explosion, and will encompass 250 acres of the former Port Chicago waterfront. The Memorial will pay tribute to those who died in the explosion.
San Leandro, CA (PRWEB) April 19, 2005 -- The Port Chicago National Memorial commemorates an event of major significance during World War II. On July 17, 1944, a devastating explosion took the lives of 320 persons. It was the largest home-front disaster during World War II.
Most of those who died were young African American sailors. Other fatalities included Navy officers, crew members, Navy Armed Guards, civilian workers, as well as Marine and Coast Guard personnel. The explosion destroyed the base and severely damaged the nearby town of Port Chicago, injuring several hundred residents.
The ammunition loading workforce at the Port Chicago Naval Ammunition Depot was composed exclusively of African Americans. After the disaster some 258 of the black sailors engaged in a work stoppage on August 9, 1944 to protest the racial discrimination and unsafe working conditions at the base.
Fifty of the sailors were charged with mutiny and convicted in the largest mutiny trial in U.S. Navy history. In the aftermath of the work stoppage, historic steps toward racial integration in the Navy were taken, encouraged by such figures as Eleanor Roosevelt, who used Port Chicago as an example of the need for desegregation in the military.
The Committee envisions a future Port Chicago National Memorial that will expand the current Memorial, located on the site of the explosion, and will encompass 250 acres of the former Port Chicago waterfront. The memorial site will include some of the railroad revetments and old boxcars from the 1940s period. The current base Port Chicago Memorial chapel, with stained glass windows depicting the WWII operations, will be maintained as a site for remembrance and reflection.
The Memorial will pay tribute to those who died in the explosion. Educational programs will be provided focusing on the significance of the base operations towards the war effort, as well as the injustices of racial discrimination and segregation at the base prior to the explosion.