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Wed Jul 17, 2019, 10:32 AM

75 Years Ago Today; The Port Chicago (CA) Disaster

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Chicago_disaster


Damage at the Port Chicago Pier after the explosion of July 17, 1944

The Port Chicago disaster was a deadly munitions explosion that occurred on July 17, 1944, at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine in Port Chicago, California, United States. Munitions detonated while being loaded onto a cargo vessel bound for the Pacific Theater of Operations, killing 320 sailors and civilians and injuring 390 others. Most of the dead and injured were enlisted African American sailors.

A month later, unsafe conditions inspired hundreds of servicemen to refuse to load munitions, an act known as the Port Chicago Mutiny. Fifty men‍—‌called the "Port Chicago 50"‍—‌were convicted of mutiny and sentenced to 15 years of prison and hard labor, as well as a dishonorable discharge. Forty-seven of the 50 were released in January 1946; the remaining three served additional months in prison.

During and after the trial, questions were raised about the fairness and legality of the court-martial proceedings. Owing to public pressure, the United States Navy reconvened the courts-martial board in 1945; the court affirmed the guilt of the convicted men. Widespread publicity surrounding the case turned it into a cause cιlθbre among certain Americans; it and other race-related Navy protests of 1944–45 led the Navy to change its practices and initiate the desegregation of its forces beginning in February 1946. In 1994, the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial was dedicated to the lives lost in the disaster.

On June 11, 2019, A concurrent resolution sponsored by Representative Mark DeSaulnier was agreed upon by the 116th congress. The resolution recognized the victims of the explosion and officially exonerated the 50 men court-martialed by the Navy.

Background


Aerial photograph looking eastward in early 1944. The town of Port Chicago is in the upper right. The lower left shows utility and personnel piers extending toward the two sections of Seal Island. The munitions loading pier curves to the left beyond 20-odd revetments. Marshy tidal zones separate the munitions pier from barracks buildings near the personnel pier and near the town.

The town of Port Chicago was located on Suisun Bay in the estuary of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. Suisun Bay is connected to the Pacific Ocean by San Francisco Bay. In 1944, the town was a little more than a mile from a U.S. Navy munitions depot, the Port Chicago Naval Magazine, which was later expanded and renamed the Concord Naval Weapons Station but is now called the Military Ocean Terminal Concord. The original magazine was planned in 1941 with construction beginning shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The first ship to dock at Port Chicago was loaded on December 8, 1942.

Munitions transported through the magazine included bombs, shells, naval mines, torpedoes, and small arms ammunition. The munitions, destined for the Pacific Theater of Operations, were delivered to the Port Chicago facility by rail then individually loaded by hand, crane and winch onto cargo ships for transport to the war zones. From the beginning, all the enlisted men employed as loaders at Port Chicago were African-American; all their commanding officers were white. All of the enlisted men had been specifically trained for one of the naval ratings during his stay at Naval Station Great Lakes (NSGL) but the men were instead put to work as stevedores. None of the new recruits had been instructed in ammunition loading.

Purported Quality of African American Personnel
At NSGL, the enlisted African Americans who tested in the top 30 to 40 percent were selected for non-labor battalion assignments. Port Chicago was manned by workers drawn from those remaining. The Navy determined that the quality of African American petty officers at Port Chicago suffered because of the absence of high-scoring black men, and that overall levels of competence were further reduced by the occasional requirement for Port Chicago to supply drafts of men with clear records for transfer to other stations. The Navy's General Classification Test (GCT) results for the enlisted men at Port Chicago averaged 31, putting them in the lowest twelfth of the Navy. Officers at Port Chicago considered the enlisted men unreliable, emotional, and lacking the capacity to understand or remember orders or instructions.

Black laborers at Port Chicago were led by black petty officers who were regarded by some workers as incompetent and ineffective in voicing their men's concerns to higher authority. Petty officers were seen as having aims fundamentally different from those of their men‍—‌they were described later as "slave drivers" and "Uncle Toms". They and their men sometimes struck an antagonistic relationship.

Captain Merrill T. Kinne‍—‌commander of the Port Chicago facility at the time of the explosion‍—‌had served in the Navy from 1915 to 1922 and had returned to the Navy from civilian life in 1941 to be posted aboard a general cargo ship. Prior to his being sent to command Port Chicago, Kinne had no training in the loading of munitions and very little experience in handling them. White loading officers serving underneath Kinne had not been trained in supervising enlisted personnel or in handling munitions until they had been posted to Mare Island Navy Yard, after which they were considered adequate to the task by the Navy.

Speed contests and safety training
Since April 1944 when Captain Kinne assumed command of Port Chicago, the loading officers had been pushing the enlisted men to load the explosive cargoes very quickly; 10 short tons (9.1 t) per hatch per hour had been set as the desired level by Captain Nelson Goss, Commander Mare Island Navy Yard, whose jurisdiction included Port Chicago Naval Magazine. Most loading officers considered this goal too high. On a prominent chalkboard, Kinne tallied each crew's average tonnage per hour. The junior officers placed bets with each other in support of their own 100-man crews‍—‌called "divisions" at Port Chicago‍—‌and coaxed their crews to load more than the others. The enlisted men were aware of the unsanctioned nature of the bets and knew to slow down to a more reasonable pace whenever a senior officer appeared. The average rate achieved at Port Chicago in the months leading up to July 1944 was 8.2 short tons (7.4 t) per hatch per hour; commercial stevedores at Mare Island performed only slightly better at 8.7 short tons (7.9 t) per hatch per hour.

There was no system at Port Chicago for making sure officers and men were familiar with safety regulations. Two formal lectures and several informal lectures were given to the enlisted men by commanding officers, but follow-up confirmation of retained knowledge did not take place. Safety regulations were posted at a single location at the pier but not within each of the barracks‍—‌Kinne did not think the enlisted men would be able to comprehend such a list. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) responded to word of unsafe practices by offering to bring in experienced men to train the battalion but Navy leadership declined the offer, fearing higher costs, slower pace, and possible sabotage from civilian longshoremen. No enlisted man stationed at Port Chicago had ever received formal training in the handling and loading of explosives into ships. Even the officers did not receive training: Lieutenant Commander Alexander Holman, loading officer at Port Chicago whose duties included officer training, had initiated a search for training materials and samples but failed to organize a training class before disaster struck.

Winch maintenance
Powered winches were used on cargo ships to speed the handling of heavy loads. One winch was operated at each of the ship's five cargo holds. During loading operations, the winches were worked hard, requiring steady maintenance to remain operable. Winch brakes‍—‌a safety feature provided for stopping the load from falling if the winch's main power was lost‍—‌were not often used by a skilled winch operator, as the load could be more quickly maneuvered using various power settings than by application of the brakes. Disused brakes sometimes seized up and stopped working. The winches on the SS E. A. Bryan were steam-powered and showed signs of wear, even though the ship was only five months old.

On July 13, 1944, the day that the E. A. Bryan docked at Port Chicago, the ship's No. 1 winch brakes were found stuck in the "off" position, meaning that the winch could be operated freely, but lacked critical stopping capability if steam pressure was interrupted. The ship's chief mate and chief engineer were called to examine the winch but it was never determined whether the brake was made operational. During loading operations on July 15 the winch at No. 2 hold began making a hammering noise. A steady application of grease quieted it through the night until its main bearing could be replaced the next morning on July 16. On the afternoon of July 17, a bleeder valve on winch No. 4 required immediate repair. Albert Carr, a civil service plumber from Pittsburg, California, was called to replace it; it was his first day at Port Chicago. Carr pulled a broken nipple out of the bleeder valve and replaced both the nipple and the valve from new stock taken from Port Chicago's shop. While at work he witnessed a man accidentally drop a naval artillery shell two feet onto the wooden pier but there was no detonation. Carr waited until the African-American winch operator tested the newly repaired winch then hurriedly left the pier, thinking that the whole operation appeared unsafe.

Munitions handling
The enlisted men were leery of working with deadly explosives but were told by officers that the larger munitions were not active and could not explode‍—‌that they would be armed with their fuzes upon arrival at the combat theater. Handling of larger munitions, such as bombs and shells, involved using levers and crowbars from boxcars, in which they were packed tightly with dunnage‍—‌lifting the heavy, grease-coated cylinders, rolling them along the wooden pier, packing them into nets, lifting them by winch and boom, lowering the bundle into the hold, then dropping individual munitions by hand a short distance into place. This series of actions was rough enough that damaged naval shells sometimes leaked identification dye from their ballistic caps.

Commander Paul B. Cronk, head of a Coast Guard explosives-loading detail tasked with supervision of the working dock, warned the Navy that conditions were unsafe and ripe for disaster. The Navy refused to change its procedures and Cronk withdrew the detail.

Disaster


Graphic reconstruction of the pier, boxcars and ships at Port Chicago just before the explosion, with estimates of type and weight of cargo

The Liberty ship SS E. A. Bryan docked at the inboard, landward side of Port Chicago's single 1,500 ft (460 m) pier at 8:15 a.m. on July 13, 1944. The ship arrived at the dock with empty cargo holds but was carrying a full load of 5,292 barrels (841,360 liters) of bunker C heavy fuel oil for its intended trip across the Pacific Ocean. At 10 a.m. that same day, seamen from the ordnance battalion began loading the ship with munitions. After four days of around-the-clock loading, about 4,600 tons (4,173 tonnes) of explosives had been stored in its holds. The ship was about 40% full by the evening of July 17.

At 10 p.m. on July 17, Division Three's 98 men were loading E. A. Bryan with 1,000-pound (450 kg) bombs into No. 3 hold, 40 mm shells into No. 5 hold and fragmentation cluster bombs into No. 4 hold.[28] Incendiary bombs were being loaded as well; these bombs weighed 650 lb (290 kg) each and were "live"‍—‌they had their fuzes installed. The incendiary bombs were being loaded carefully one at a time into No. 1 hold‍—‌the hold with a winch brake that might still have been inoperative.

A boxcar delivery containing a new airborne anti-submarine depth charge design, the Mark 47 armed with 252 lb (114 kg) of torpex, was being loaded into No. 2 hold. The torpex charges were more sensitive than TNT to external shock and container dents.[29] On the pier, resting on three parallel rail spurs, were sixteen rail cars holding about 430 short tons (390 t) of explosives. In all, the munitions on the pier and in the ship contained the equivalent of approximately 2,000 short tons (1,800 t) of TNT.

One hundred and two men of the Sixth Division, many fresh from training at NSGL, were busy rigging the newly built Victory ship SS Quinault Victory (also spelled Quinalt) in preparation for loading it with explosives, a task that was to begin at midnight. The Quinault contained a partial load of fuel oil, some of which was of a type that released flammable fumes as it sat, or upon agitation. The fuel, taken aboard at Shell Oil Company's Martinez refinery mid-day on July 17, would normally be sluiced to other fuel tanks in the following 24 hours.

Sixty-seven officers and crew of the two ships were at their stations, and various support personnel were present such as the three-man civilian train crew and a Marine sentry. Nine Navy officers and 29 armed guards watched over the procedure. A Coast Guard fire barge with a crew of five was docked at the pier. An officer who left the docks shortly after 10 p.m. noticed that the Quinault′s propeller was slowly turning over and that the men of Division Three were having trouble pulling munitions from the rail cars because they had been packed so tightly.

At 10:18 p.m., witnesses reported hearing a noise described as "a metallic sound and rending timbers, such as made by a falling boom." Immediately afterward, an explosion occurred on the pier and a fire started. Five to seven seconds later a more powerful explosion took place as the majority of the ordnance within and near the SS E. A. Bryan detonated in a fireball seen for miles. An Army Air Forces pilot flying in the area reported that the fireball was 3 mi (4.8 km) in diameter. Chunks of glowing hot metal and burning ordnance were flung over 12,000 ft (3,700 m) into the air. The E. A. Bryan was completely destroyed and the Quinault was blown out of the water, torn into sections and thrown in several directions; the stern landed upside down in the water 500 ft (150 m) away. The Coast Guard fire boat CG-60014-F was thrown 600 ft (180 m) upriver, where it sank. The pier, along with its boxcars, locomotive, rails, cargo, and men, was blasted into pieces. Nearby boxcars‍—‌waiting within their revetments to be unloaded at midnight‍—‌were bent inward and crumpled by the force of the shock. The port's barracks and other buildings and much of the surrounding town were severely damaged. Shattering glass and a rain of jagged metal and undetonated munitions caused many more injuries among military personnel and civilians, although no one outside the immediate pier area was killed. Nearly $9.9 million worth of damage ($140.9 million in 2018) was caused to U.S. government property. Seismographs at the University of California, Berkeley sensed the two shock waves traveling through the ground, determining the second, larger event to be equivalent to an earthquake measuring 3.4 on the Richter magnitude scale.

All 320 of the men on duty at the pier died instantly, and 390 civilians and military personnel were injured, many seriously. Among the dead were all five Coast Guard personnel posted aboard the fire barge. 202 of the dead and 233 of the injured were African-Americans, which accounted for 15% of all African-American naval casualties during World War II. Naval personnel worked quickly to contain the fires and to prevent other explosions. Injuries were treated, those seriously injured were hospitalized, and uninjured servicemen were evacuated to nearby stations.

Aftermath


Cleaning up the damage at the remains of the pier

After the fires had been contained there remained the gruesome task of cleaning up‍—‌body parts and corpses littered the bay and port. Of the 320 dead, only 51 could be identified. Most of the uninjured sailors volunteered to help clean up and rebuild the base; Division Two was separated into a group that would stay and clean up and a group that would be moved out. This section of Division Two and all of Divisions Four and Eight were transferred to Camp Shoemaker, about 30 mi (48 km) south, where they were assigned barracks duty until July 31, 1944. The men of Divisions One, Five and Seven were reassigned other duty in distant locations and shipped out. The cleanup detail from Division Two dug into the wreckage of the pier and began tearing out the damaged portions. Beginning in August, Divisions Four and Eight and both sections of Division Two moved to the Ryder Street Naval Barracks in Vallejo, California, across a short channel from Mare Island, where they were assigned barracks duties with no ship-loading. The men were in a state of shock; all were nervous. Many of them inquired about obtaining a 30-day "survivor's leave" sometimes given by the Navy to sailors who had survived a serious incident where their friends or shipmates had died, but no 30-day leaves were granted, not even to those who had been hospitalized with injuries. White officers, however, received the leave, causing a major grievance among the enlisted men.

A Naval Board of Inquiry was convened on July 21, 1944, to find out what had happened. The official proceeding lasted for 39 days and included interviews with witnesses who were officers, civilians and enlisted men. Ordnance experts were questioned as well as inspectors who had overseen previous loading procedures. Five African Americans were questioned, none of whom were later to refuse to load ammunition. Captain Kinne's posted division tonnage results came to light in the inquiry but Kinne stated that the competition to load the most tonnage did not make for unsafe conditions; he implied that any junior officers who said so did not know what they were talking about.


Boxcars within their revetments near the pier were crushed by the pressure of the blast

The inquiry covered possible explosion scenarios involving sabotage, faulty fueling procedures, failure of the moorings of the Quinault Victory, defects in munitions, the presence of a super sensitive element in the ordnance, problems with steam winches and rigging, rough handling by loaders and organizational problems within the base. The Navy determined that the tonnage contest between divisions was not at fault, although the Judge Advocate warned that "the loading of explosives should never be a matter of competition." The officers in charge were cleared of guilt. The report stated that the cause of the explosion could not be determined, but implied that a mistake made by the enlisted men in the handling of the ordnance was most likely at root. No mention was made of the men's lack of training in the handling of explosives.

The Navy asked Congress to give each victim's family $5,000. Representative John E. Rankin (D-MS) insisted the amount be reduced to $2,000 when he learned most of the dead were black men. Congress settled on $3,000 in compensation. Years later, on March 4, 1949, the heirs of eighteen merchant seamen killed in the explosion were granted a total of $390,000 after gaining approval of their consent decrees in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

The Government announced on August 23, 1951, that it had settled the last in a series of lawsuits relating to the disaster, when it awarded Mrs. Sirvat Arsenian of Fresno, California, $9,700 for the death of her 26-year-old son, a merchant marine crewman killed in the blast. She had sought $50,000.


44 disaster victims are buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery

A memorial ceremony was held for the victims on July 31, 1944, at Port Chicago. Admiral Carleton H. Wright, Commander, 12th Naval District, spoke of the unfortunate deaths and the need to keep the base operating during a time of war. He gave Navy and Marine Corps Medals for bravery to four officers and men who had successfully fought a fire in a rail car parked within a revetment near the pier. The remains of 44 of the victims were interred at Golden Gate National Cemetery.

Wright soon began implementing a plan to have two groups of white sailors load ammunition in rotation with black sailors: one division of 100 men at Mare Island and another at Port Chicago. No plan was forwarded to use black officers to command the black sailors, and no plan included any form of desegregation. Wright sent a report of the incident to Washington, DC, telling his superior officers that the men's "refusal to perform the required work arises from a mass fear arising out of the Port Chicago explosion." Wright's report was passed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal who added his opinion that it was "mass fear" motivating the work stoppage. Forrestal told Roosevelt that white units of munitions loaders were to be added to the rotation "...to avoid any semblance of discrimination against negroes [sic]." Roosevelt forwarded a copy to his wife Eleanor, knowing of her ongoing advocacy of civil rights for African Americans.

</snip>


The following month, survivors mutinied when it was clear that little had been done to resolve the safety issues that caused the disaster (I will follow up on this event next month, on the 75th anniversary).

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Reply 75 Years Ago Today; The Port Chicago (CA) Disaster (Original post)
Dennis Donovan Jul 17 OP
csziggy Jul 17 #1
Dennis Donovan Jul 17 #3
csziggy Jul 17 #6
Merlot Jul 17 #2
Dennis Donovan Jul 17 #4
sdfernando Jul 17 #5
BSdetect Jul 17 #7

Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Wed Jul 17, 2019, 10:43 AM

1. My dad arrived in California the day before that blast

I am not sure exactly where the sub he was stationed on (USS Spot) was moored, but he wrote home about the blast from an address in Vallejo, California:
Vallejo, Calif
July 19

Dear Folks,
We had quite a blast out here the other night. Port Chicago is only 15 miles away and we really felt the thing here. Concussion broke about half the plate glass in town. There was no noise but a rapid pressure rise for a few seconds.


I only scanned his letters home from the war last year and looked up the Port Chicago explosion when I read this. The same Wikipedia article is copied into my file with Dad's letters so I can refer back to it when I put his letters online.

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Response to csziggy (Reply #1)

Wed Jul 17, 2019, 11:15 AM

3. Wow! Amazing that he was nearby and referenced the event in a letter home.

Here's the Wikipedia page for the USS Spot;

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Spot_(SS-413)



USS Spot (SS-413) was a Balao-class submarine of the United States Navy, named for the spot, a small sciaenoid food fish of the Atlantic coast, with a black spot behind its shoulders.

