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Port Chicago - America's First Atomic Test

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posted on Nov, 29 2002 @ 11:19 AM
'In 1944, the Port Chicago disaster killed hundreds of Americans in a single blast. Was it an accident, or was it America's first atomic weapons test?

On the night of 17th July 1944, two transport vessels loading ammunition at the Port Chicago (California) naval base on the Sacramento River were suddenly engulfed in a gigantic explosion. The incredible blast wrecked the naval base and heavily damaged the small town of Port Chicago, located 1.5 miles away. Some 320 American naval personnel were killed instantly. The two ships and the large loading pier were totally annihilated. Several hundred people were injured, and millions of dollars in property damage was caused by the huge blast. Windows were shattered in towns 20 miles away, and the glare of the explosion could be seen in San Francisco, some 35 miles away. It was the worst home-front disaster of World War II. Officially, the world's first atomic test explosion occurred on 16th July 1945 at Alamogordo, New Mexico; but the Port Chicago blast may well have been the world's first atomic detonation, whether accidental or not.'

'Just before 10:20 p.m., a massive explosion occurred at the pier. To some observers it appeared that two explosions, only a few seconds apart, occurred: a first and smaller blast was felt; this was followed quickly by a cataclysmic explosion as the E. A. Bryan went off like one gigantic bomb, sending a column of fire and smoke more than 12,000 feet into the night sky.
Everyone on the pier and aboard the two ships was killed instantly: some 320 men, 200 of whom were black enlisted men. Very few intact bodies were recovered. Another 390 military and civilian personnel were injured, including 226 black enlisted men. This single, stunning disaster accounted for almost one-fifth of all black naval casualties during the whole of World War II. Property damage, military and civilian, was estimated at more than US$12 million.'

'The E. A. Bryan was literally blown to bits. Very little of its wreckage was ever found. The Quinalt Victory was lifted clear out of the water by the blast, turned around and broken into pieces. The largest piece of the Quinalt Victory which remained after the explosion was a 65-foot section of the keel, its propeller attached, which protruded from the bay at low tide, 1,000 feet from its original position.'

'There was at least one 12-ton diesel locomotive operating on the pier at the time of the explosion. Not a single piece of the locomotive car was ever identified: the locomotive simply vanished. In the river stream, several small boats half a mile distant from the pier reported being hit by a 30-foot wall of water.'



CLICK HERE for HI-RES pictures to get an idea of the damage

The July 1944 blast caused a crater 66 feet deep, 300 feet wide and 700 feet long in the river bottom. A five-kiloton nuclear bomb on the surface of wet soil creates a crater 53 feet deep and 132 feet in diameter. Some of the blast was absorbed by the ship's hull, so it may have exceeded five kilotons.

Residual radiation exposures in this area are unknown, as Port Chicago was used also as a decontamination port for ships exposed to nuclear blasts in the Marshall Islands.

Los Alamos Laboratories have an inventory of all munitions loaded onto the Bryan before the disaster. For 18th July 1944, there are two empty boxcars, DLW44755 and GN46324, listed with an asterisk. The asterisk refers to a note at the bottom of the page: "Papers showing that these cars were loaded we destroyed, so cars do not show on attach[ed] list." These may have been the cars which carried two parts of the uranium-235 gun.

[Edited on 30-11-2002 by mad scientist]

posted on Nov, 30 2002 @ 11:17 AM
This is a fairly well documented event. I believe from what I've read that it really was a small scale test on an American facility.

What does everyone else think ?

posted on Nov, 30 2002 @ 12:17 PM
I think this might have just been a freak accident. Both ships were heavily supplied with ammunition; one little spark of fire or something could have done it. I doubt that any of our enemies during WW2 are responsible as there were (are) bases all along the water way there and they would have picked up the enemy, and I don't understand why we would want to semi nuke ourselves during a war. Then again it's hard to find out the whole truth as everything was blasted into dust.....

posted on Nov, 30 2002 @ 12:55 PM
I'm looking at the cars.The paint isn't peeled and one appears to have tyres unmelted.This only 200 yards from the pier.
I've had a good trawl on the web another good site
I'm going to look a bit further into this over the next week or so but my impression now is that it was an accident.
The Manhatten Project officially didn't receive any radioactive material until Nov 1944

posted on Dec, 1 2002 @ 05:11 PM
How do u run nuclear tests without letting the enemy know? Kill some blacks so they think its an accidental huge explosion.

