Bill to Expand Port Chicago National Memorial

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer has reintroduced the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial Enhancement Act to improve visitor access to the World War II site and assure its long-term preservation. 


Boxer introduced the legislation on the eve of the 65th anniversary of the explosion at Port Chicago, which killed and wounded hundreds of African-American sailors. The incident played a central role in the desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces. 


“The Port Chicago National Memorial ensures that the stories of those who served and died there will not be forgotten,” Boxer said. “By expanding visitor access to this historic site, we will assure that future generations can honor and learn from these brave soldiers, who selflessly served our country and fought to overcome racial segregation.”
On the night of July 17, 1944, sailors were loading merchant ships when more than 5,000 tons of ammunition ignited, killing 320 sailors and wounding hundreds more in the deadliest homefront disaster during World War II.
Less than a month after the explosion, the surviving sailors were ordered to resume duty at a new site. Most refused, citing their concerns about unsafe conditions. In response, the Navy charged 50 men with mutiny, and all were convicted. 


The case of the “Port Chicago 50,”which was championed by civil rights lawyer and future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, influenced the Navy’s decision in 1946 to begin racial desegregation. In 1948, President Truman ordered the desegregation of all of the Armed Forces.
In 1992, Congress authorized the creation of a National Memorial at Port Chicago. Senator Boxer’s bill would designate the Memorial as a unit of the National Park System and authorize the Interior Department to work with the City of Concord and the East Bay Regional Park District to operate a visitor’s center. 


If the Secretary of Defense determines that the land is no longer needed for military purposes, the bill would authorize the transfer of the Memorial to the National Park Service.

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Port Chicago after the July 17, 1944 explosion.rial to the National Park Service.

Port Chicago after the July 17, 1944 explosion.rial to the National Park Service.