Old Sailors' Almanac


Week 29

Port Chicago disaster

“Port Chicago disaster” on July 10, 1925.

Port Chicago disaster: An ammunition ship explodes while being loaded in Port Chicago, California, killing 332 people on this day in 1944. The United States' World War II military campaign in the Pacific was in full swing at the time. Poor procedures and lack of training led to the disaster.

Port Chicago, about 30 miles north of San Francisco, was developed into a munitions facility when the Naval Ammunition Depot at Mare Island, California, could not fully supply the war effort. By the summer of 1944, expansion of the Port Chicago facility allowed for loading two ships at once around the clock. The Navy units assigned to the dangerous loading operations were generally segregated African-American units. For the most part, these men had not been trained in handling munitions. Additionally, safety standards were forgotten in the rush to keep up frenetic loading schedules.

On the evening of July 17, the SS Quinault Victory and SS E.A. Bryan, two merchant ships, were being loaded. The holds were being packed with 4,600 tons of explosives--bombs, depth charges and ammunition. Another 400 tons of explosives were nearby on rail cars. Approximately 320 workers were on or near the pier when, at 10:18 p.m., a series of massive explosions over several seconds destroyed everything and everyone in the vicinity. The blasts were felt as far away as Nevada and the resulting damage extended as far as San Francisco. Every building in Port Chicago was damaged and people were literally knocked off their feet. Smoke and fire extended nearly two miles into the air. The pilot of a plane flying at 9,000 feet in the area claimed that metal chunks from the explosion flew past him.

Nearly two-thirds of the people killed at Port Chicago were African-American enlisted men in the Navy - 15 percent of all African-Americans killed during World War II. The surviving men in these units, who helped put out the fires and saw the horrors firsthand, were quickly reassigned to Mare Island. Less than a month later, when ordered to load more munitions, but still having received no training, 258 African-American sailors refused to carry out the orders. Two hundred and eight of them were then sentenced to bad conduct discharges and pay forfeiture. The remaining 50 men were put on trial for general court martial. They were sentenced to between eight and 15 years of hard labor, though two years later all were given clemency. A 1994 review of the trials revealed race played a large factor in the harsh sentences. In December 1999, President Bill Clinton pardoned Freddie Meeks, one of only three of the 50 convicted sailors known to be alive at the time.

The Port Chicago disaster eventually led to the implementation of far safer procedures for loading ammunition. In addition, greater emphasis was put on proper training in explosives handling and the munitions themselves were altered for greater safety. There is now a national memorial to the victims at the site. History Channel / Wikipedia / San Francisco Chronicle

More References  ● U.S. Merchant Marine.org | Naval History & Heritage Command | U.S. National Park Service

Wikipedia  Photo: Damage at the Port Chicago Pier after the explosion of July 17, 1944 ● Aerial photograph looking eastward in early 1944 ● Cleaning up the damage at the remains of the pier ● Boxcars within their revetments near the pier were crushed by the pressure of the blast. (Navy Yard Mare Island, Port Chicago, California)

Understanding Military Terminology

Understanding Military Terminology - Ditching

(DOD) Dry Deck Shelter: (DDS) A shelter module that attaches to the hull of a specially configured submarine to provide the submarine with the capability to launch and recover special operations personnel, vehicles, and equipment while submerged. The dry deck shelter provides a working environment at one atmosphere for the special operations element during transit and has structural integrity to the collapse depth of the host submarine. (Military Factory)

Some call me Old Glory, others call me the Star Spangled Banner, but whatever they call me, I am your Flag - the Flag of the United States of America

The Old Salt’s Corner

Coxcombing is a decorative knotwork performed by sailors. The general purpose to dress-up items and parts of ships and boats during the age of sail. Modern uses are to wrap boat tillers and ships' wheels with small diameter line to enhance the grip as well as the nautical appeal. Knots used in coxcombing include Turk's head knot, Flemish, French whipping, and others. video

“I’m Just Sayin’”

“I’m Just Sayin’”

Gone are the days when girls used to cook like their mothers. Now they drink like their fathers.

“Thought for the Day”

“Thought for the Day”

“Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.”

~ Thomas Jefferson (April 13 [O.S. April 2] 1743 – July 4, 1826)

“What I Have Learned”

Experience is the hardest kind of teacher. It gives you the test first, and the lesson afterwards.

~ Vern Law (born March 12, 1930)

Bizarre News (we couldn’t make up stuff this good – real news story)

Bizarre News (we couldn’t make up stuff this good – real news story)

Man Files Suit Against Stripper

Man Files Suit Against Stripper

HOUSTON, Texas - Robert Wallace, 32, a Houston software developer, filed a lawsuit in May to get back some items after a failed romance. According to Wallace, he had loaned a laptop computer, $2,000 cash--and his Harry Potter DVDs--to his sweetheart, Ms. Nomi Mims, a local stripper. Wallace said the loans were made only because he thought she was in love with him and that they were “building a future together,” but now realizes he was wrong. Mims calls the items “gifts” and noted, “I’ve given him gifts, too. You know, how do I get my booty back?” “Know what I’m saying? It's scary! In broad daylight, too.” Fredrickson said she never imagined a stick shift would trip up three car thieves, but she’s thrilled she and the car survived unharmed. “It was quite an interesting day”, she said. “Let’s put it that way.” (Man Files Suit Against Stripper) Fox Houston video

Mr. Answer Man Please Tell Us: How did the prestigious North Eastern universities get the name “Ivy League”?