Sounds probable...

posted on Dec, 1 2002 @ 09:05 PM
Aw, come on, F-D, isn't that a little far-fetched, especially since it is so close to civilization? Especially considering they still weren't totally convinced to what extent the nuclear genie would reach out and destroy?

posted on Dec, 1 2002 @ 09:16 PM
ne 1 watch the jag episode based on that event it was pretty good plus i don;t think they'd let an a-bomb off so close to soo many who are american

posted on Dec, 2 2002 @ 03:45 AM
Yes I remember hearing about this, the black loaders were blamed for it. I suppose it is actually just a screw up and the munitions ship blew up. The idea that it could have been a test is interesting, but there doesn't seem to be radiation left over that is so common with nukes.

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posted on Dec, 2 2002 @ 07:18 AM

Originally posted by Thomas Crowne
Aw, come on, F-D, isn't that a little far-fetched, especially since it is so close to civilization? Especially considering they still weren't totally convinced to what extent the nuclear genie would reach out and destroy?

Bearing in mind this was only a 5kt ( 5000 tonne TNT eqivalent ), which was a quarter the size of Nagasaki. The blast damage would have been contained within the immediate surrounds.
Now whilst some scientists thought that the a-bomb may ignite the very atmosphere, others didn't believe this would happen. There was a great diversity of opinion as to what would happen.

Port Chicago being an ammunition handling facilty would be the perfect cover for a scaled down detonation of an a-bomb test.
Also, for the explosive power to have been 5kt, the weight of conventional explosive would have had to of been much greater than 5000 tonnes. As such large quanitities of explosive would explode inefficiently.
ie. a 5000 tonne conventional explosion would explode with much less force than a 5kt nuke.

Much of the weight of munitions on the ship was taken up with the metal casings. Therefore the actual explosive material would be far less than 5000 tonnes.

posted on Dec, 2 2002 @ 07:30 AM
The Navy has a film record of the disaster at its Concord Naval Weapons Station. After being challenged, the Navy claimed this was a Hollywood simulation of a miniature explosion. The film shows a typical nuclear explosion, which would have been hard to simulate. According the the Navy, the film was created to support their argument to the US Congress sometime in the 1960s that the remains of the the town of Port Chicago be purchased by the Navy and incorporated into the Concord Naval Weapons Station as a buffer zone in the event of another large explosion.

Significantly, the Navy did not claim the film was a re-creation until after it was suggested that the film could be the record of a nuclear detonation. However, Dan Tikalsky, public affairs chief at Concord, told Peter Vogel, writing for The Black Scholar magazine, that the film was a nitrate-base film, which would require the film to have been produced prior to 1950 when nitrate-base film was replaced with non-explosive cellulose-base film.

Peter Vogel wrote in the Spring 1982 edition of The Black Scholar:

"Based on viewing an edited video copy of that film which was made available to me, I have concluded that the film records, in every detail, the progression of the actual explosion of July 17, 1944 at Port Chicago. For example, early frames of the film suggest a record of the expansion of the Wilson condensation cloud during which the formation of the ball of fire is obscured. Furthermore, the movements exhibited by several large, independent fragments of the explosion over time compared to the speed of the explosion itself are evidence of the very large distances those fragments travelled during the course of the film sequence.

"It is obvious, of course, that only an intentional film record of the blast could have been made since the probability of having, by chance, a motion picture camera rolling and pointed in the right direction at the right time at night is exceedingly remote.

"If the explosion was filmed at the Port Chicago site, it would follow that the explosion was planned and anticipated."

posted on Dec, 2 2002 @ 07:36 AM

There are two primary sources, The Los Alamos Project, Volumes I and II (distribution, 1961), which contains the official history of the Manhattan Project, code-name for the atomic bomb program in World War II, and a Los Alamos declassified document entitled "History of the 10,000-ton Gadget", which dates from about September 1944.

