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The Explosion

Finding of Facts, Opinion and Recommendations, continued...

7. THE EXPLOSION: Because of the magnitude and intensity of the explosion, all persons who were in a position to observe the act or acts actually causing the initiation of the explosion were lost. All material evidence which might indicate the chain of circumstances in the initiating explosion were lost. That the general facts concerning the explosion are as follows:

a. The evidence of eyewitnesses varied with:

(1) Their position relative to the explosion; 
(2) Their past experience and background; 
(3) Their ability to describe what they saw.

b. The lights were burning and normal operations were underway until the first explosion occurred.

c. There was an initial major explosion followed by minor explosions and burning for a period of from three to six seconds and culminating in a mass explosion. This final explosion was by far the greater; larger than any which preceded it.

d. The first explosion was accompanied by a very brilliant flash. This brilliance persisted for some time.

(1) This first explosion appeared confined and went up as a column. 
(2) It was an ascending, boiling, billowing, mushrooming mass of burning gases. 
(3) The outside was darker than the inside. 
(4) There were flashes of orange and of various shades of orange and red as well as other colors in this ascending cloud. 
(5) There were independent explosions within this cloud. 
(6) Its brilliance persisted for some time and until the second explosion. 
(7) The color changed from a brilliant white through yellow to a reddish orange as the column went up. 
(8) The sound was very load and distinct as compared with the second explosion which was deeper and poorly defined.

e. The second distinct explosion occurred a few seconds after the first explosion.

(1) It was not confined; it spread in all directions from the pier area as a center.

f. The smoke and gases from the explosions reached an altitude above 12,000 feet.

g. The interpretations of the recordings of the seismographs are not conclusive. These records indicate that the explosions occurred between 2218:47 and 2218:54-1/2 Pacific War Time, 17 July 1944.

h. The locations of fragments indicate that the explosives in the E. A. BRYAN exploded as one large bomb.

i. The QUINAULT VICTORY was struck a tremendous blow which forced her clear of the pier, broke her in several sections, and substantially reversed her original heading.

j. The hull of the QUINAULT VICTORY absorbed the major part of the explosions in a northerly direction and shielded Roe Island Light.

k. The major blast effect as indicated by concentration of fragments lay in sectors abaft the port and starboard beams of the E. A. BRYAN.

8. SITUATION AFTER EXPLOSION: That the handling of the situation after the explosion was, as follows:

a. The situation following the explosion was well handled. There was no panic and a minimum of confusion.

b. Immediate steps were taken to care for the injured. First aid was administered promptly and the injured evacuated to hospitals.

c. The uninjured not immediately required for work on the station were evacuated very shortly after the explosion.

d. Prompt aid and assistance were offered by nearby governmental, municipal, and civilian activities and by numerous individuals. This assistance was utilized.

e. Many officers and enlisted men absent from the station at the time of the explosion returned promptly and reported for duty.

f. The security of the station was maintained by the uninterrupted performance of duty by the marine detachment.


1. The general character of the damages to installations is, as follows:

(1) Many of the building were of flimsy temporary wartime construction with little cross bracing and were designed with load bearing side walls. This type of construction suffered the most damage.

(2) Long narrow buildings with their long axis parallel to the lines of blast suffered less damage than those with their long axis at right angles to the blast.

(3) Buildings with large glazed areas suffered less structural damage than buildings with blank walls. Where glazed openings were blown in there was great damage to interior partitions and finish but the buildings remained structurally sound.

(4) Earth covered barricades suffered negligible damage.

(5) Underground services suffered no appreciable damage except where connections to buildings were made. Overhead services (pole lines) were damaged by blast and missiles for a considerable distance.

(6) Welded steel piping did not fall. There were no gas mains on the station. There were negligible fires after the explosion.


Published: Mon Feb 29 14:37:27 EST 2016