Talk:Port Chicago disaster/Archive 1

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Archive 1


Currently Port Chicago mutiny is redirected to Port Chicago disaster. Ive edited the link to the mutiny out.Madcynic 12:56, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

Conspiracy theory

I shored up this page a bit. I must admit I favor the Navy version of the story more than the crazy-ass "I bet it was a nuclear weapon" version of the story which I find to be patently ridiculous for the following reasons: 1. there is OVERWHELMING evidence to suggest that there was not enough fissionable material in 1944 for a self-sustaining chain reaction, 2. the only source for such a crazy notion is one guy's "web-based book" on the subject.

The entire connection to the Manhattan Project on the website seems to be based around a document purportedly smuggled out of Los Alamos which mentions that an atomic bomb would produce a "ball of fire mushroom out at 18,000 ft in a typical Port Chicago fashion." Which might look insiduous if you hadn't ever bothered to read any literature on the Manhattan Project: the scientists and military engineers looked at the results of many similar incidents for the purposes of gauging exactly what a few kilotons of TNT would do to a town. Explosions of that size were not common in military use and had only occurred in a few freakish accidents like that which happened at Port Chicago. They are simply referring to the Port Chicago explosion to give reference to something close to the size of an atomic bomb explosion (still, Port Chicago was, at best, a 5 kt explosion; compared to Hiroshima which was over twice that value).

But to insinuate that the Port Chicago explosion itself was caused by an atomic bomb not only flies in the face of all scholarly history and archival information, but also raises the lovely question of, "if it was an atomic bomb, then why were there 320 people loading 5 tons of explosives on the dock?" which is well documented not only in terms of records, but body count. It just doesn't make any sense, any way you slice it. --Fastfission 19:34, 6 Jul 2004 (UTC) (basic front for the first Atomic Bomb test, would be to have people actually loading munitions, giving the needed cover story)

