Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial

Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial only recently joined the National Park system on October 28, 2009. An extremely active military port during World War II, Port Chicago was the site of a horrific munitions explosion on July 14, 1944 that killed 320 soldiers—202 of whom were African American. Many of these men were poorly trained for such dangerous work, and had been told that the munitions they were loading were not live. Over 250 surviving members of these ordinance battalion divisions refused their next assignment loading munitions. Most were court-martialed, given bad conduct discharges, and fined. Those believed to be the ringleaders were tried for conspiring to make mutiny.

Thurgood Marshall, Chief Consul for the NAACP at the time, observed these trials and used what he saw there to raise awareness about racial discrimination in the military. The tragedy at Port Chicago not only played a role in the budding Civil Rights Movement, it also led to training for those handling munitions and safer engineering of munitions.

Because the site is still an active military base, reservations are required. Please see the menus to the right to learn more.