Port Chicago historians seek sailors’ remembrances

“Nearly 70 years after World War II, authorities are calling Port Chicago sailors to duty once more. Not to load explosives on warships, as they were doing in one of the deadliest domestic calamities of the war, but for a task that could require even more courage: to tell their stories.

‘We want to hear the truth of what happened at Port Chicago, firsthand,” said David Dunham, manager of a World War II home-front oral history project at UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library. “For a long time, no one wanted to talk about Port Chicago at all. But we want to hear about the working conditions, the significance and complexity of the race issues.’

Historians will be at the annual Port Chicago memorial Saturday near Concord in hopes of finding sailors and civilians who lived through the explosion and subsequent trial for mutiny, which some credit as the catalyst for desegregation of the military and an early chapter in the civil rights movement.” – Carolyn Jones, Chronicle Staff Writer

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Bancroft historians search for first-hand accounts as Port Chicago memorial approaches

“Officials at the University of California, Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office are looking to a July 23 memorial service for the hundreds of servicemen and civilians killed and hurt in the largest homeland disaster during World War II to aid the office’s search for first-hand accounts of the 1944 accident that helped desegregate the U.S. military.

The Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) is a research unit within UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, and has initiated interviews with surviving witnesses to the explosion of more than 5,000 tons of TNT as sailors loaded munitions. The explosion demolished the Liberty ship SS A.E. Bryan as well as the SS Quinalt Victory and rocked communities for miles around. UC Berkeley seismographs recorded the strength of the disaster’s second explosion as equal to an earthquake measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale …

‘We will honor those who have passed, as well as the resistance of African American soldiers who certainly are a part of the civil rights movement and the desegregation of the military,’ said David Dunham, manager of ROHO’s World War II Homefront Project.

ROHO will have an informational table at the memorial and commemoration, which will be held at the Military Ocean Terminal in Concord, Calif. The memorial will take place on July 23 from 10 to 11 a.m., followed by an informal gathering and ranger-led tours from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.” – Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations

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New ebooks in the Synthesis Digital Library series

Synthesis Digital Library Update for June 2011