I've put back the "conspiracy theory" notes. I don't much believe it either, but there are some people out there who wonder why there was a white flash, and why the Navy was supposedly filming the explosion. Let the reader decide if they believe the nuclear bomb theory or not.
I edited it a bit. From what I can tell, the only guy who thinks this is Peter Vogel, and his work is not even published by a vanity press. Let's not give this nutty theory more attention that it deserves. This is nonsense on so many levels, anybody with the slightest idea about the history of nuclear weapons or their effects can tell you. --Fastfission 23:49, 13 Jul 2004 (UTC)
I also reinserted a lot of the cut copy, which had more information about the incident (and less typos). If you want to create a page on the Port Chicago nuclear bomb theory, go for it (such as how Apollo_Moon_landing has a separate page for the silliness at Apollo_moon_landing_hoax_accusations). But the Port Chicago disaster incident needs to focus on the explosion and the mutiny, I think, not a couple tin-foil hatters misguided attempt at atomic history. --Fastfission 00:05, 14 Jul 2004 (UTC)
You all have been more than fair to the "journalist" who has dedicated himself to making a living off of his dubious claims of nuclear explosions in regard to this disaster. The best way to "bury" his evanescent accusations is to more fully develop the main article related to the disaster: i.e. give more details and testimony. There are more than enough sources to justify a longer, more detailed article. Cla68 00:34, 26 May 2006 (UTC)
Not so fast, guys. As of 16 June 2008, the US Navy is planning to bring in 9,000 truckloads of dirt to cover up something. Supposedly there are unexploded depth bombs. [[1]] Before the Navy can sell off the land for development, they need to render the Port Chicago area safe. I'd think that would involve detonating or removing unexploded bombs. Blanketing the area with a layer of dirt sounds more like fallout remediation. —Preceding unsigned comment added by N1cholson (talkcontribs) 22:21, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
I guess you missed the part where it was discussed that Port Chicago explosion preceded the very first nuclear test explosion. 9,000 truckloads of dirt sounds like... just that. Binksternet (talk) 02:53, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
Binksternet, I think you're missing the point of this thread of this discussion. The fact that the Navy is in the process of covering the Port Chicago site with 9,000 truckloads of dirt from outside the weapons station suggests a literal and figurative cover-up of something. If one considers the possibility that a secret pre-Trinity test or accident occurred in July 1944 at Port Chicago, it would be consistent with the need to blanket the area with a layer of clean dirt 64 years later. The ad hominem arguments should be condemned by all. (talk) 23:17, 1 July 2008 (UTC)
The cover up is literal. The Navy acknowledges that hazardous materials are in the ground at Port Chicago, and that explosives have been uncovered. Who wouldn't want a heavy cap of soil between their new house and the old military base? If you read the article, nothing about radiation is mentioned. A thick layer of clean dirt is consistent with the Navy wanting to sell the land to developers. When hunting for a reason, never discount greed as a motivator. Binksternet (talk) 00:47, 2 July 2008 (UTC)
The article states that the landfill and proposed cover-up are on the tidal portion of the base. It is the tidal portion of the base that the Navy intends to retain as a base; the inland portion is the area which the Navy plans to sell to developers. Residents of the nearby town of Clyde, CA are on the tidal side of the base and certainly would benefit from the burying of toxic chemicals, radiation or ordnance, though given a choice most people would prefer to entirely avoid living in a toxic zone, cap or no cap. The article does not mention radiation which is consistent with a motive to sell land at the highest possible price. Certainly knowledge of radiation in the area would be something that the propery owner would not want to divulge for monetary reasons, but also would not legally be able to divulge if the original source of the radiation were a state secret. Moreover, the costs of reparations to the surrouning communities, should it be revealed that the Port Chicago disaster was an atomic accident or secret test would be astronomical. Nicholson 22:09, 2 July 2008 (UTC)
Or maybe they need to bury the aliens that crashed into the munitions ship? I mean with the evidence we have, it's just as likely right? --Falcorian (talk) 23:35, 2 July 2008 (UTC)
That sounds more like Fan Fiction from where your Wikipedia bio says you're a frequent poster. Nicholson 19:02, 7 July 2008 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by N1cholson (talkcontribs)
Hillarious, but the point stands. You have two theories, both of which fit the evidence, and neither of which makes a unique prediction that can be tested with the current information. --Falcorian (talk) 20:23, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
In the absence of sufficient information, do you favor investigation or ridicule? Nicholson 22:58, 7 July 2008 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by N1cholson (talkcontribs)

<Unindent> In "absence of sufficient information" I support Wikipedia policy of not covering it. --Falcorian (talk) 23:20, 7 July 2008 (UTC)

Wikipedia's policy is "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—that is, whether readers are able to check that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether we think it is true." By this standard, the Napa Sentinel article by Caul and Todd warrants at least a mention of the theory in the main article. Nicholson 00:57, 8 July 2008 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by N1cholson (talkcontribs)
WP:UNDUE: "If a viewpoint is held by an extremely small (or vastly limited) minority, it does not belong in Wikipedia regardless of whether it is true or not and regardless of whether you can prove it or not, except perhaps in some ancillary article." --Falcorian (talk) 01:08, 8 July 2008 (UTC)
Fair enough. It's undoubtedly the case that that the conspiracy theory is a minority viewpoint and inclusion in the main article would give it undue weight. Keeping the topic on the discussion page is the right thing to do. Rather than personal attacks on Vogel, Caul & Todd and others who are interested in discussing the topic, it would be far more useful to maintain a summary here of the arguments supporting the conspiracy theory and the arguments that refute them as in the chart below.

