AMERICA'S DARK SECRET- The Port Chicago Disaster
November 8, 2002 12:01 PM   Subscribe

AMERICA'S DARK SECRET- The Port Chicago Disaster Did America's first atomic weapons test take place on US Soil? Although, cited as an accident at first, on the night of July in 1944 a mushroom cloud exploded killing hundreds. Twenty years of investigation have found links between Port Chicago and the Manhattan project as well as Los Alamos. Mutiny? Cover up of Nuclear disaster? Read it and see what you think.
posted by Jessy (22 comments total)
My bad, The mutiny link is messed up. Try this.
posted by Jessy at 12:09 PM on November 8, 2002

I don't care that much about the "nuclear cover-up" stuff, but a Google search turned up several good sites for information about the Port Chicago disaster. I wasn't familiar with this incident until now. Thanks for posting this.
posted by oissubke at 12:14 PM on November 8, 2002

This isn't very logical for a whole heap of reasons:

1. If there was an operational bomb in July of 1944, why wasn't another one used until over a year later?

2. Why destroy personnel, equipment, and base facilities in a test when uninhabited testing grounds were available (and later used)?

3. Weren't they busy siphoning the black oil off of a submarine at that point (oops)?
posted by COBRA! at 12:22 PM on November 8, 2002

Did America's first atomic weapons test take place on US Soil?


Though the Port Chicago story predates the Trinity Site testing by a year, either way the first atomic weapons testing was on US soil. Whether or not Port Chicago was caused by the same type of device is the question. Cool link, I've heard the stories before and never thought to actually research it.
posted by eyeballkid at 12:22 PM on November 8, 2002

a mushroom cloud exploded killing hundreds

I didn't realize mushroom clouds were so dangerous.
posted by Kikkoman at 12:24 PM on November 8, 2002

Very cool, I'd never heard about this event before. Thanks!
posted by pjgulliver at 12:27 PM on November 8, 2002

Kikkoman, not all mushroom clouds are dangerous, but many of the safe ones look no different than the dangerous ones. That's why you shouldn't go mushroom cloud hunting unless you're with an expert. Many people have died or become ill due to mushroom clouds they thought were safe but were in fact toxic.
posted by substrate at 12:31 PM on November 8, 2002

Mushroom clouds can be formed by almost any kind of explosion or fire if the atmospheric conditions are right and are not indicative of a nuclear explosion by themselves.
posted by monkeyman at 12:32 PM on November 8, 2002

Errr... a mushroom cloud can result from any explosion, not just an atomic explosion. I've seen high frame-rate films of such dangerous substances as powdered sugrar form a mushroom cloud when lit.

And I had known about this; the History Channel had an entire hour-long show about it but neglected to mention the scary conspiracy angle.
posted by nathan_teske at 12:34 PM on November 8, 2002

I've read at least one book on this incident in the last several years.

I just don't buy the cover-up/conspiracy theories espoused by this article. No way Oppie and the boys are going to test an atomic bomb in the heavily populated Bay Area. Now Teller, that's a different matter.
posted by mygoditsbob at 12:42 PM on November 8, 2002

Scarry is right. I actually grew up in Concord, and have always been interested in this story. I have read many old newspapers, but the internet is so much easier for this kind of research.

The explosion was actually filmed. Pointing in the right direction at the exact time of the blast, documenting it.


Oh , and regards to the population of the Bay Area. Concord, CA was a "small" city back then, and is located 35 miles east of SF. It was in the 1940's mind you. At one time, the bay area had ::gasp:: land!
posted by Jessy at 12:47 PM on November 8, 2002

Note to self: be more overt in sarcasm regarding errors in causation.

Incidentally, for other fun speculation along the line of this thread, I recommend this page regarding the Philadelphia Experiment.
posted by Kikkoman at 12:49 PM on November 8, 2002

I can't find any references to radiation sickness or eyewitnesses being blinded by the flash or, well, any of the health problems associated with nuclear blasts. Other than a vague reference to that county having a high cancer rate, where is the medical evidence? That would certainly help their case.

Several of the links make mention of the Mont Blanc. If you're not familiar with the Halifax Explosion, it was the largest man-made explosion before the nuclear age. Here in Halifax, that tragedy is remembered every December 6th without fail. There is still evidence around the city (including the propellor of one of the ships), and every year the province sends a Christmas tree to Boston as a way of thanking them for their relief efforts.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:03 PM on November 8, 2002

i, for one, would like to welcome our new mushroom cloud overl... oh, never mind.
posted by rswst8 at 1:04 PM on November 8, 2002

Mushroom clouds? Not so unlikely then that Sasha pops up in this story
posted by BentPenguin at 1:11 PM on November 8, 2002

As Ghostinthemachine said, there is no data regarding radiation. While everything else *could be* covered up, radiation couldn't be. Ther would still be lingering traces today, in the soil especially. Either way you shake it was a tragedy and how our military treated the survivors was damn criminal.
posted by moonbird at 1:46 PM on November 8, 2002

*sigh* Mushroom cloud does not mean nuclear explosion.

Also, condensation clouds are caused by a sudden drop of pressure -- an effect of shockwaves, not a special nuclear effect.

And the idiocy of taking out one of your own ports and a bunch of ammunition to boot? And the fact that the bombs were only armed just before detonation? And what about the radiation sickness, the leukemias, the hair falling out and the hurting and the dying and the glavin!?
posted by ptermit at 1:46 PM on November 8, 2002

All the accounts of the Trinity test record specific statements and actions by specific players, most famously Oppenheimer's reaction: "I am become Death the destroyer of worlds." Bets were made on whether or not the explosion would set the atmosphere itself on fire. If an accidental explosion had already taken place, the scientists would have behaved quite differently, unless they were awfully good actors.
posted by beagle at 1:58 PM on November 8, 2002

GhostintheMachine, your link reminded me of another horrific port explosion.
posted by hyperizer at 2:23 PM on November 8, 2002

on the night of July in 1944

Wow, talk about nuclear winter...
posted by madprops at 2:40 PM on November 8, 2002

Though Port Chicago has long been held up as an example of official racism in the armed forces (and it was a key event leading to Truman's desegregation order), another incident showed dramatically how eager the Navy would be to simply shift blame: the Iowa gun turret explosion, which killed 47 sailors in 1989. It's a matter of institutional obtuseness and self-preservation.
posted by dhartung at 3:45 PM on November 8, 2002

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