What a Creep
Season 17, Episode 1
The Port Chicago Disaster July 1944
On Monday, July 17, 1944, at just after 10 pm, the Northern California town of Port Chicago had an explosion of two ships that took the lives of over 320 sailors and injured almost 400 others. For two years, the US Navy shipped munitions around the clock at the naval base that consisted of a segregated outfit (the entire military, with FDR as its Commander in Chief, was segregated.) Everything from bullets to bombs weighing thousands of pounds was brought in and shipped in 24-hour shifts with white officers in charge of black recruits with no chance of advancement. No one received proper training in handling munitions or was given safety precautions like gloves, glasses, or any gear to protect the crew.
The man who ran the shifts knew there was so much demand for product and not so much worry about safety that they bet on who could produce the most in the shortest amount of time. The black officers were not only treated poorly on the base, but they also experienced segregation in the communities where they trained and worked.
After the Port Chicago disaster, 50 men refused to continue working under these dangerous conditions and were tried and convicted of treason. In one way, they helped jump-start the military’s civil rights movement, but they have yet to receive proper recognition for what they went through. Maybe our little show can help?
- Port Chicago Disaster Wikipedia
- National WW2 Museum
- NBC TV 75th Anniversary
- Contra Costa Historical Society
- US Dept of Veteran Affairs
- Smithsonian magazine
- The Port Chicago Disaster by Charles Rivers editors
- The Port Chicago 50: By Steve Sheinkin