Manhattan District History-Project Y: The Los Alamos Project, Volumes I and II, LAMS-2532, Los Alamos, Paragraph 11:20, refers to work accomplished at Los Alamos following 1st August 1944 in describing the process of an atomic explosion. It is almost identical with the Los Alamos document, "History of the 10,000-ton Gadget", procured by Peter Vogel, a Santa Fe historian. Both appear to describe an actual nuclear explosion. Joseph O. Hirschfelder (later of University of Wisconsin at Madison) was director of the project at Los Alamos. Paragraph 11:20 of the Manhattan District History (supposedly prepared in November 1944) reads:

"Much more extensive investigation of the behavior and effects of a nuclear explosion were made during this period than had been possible before, tracing the history of the process from the initial expansion of the active material and tamper [Tuballoy, an inert neutron-reflective material] through the final stages. These investigations included the formation of the shock wave in the air, the radiation history of the early stages of the explosion, the formation of the 'ball of fire', the attenuation of the blast wave in air at greater distances, and the effects of blasts and radiations of [sic.] human beings and structures. General responsibility for this work was given to Group T-7, with the advice and assistance of [the British Mission consultant] W. G. Penney."

Los Alamos Laboratories Theoretical Division Group T-7 (Damage) was formed in November 1944 and had been the former Group O-5 (Calculations) of the Ordnance Division. As was noted, William Parsons was the Division Leader for Ordnance. He reported to J. Robert Oppenheimer. Both O-5 and T-7 were headed by Hirschfelder. The responsibility of G-7 was to complete the earlier investigations of damage and of the general phenomenology of a nuclear explosion.

posted on Dec, 2 2002 @ 08:07 AM
Here is a link to the type of bomb that was used. It contains several descriptions of the Mark II weapon. It was a low-efficeincy implosion bomb suitable for use with enriched uranium or plutonium.
The link has mostly pdf files, but is the most comprehensive site on Port Chicgo.

posted on Dec, 5 2002 @ 09:58 PM
Sounds like a shell from an atomic cannon went off. Nukes can be launched by a tank or artillery and during W.W.II (while many do not know about it) such weapons were used in the European theater. The radioactive yield would be limited and easy to cover up. I know about this because I had a friend who worked for the VA and knew about this issue in relation to the treatment of soldiers exposed.

It could very well have been an accident as it was so top secret (at the time and now) that the soldiers managing its placement in the ships probably did not know what they were handling and so could not have even known the special precautions to take.

posted on Dec, 6 2002 @ 02:20 AM
shouldn't there be lingering radioactivity in the area? much more then normal

i find it hard (nearly impossible, nearly only because i'm extremely open minded) that we, or anybody else, could have engineered a nuclear weapon small enough to fit in an artillery shell during WWII

posted on Dec, 6 2002 @ 03:31 AM
As far as I know the first test of an atomic artillery shell was in 1953 at Frenchman's Flat. It was a 15kt device fired from a 280mm specially built cannon nicknamed ' Atomic Annie '.

posted on Dec, 6 2002 @ 07:04 AM
Imagin that, Satanists in the US Gov during WWII. Im not shocked.

posted on Dec, 6 2002 @ 11:29 AM
Id never heard of this incident before reading this thread. I have to agree with KKing tho. Surely there would have been lingering radioactivity?

Tho the description of the blast makes it sound pretty nasty.

I dunno as usual im gonna sit on the fence,

posted on Dec, 6 2002 @ 04:01 PM
I agree there would have been radiation but in those day's who would be the only ones who even knew what that was? Also as far as death by radiation poisioning who would make such a diagnosis in those days.

MS I would say 1953 was when an atomic artillery shell was first declasified.

posted on Dec, 6 2002 @ 08:04 PM

Originally posted by Ezekiel
Id never heard of this incident before reading this thread. I have to agree with KKing tho. Surely there would have been lingering radioactivity?

Tho the description of the blast makes it sound pretty nasty.

I dunno as usual im gonna sit on the fence,

Any lingering activity would have been covered up as the ships used in Pacific nuclear testing were decontaminated there.

posted on Dec, 8 2002 @ 04:59 PM
From the Bohemian Grove. "On the night of 17th July 1944" Yep, that means those bastards were there at their annual good ol boy reunion. I bet they all drove down there to see the carnage.

[Edited on 8-12-2002 by All Seeing Eye]

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