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Port Chicago Naval Magazine Explosion on 17 July 1944:
Court of Inquiry: Finding of Facts, Opinion and Recommendations, continued...


1. That concerning merchant vessels scheduled to load explosives:


2. That in assigning personnel to duty in the ordnance battalions each draft should include an adequate number of men of petty officer caliber. Older and more mature men should be assigned this duty whenever possible.

3. That the feasibility of brining some of the mature, experienced, reliable negro civil service personnel from the Naval Mine Depot, Yorktown, Virginia, and the civil service negro stevedores from the Supply Depot, Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Virginia, should be investigated.

4. That the loading of explosives at commercial piers be restricted to an absolute minimum and that when such loading must take place, the amounts of explosives present on the pier be restricted to the minimum and in no case exceed the amounts permitted in the American Table of Distances, Article 14D18, Bureau of Ordnance Manual.

5. That the methods used by commercial stevedores in loading explosives be carefully reviewed by competent persons and only those methods meeting acceptable standards of safety be permitted.

6. That a loading manual setting forth acceptable methods for loading each type of explosive item, and to include the gear to be used, be drawn up and promulgated.


7. That the present regulations and instructions relating to the handling of explosives be carefully reviewed and those not applicable or impracticable of attainment be eliminated.

8. That facilities loading ammunition and explosives should be given priority in the assignment of experienced officers and stevedores.

9. That an experienced officer or officers of suitable rank, acting directly under the Commandant of the District, make surprise inspections from time to time at all explosive loading operations carried on in this district.

10. That a reasonable number of officers over and above those required for actual loading operations and in an "under instruction" status be maintained at the Naval Ammunition Depot, Mare Island, or Naval Magazine, Port Chicago, in order to provide adequately trained officers to meet normal attrition and expansion.

11. That the loading of explosives should never be a matter of competition.

12. That the feasibility of placing barricades between loading piers and adjacent facilities be investigated.

13. That inasmuch as the Commanding Officer of a Naval activity is in fact responsible for everything at his station, all representatives of other activities visiting the station for any duty should be required to report to the Commanding Officer for the specific duty and to submit their reports through the Commanding Officer of the station visited.

14. That the present policy of allowing the Commanding Officer of a Naval activity to accept or decline a Coast Guard loading detail be continued. That where this detail is accepted the detail should report to the Commanding Officer of the station for this duty.

15. That only such fuel oil as meets Navy specifications be delivered to ships scheduled to load ammunition.

16. That the following recommendations covering specifications for magazine facilities made by the Public Works Officer, Navy Yard, Mare Island, be favorably considered:


17. That gas mains should not be permitted in an explosive area.

18. That the provisions for the protection of explosive ammunition components during shipment and handling, including the containers, be carefully reviewed as the present necessity of shipping large quantities of high explosives over long distances in commercial carriers, together with the lack of skilled personnel, has introduced many additional hazards.

19. The court recommends that no further proceedings be had in the matter.


Albert G. Cook, Junior,
Captain, U.S. Navy.

John S. Crenshaw,
Captain, U.S. Navy.

William B. Holden,
Captain, U.S. Navy.


The record of proceedings of the fortieth day of the inquiry was read and approved, and the court having finished the inquiry, then at 1:30 p.m., on 30 October 1944, adjourned to await the action of the convening authority.

Albert G. Cook, Junior,
Captain, U.S. Navy,

Keith R. Ferguson,
Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve,
Judge Advocate.

Source: US National Archives, Pacific Sierra Region, Record Group: 181, 12th Naval District Commandant's Office,
General Correspondence Series(Formerly classified), 1946, Box: 7/12, Folder A17.25, Vol. 8.

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March 24, 1999