Port Chicago 1944 survivor captures photos of sailors' grave site. Photo courtesy of BHERC.org.

Port Chicago 1944 survivor captures photos of sailors’ grave site. Photo courtesy of BHERC.org.

*For the conscious minded, they will go down in history as heroes. They are the 320 men that died on July 17, 1944 at Port Chicago Naval Magazine in the San Francisco Bay area.

The overwhelming majority of men involved in the blast were black. Those that did not die in the devastating blast lived with painful memories, imprisonment, or the reality of working under dreaded conditions at the orders of the U. S. Navy during a racist and segregated America.

50 black men took a historic stance when they refused to return to their previous duties of loading cargo with live ammunition under the same deadly conditions that caused an eruption equal to 5000 tons of dynamite. The men were willing to work, what they protested were the conditions. They were consequently tried and convicted of mutiny by an all white governing body.

The overwhelming majority of men involved in the blast were black. All of these men demonstrated courage and a willingness to serve our country during World War II, despite that they were treated as unequal to their white counterparts as enlisted men.

Grave of an unknown sailor who perished July 17, 1944.  Photo courtesy of BHERC.org

Grave of an unknown sailor who perished at Port Chicago naval station on July 17, 1944. Photo courtesy of BHERC.org

The Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center recognizes all of these men as Men Of Valor. The BHERC also encourages further research of the Port Chicago incident of 1944.

Like most stories that concern African Americans, it is a heart wrenching glimpse at what was blatant hate, racism, discrimination and indignation that many times resulted in physical harm or death.

Still there is great nobility to uncover, though stained by disgraceful proceedings (that were often considered legal), there are those who dared to stare adversity in the face and stand for justice at all costs.

Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin

The Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center salutes the sailors of Port Chicago 1944 on the 70th Commemoration of the event, with a special salute to The Port Chicago 50, who have also been documented in a book by Steve Sheinkin.

The National Park Service pays homage to the fallen sailors by hosting visitors and tourists at The Port Chicago National Memorial where this tragic event occurred.

The Golden Gate Memorial Cemetery is home to the remains of most of the victims of Port Chicago 1944, however the majority of those who died were burned beyond recognition, and only marked as an ‘unknown sailor.’  The sight of it is a bitter and proud history lesson.

A youth visits the graves of the fallen sailors of the   Port Chicago tragedy of 1944.

A youth visits the graves of the fallen sailors of the Port Chicago tragedy of 1944.

Port Chicago is one of America’s darkest and long forgotten secrets. The black sailors who served their country under horrific conditions deserve recognition for their journey in the segregated Navy.

Since 1999 the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center (BHERC), under the leadership of Sandra Evers-Manly, who formed a support group for the African American men who served in Port Chicago, brings them together to commemorate the tragic day of July 17, 1944. While most of the survivors have passed on, some of them still live and the BHERC commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Port Chicago Blast – the largest military disaster on American soil.

For detailed information contact BHERC at 310.284.3170 or visit online at www.bherc.org. EURweb presents a rebroadcast of the audio series “Port Chicago 1944: Singed and Unsung Heroes By The Sea.”   Don’t miss this compelling program produced and narrated by Lee Bailey, and written by LaRita Shelby for Rabercom Enterprises, in association with the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center.

Listen to it below: