01 February 2006

Black History Oral History > Aired 1 Feb 2006

In honor of Black History Month, Listening Lounge brings you Port Chicago 50: An Oral History On July 17, 1944, two Liberty ships anchored at the Port Chicago Munitions Case near San Francisco exploded, killing 320 men and injuring 390. It was the worst homefront disaster of World War II. A majority of the casualties were African-American sailors who loaded ammunition onto the ships at Port Chicago. Shortly after the explosion, the African-American munitions loaders who survived were transferred to a nearby base and ordered back to work. Shaken by the death of their workmates and afraid that another explosion might occur, 50 men refused. In the largest courtmartial in Navy history, they were all convicted of mutiny and sentenced to up to fifteen years of hard labor. In January 1946, only months after the war ended, all convicted men's sentences were suspended as part of a general amnesty. While these men were allowed to return to civilian life, they were left angry, ashamed, and afraid they would be fired from their jobs or worried that they would be seen as unpatriotic. As a result, some did not discuss the case, even with family members, for more than 50 years. This is the story of five of these men. Produced by Dan Collison of Long Haul Productions.

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