Mr. Answer Man Please Tell Us: How did the prestigious North Eastern universities get the name “Ivy League”?

The term Ivy League has nothing to do with the ivy-covered walls of the prestigious schools to which it refers. Several Eastern schools – Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia became known collectively as the Interscholastic Four League but the four was always written in Roman numerals – IV and pronounced “eye-vee”.

By the end of the Second World War, the league had expanded to include Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, and the University of Pennsylvania. Although there were then eight schools included in the league, instead of changing its name, the league decided to spell it the way it had been traditionally pronounced, and so it became the “Ivy League”.Snopes / Wikipedia

Image: Ivy League (Google Image Search)

Where Did That Saying Come From? “Couldn’t Hold a Candle”

Where Did That Saying Come From?

The derogatory expression “couldn’t hold a candle” is from the sixteenth century. Before electricity, experienced workers needing light to work by would have a young apprentice hold a candle so that they could see to complete a complex job. Holding a candle for a skilled tradesman gave the apprentice a chance to watch and learn, but if he couldn’t even do that properly, it was said disparagingly that “he couldn’t hold a candle” to the tradesman.Buzzfeed.org

NAVSPEAK aka U.S. Navy Slang - U.S. Navy

NAVSPEAK aka U.S. Navy Slang

Boat Goat: Usually refers to females aboard ship that are unattractive.

Drop a Chit: The act of filling out a chit.

Dynamited Chicken: Chicken a la King or Chicken Cacciatore.

Prop: short for an aircraft's propeller.

Just for MARINES - U.S. Marines

Just for MARINES

Cannon Cocker: A Marine in the artillery or a Navy gunner's mate.

Canoe U: The U. S. Naval Academy.

CAO: Casualty Assistance Officer.

Military Acronyms

Navy Acronyms

SYSCOM - Systems Command

TAR - TEMP Advisory Review

TCD - Target Configuration Date

Naval Aviation Squadron Nicknames

Naval Aviation Squadron Nicknames

VQ-3 - Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 3: “Ironman” Tinker AFB, Oklahoma

The Strange, Mysterious or Downright Weird

The Strange, Mysterious or Downright Weird

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz - First edition coverr / “Dorothy and Ozma”, a watercolor plate from the book (1908)

“Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz”

The classic tale of Dorothy in the land of Oz came from the imagination of L. Frank Baum, who made up the story for his son and a group of children one evening in 1899.

When a little girl asked him the name of this magical land with the Scarecrow, Tinman, and Cowardly Lion, he looked around the room for inspiration. He happened to be sitting next to a filing cabinet with the drawers labeled “A-G”, “H-N” and finally “O-Z”, which gave him a quick answer: “Oz”. (Wikipedia)

Image: First edition cover / “Dorothy and Ozma”, a watercolor plate from the book


Johnny Lujack earned consensus All-American honors as a junior and senior in 1946 and 1947

Sports 1946 Wikipedia

World Series Champions: The St. Louis Cardinals defeat the Boston Red Sox 4 games to 3

Jackie Robinson plays for the Montreal Royals, the AAA affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first African-American to play in organised baseball in the 20th century.

NFL Champions: Chicago Bears in New York defeat the New York Giants 24-14

All-America Football Conference begins play - Cleveland Browns win the championship by beating New York Yankees 24-14 in New York

NBL Champions: Rochester Royals win three games to none over the Sheboygan Redskins

Stanley Cup Champs: Montreal Canadiens win 4 games to 1 over the Boston Bruins

U.S. Open Golf: Lloyd Mangrum

U.S. Open Tennis (Men/Ladies): Jack Kramer / Pauline Betz

Wimbledon (Men/Women): Yvon Petra / Pauline Betz

NCAA Football Champions: Notre Dame

NCAA Basketball Champions: Oklahoma A&M

Kentucky Derby: Assault becomes the 7th horse to win the U.S. Triple Crown

Image: Johnny Lujack earned consensus All-American honors as a junior and senior in 1946 and 1947 (Cover of Life on Sept. 29, 1947.)

Famous Quotes 1946: “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” ~ Albert Einstein

Famous Quotes 1946 Wikipedia

● “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

~ Albert Einstein

● “With my brains and your looks we could go places”

~ John Garfield in The Postman Always Rings Twice

● “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow.”

~ Winston Churchill

Image: Albert Einstein



● The Honey Badger can withstand hundreds of African bee stings that would kill any other animal.

● The first Marvel Comics super hero was the Human Torch.

● A byte, in computer terms, means 8 bits. A nibble is half that: 4 bits. (Two nibbles make a byte!)

Joke of the Day

After the Great Britain Beer Festival, in London, all the brewery presidents decided to go out for a beer.

The guy from Corona sits down and says, “Hey Senor, I would like the world's best beer, a Corona.” The bartender dusts off a bottle from the shelf and gives it to him.

The guy from Budweiser says, “I'd like the best beer in the world, give me “The King Of Beers”, a Budweiser.” The bartender gives him one.

The guy from Coors says, “I'd like the only beer made with Rocky Mountain spring water, give me a Coors.” He gets it.

The guy from Guinness sits down and says, “Give me a Coke.” The bartender is a little taken aback, but gives him what he ordered.

The other brewery presidents look over at him and ask “Why aren't you drinking a Guinness?” and the Guinness president replies, “Well, I figured if you guys aren't drinking beer, neither would I.”