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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • WE HAVE A BIG JOB: WWII
 

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Hundreds Dead: 1947

Hundreds Dead: 1947

April 17, 1947. "Armed troops form a roadblock at Texas City, Texas, as all persons, including workers, were barred from entering the area where new explosions were expected. Fire in huge oil storage tanks burns in background." New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Collection. View full size.

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I sailed into Texas City regularly for work

And each and every time we did we talked about this disaster. Truly horrific.

Texas City

My mother was attending school in Beaumont, about 90 miles away, when Texas City blew up. She said it rattled the windows at her school.

My mother used to tell me stories about this

My mother was working there as a secretary when it happened. She told me about donating blood and then going with a friend when she was looking for her husband's body. All that was found of her friends husband was his arm with his wedding ring.

My dad was there

As a five-year-old resident of that city, dwelling considerably farther from the epicenter than this, fortunately. Though I suspect the men in that White M3 Scout Car had already seen much worse.

Big Boom(s)

These explosions were the first time it was realized that Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer was explosive. It's increasing use as an explosive put quite a dent in the dynamite business.

These blasts were studied by the government as a template for what occurs during and after a nuclear bombing.

Double blast

Keeping people away from the scene due to fears of additional explosions was a reasonable precaution. There actually were two explosions in the disaster, about 12 hours apart. While the first blast was responsible for almost all of the deaths, the second one may have been larger and caused even more property destruction. It would have been a major disaster in and of itself had it been the only blast.

Headline News

Aftermath of the fertilizer ship explosion.

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