2 in HIGH
(5.08 cm HIGH)
Gift of Barbara Biasotti

Port Chicago| July 17| 1944| 10 p.m.

During World War II, as the war in the Pacific expanded, the Navy expanded its munitions facilities to Port Chicago, a naval base in the East Bay near Concord. African-American navy personnel unites were assigned to the dangerous work of loading ammunition at Port Chicago. On July 17, 1944 Port Chicago was the scene of a massive ammunition detonation. The over 300 men on duty that night died, two cargo ships were destroyed and structures were damaged. Out of the 300 men killed, 202 were African-American enlisted men who were assigned the dangerous duty of loading the ships. The explosion at Port Chicago accounted for fifteen percent of all African-American casualties of World War II. On August 9, the surviving men were re-assigned to load munitions at Mare Island. 258 African-American sailors refused to do so. In the end, 208 faced court-martial and were sentenced to bad conduct discharges and the forfeit of three month's pay for disobeying orders. The remaining 50 were singled out for general courts martial on the grounds of mutiny. They received between 8 and 15 years of hard labor. In January 1946, all of the men were given clemency. The sailors' courage to challenge their orders to began the process toward desegregation of the Armed Forces.
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