Spot was laid down on 24 August 1943 by the Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif.; launched on 19 May 1944; sponsored by Mrs. A. A. Gieselmann; and commissioned on 3 August 1944, Commander William S. Post, Jr., in command.

First patrol, December 1944 – January 1945
Spot completed fitting out at Mare Island on 18 September and moved to San Diego for shakedown. After a yard period, the submarine sailed for Hawaii and arrived at Pearl Harbor on 14 November. Accompanied by Balao (SS-285), she got underway for the Marianas on 4 December. They were joined by Icefish (SS-367) en route, and the trio arrived at Saipan on 15 December 1944.

Two days later, the hunter-killer group headed for the Yellow Sea. On 7 January 1945, Spot sank two small trawlers with her deck gun. Four days later, she destroyed a small freighter by gunfire. On 13 January off Shanghai, the submarine sank two trawlers by shellfire, and she repeated the feat the next day. In a night sweep through the Elliott Islands on 18 and 19 January, Spot torpedoed a cargo ship and a tanker.

As Spot came down the west coast of Korea, she sighted a small ship and fired her last three torpedoes. All ran shallow and missed. With only 1,300 rounds of 20 mm ammunition remaining, the submarine closed to 800 yards (730 m) and opened fire. The enemy made an unsuccessful attempt to ram. No one manned the Japanese ship's machine gun atop her pilot house; her top deck was in shambles; and the ship was dead in the water but not sinking.

Spot waited for an hour and then sent over a boarding party of seven men to plant demolition charges and search for intelligence material. After about ten minutes on board, the party had to abandon as the ship listed to port and sank by the stern. The boarding party was recovered and one Japanese prisoner taken. The submarine returned to Midway on 30 January for a refit and training period.

Second patrol, February – March 1945
On 24 February, Spot began her second war patrol which took her, Queenfish (SS-393), and Sea Fox (SS-402) into the East China Sea. On the second night in her assigned patrol area, Spot expended all torpedoes attacking a Japanese convoy. They sank the passenger-cargo ship, Nanking Maru, and damaged a freighter. The attack was made in heavy weather and shallow water. Spot was surfaced and heading for deeper water but could not elude one of the escorts, the minesweeper W-17, which closed to 4,200 yards (3,800 m) and opened fire. Spot manned her guns and returned the fire even though she was wallowing heavily in the rough seas. A lucky hit by her 5-inch (130 mm) gun knocked out W-17's forward gun and saved the submarine from almost certain disaster. Spot secured her guns, cleared the bridge, and submerged. The escort dropped a few depth charge patterns which caused no damage, and the submarine returned to Saipan on 23 March to reload.

Four days later, she resumed her patrol. On 31 March, she sighted a destroyer that offered no recognition signals. The submarine maneuvered to close when the destroyer turned towards her and increased its speed. When the range was approximately 5,500 yards (5,000 m), the destroyer opened fire. Spot fired a recognition flare that was answered by a second salvo. As Spot submerged, another salvo straddled her conning tower. The destroyer was later identified as Case (DD-370). Spot suffered no damage in this incident which could have been a disaster.

Third and fourth patrols, April – July 1945
During the first week of April, Spot guarded the approaches to Kii Suido. After aircraft from the Fast Carrier Task Force sank battleship Yamato, a cruiser, and four destroyers in the East China Sea on 7 April, the submarine patrolled in that area. She hunted off the China coast and then conducted a reconnaissance of Kokuzan To, off Korea and decided to shell a radio station on the northwest tip of the island. On the evening of 25 April, she surfaced and began the bombardment which hit an oil storage area, several barracks, and set the radio station on fire. Spot returned to the Mariana Islands on 4 May for refit.

Spot began her last war patrol on 2 June and performed lifeguard services off the coast of Honshū until 23 June. She then patrolled in the East China and Yellow Seas, sinking two junks by gunfire before returning to Saipan on 18 July. The submarine sailed for Hawaii the next day.

Spot arrived at Pearl Harbor on 29 July for an extended overhaul and was still there when hostilities ceased. She sailed for San Diego on 27 August and provided services for antisubmarine warfare units there from 3 September 1945 to 2 March 1946. The ship then sailed to San Francisco to prepare for inactivation. She was decommissioned at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard on 19 June and attached to the Pacific Reserve Fleet.

Spot received four battle stars for World War II service.

Simpson (SS-21)
In January 1961, Spot was towed to Pearl Harbor for modernization in preparation for transfer to Chile. A streamlined sail was added but, unusually for a post-World War II submarine, her deck gun was retained.

The Chilean crew reported on board later in the year for training and on 12 January 1962, Spot was loaned to that government under the Military Assistance Loan Program. She was renamed Simpson (SS-21), in honor of Chilean admiral Robert Winthrop Simpson (1799–1877). The submarine arrived at Chile 23 April 1962.

On 1 August 1975 the submarine was sold outright to Chile, and struck from the US Naval Register. In 1980, the Simpson was used extensively by director Kinji Fukasaku in the disaster film Fukkatsu no hi (titled in English as "Virus" and "Day of Resurrection". The film features spectacular footage of Simpson sailing in the Antarctic.

Simpson was significant for being one of the last submarines to have a deck gun; she was disposed of by the Chilean Navy in 1982.


Here's USS Spot's Navsource page, containing a lot of pics of Spot: http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/08413.htm

Maybe you'll see your Dad in on of the pics?

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #3)

Wed Jul 17, 2019, 05:28 PM

6. Yep - Dad was on the first two patrols of the USS Spot

As Spot came down the west coast of Korea, she sighted a small ship and fired her last three torpedoes. All ran shallow and missed. With only 1,300 rounds of 20 mm ammunition remaining, the submarine closed to 800 yards (730 m) and opened fire. The enemy made an unsuccessful attempt to ram. No one manned the Japanese ship's machine gun atop her pilot house; her top deck was in shambles; and the ship was dead in the water but not sinking.

Spot waited for an hour and then sent over a boarding party of seven men to plant demolition charges and search for intelligence material. After about ten minutes on board, the party had to abandon as the ship listed to port and sank by the stern. The boarding party was recovered and one Japanese prisoner taken. The submarine returned to Midway on 30 January for a refit and training period.


He was the guy carrying the demolition charges - they were never used since the ship sank under the boarding party. The men in that party all received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. Apparently the maps they retrieved from that ship were of strategic importance. Dad thought they included the location of mines in the Yellow Sea protecting Japan from US submarines.

I don't see him in any of the photos on that site, but he was a newly commission Lt(jg) and was serving as commissary officer so he would not have been very likely to be in any featured photo. I do have some of him with other officers and crew , but they are not yet posted on my web site.

After his first two patrols, he had to take one off and was a harbor pilot out of Pearl Harbor. He helped bring in a new sub, the USS Menhaden. The executive officer had to return to the mainland and Dad was asked to take the post. This was after the end of the war, so they didn't have much to do, but when someone came up with the idea of giving the Navy Nurses sub rides, Dad met Mom and the rest is history!

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Wed Jul 17, 2019, 10:59 AM

2. Very interesting, thanks for posting.

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Response to Merlot (Reply #2)

Wed Jul 17, 2019, 01:03 PM

4. It was a dual tragedy; the loss of life and the racism...

...4 years ago, I could've said that we'd come a long way in regards of such naked racism. I no longer have that bit of solace with an openly racist POTUS like Trump.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Wed Jul 17, 2019, 04:30 PM

5. I knew about this tragedy but never read much of anything about it until now.

I had assumed this was an innocent accident but this was a tragedy waiting to happen! All of this loss of life could have been prevented had the Navy properly trained their men.

Racism was and is the cause of all this needless death!

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Wed Jul 17, 2019, 07:06 PM

7. k&r

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