75 years after the deadly blast, effort to exonerate Port Chicago survivors clears hurdle in defense bill

CONCORD — In tandem with the approaching 75th anniversary of the Port Chicago explosion — the deadliest home front disaster of World War II — an East Bay congressman has added an amendment to a federal act approved by the House on Friday that would exonerate 50 survivors of the explosion who were convicted of mutiny for refusing to work in unsafe conditions

The amendment, introduced by East Bay Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, calls on the Secretary of the United States Navy to publicly exonerate the “Port Chicago 50” — the group of African American sailors who refused to return to to the Concord Naval Weapons Station to load and unload dangerous munitions without proper safety training. The amendment was inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 220-to-197.

“I cannot think of a more fitting tribute on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Port Chicago disaster than to finally honor the Port Chicago 50 with exoneration,” DeSaulnier said in a written statement. “For far too long the names of these brave men have been tarnished by our history of racial discrimination, but today we are righting a wrong and giving the Port Chicago 50 the respect they deserved so many years ago.”

In 1944, African Americans enlisted and drafted in the Navy worked in units segregated and often were put to work in loading and unloading ships. The men working at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine did not get information or training and thought they were handling inactive munitions, according to the Friends of Port Chicago National Memorial. Instead, they were loading bombs with warheads. On July 17, 1944, the crews at the Concord Naval Weapons Station were loading two naval vessels with active munitions when the explosives ignited in a series of …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


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