Conspiracy Theory Arguments and Refutation
Argument advanced Skeptical analysis Comments
Blast unusally large for conventional explosion. Felt as far away as Nevada. Witnesses report blinding white flash as in an atomic blast. 5 kilotons of convenional explosives produces an effect similar to an atomic test Thermite munitions caused white flash
Higher than normal background radiation in surrounding cities. Could be explained by other nuclear sites in the area No measurements of Port Chicago disaster site itself are available.
June 2008: Navy proposes blanketing site with 9,000 truckloads of clean soil. August 2008: About 20 trucks will pick up dirt at the Pleasant Hill BART station, where there is a construction project under way, and take it to the waterfront portion of the weapons station. There, it will be used to cap a 13-acre landfill on the base. Each truck will make 7,100 trips over the course of the project to carry a total of 160,000 tons of dirt.[1] Navy says unexploded depth rockets. Area known for chemical pollution.
Secret Manhattan Project document "History of 10000 ton gadget" refers to Port Chicago blast as being typical Simply a comparison to a large conventional explosion's effects. Does not indicate an atomic test. Document is not forged.
Town of Port Chicago was purchased and absorbed into the Naval base in 1968. Site is now off limits to public. A reasonable security measure for a town adjacent to a naval weapons station. The small town of Clyde is now immediately outside the base.
The Geiger counter was invented in 1908, the Geiger-Müller counter was invented in 1928. I don't know how many Geiger counters were in the Bay Area in 1944, but there were some. Where are the contemporaneous reports of a spike in radiation? That to me is the biggest proof that this explosion is what "they" say it is. I still think the crackpot theory deserves mention on the page. It being excluded more for the lack of a good refutation page than anything else.  Randall Bart   Talk  23:45, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

I know this discussion is old, but I would like to add that a single air-dropped bomb from WWII could produce an explosion big enough to destroy much of a city block. Smaller devices used in naval artillery routinely destroyed large sections of enormous, heavily armored cruisers and battleships, at times killing hundreds of sailors.

When a naval vessel was hit in the right spot (where the munitions are stored), the whole ship would go up in a massive explosion producing a mushroom cloud and submerging the ship within seconds. This indeed happened with numerous American and Japanese warships during the war.

And that's for a naval warship, which does a lot more than just carry around explosives. This, on the other hand, was a cargo ship. The whole purpose of this ship is to pack as much weaponry as humanly possible onto a large ship so that the weapons can be efficiently transported to the war zone. It is basically one huge, enormous, bomb. I have not a doubt in my mind that such a ship exploding could produce an effect similar to a small nuclear blast. Mbarbier (talk) 14:02, 17 July 2009 (UTC)

Peter Vogel's comments?

I moved the following to this Talk page for what should be obvious reasons. --Fastfission 21:29, 18 Jul 2004 (UTC)

This was posted yesterday, Friday, with a few follow-ups, at:
Details of the findings are posted at:
By ikluft, Section News
Posted on Fri Jul 16th, 2004 at 02:36:33 PM PST
A year and a half ago when the Port Chicago debate erupted on SciScoop and Slashdot, the question came up, "Where's the radiation?" Trying to settle the urban legend one way or the other before the 60th anniversary of the accident (July 17), a friend and I drove there with an electronic geiger counter mounted outside my truck and my Linux Laptop inside, logging the data. What we found was startling.
There is a 2-mile wide swath of higher-than-background (13-17 uR/hr measured from the road) radiation directly across the bay from Port Chicago on Grizzly Island. It gets less noticeable further inland, even with sensitive instruments. It's a wildlife area, so maybe that's why no one noticed. But the unexplained radiation is definitely there. And the shape is facing Port Chicago from across the bay.
I posted my findings including instructions and source code so you can duplicate my experiment. Time to get the media to exercise their FOIA expertise and pester members of Congress for info.
Peter Vogel

Personally I think this is just nonsense -- even if it HAD been an atomic bomb at Port Chicago (which I still find a ridiculous and unsupported suggestion), I doubt there would still be a "radiation plume" 50 years later (and frankly even if there WERE "highter-than-background" levels on Grizzly Island, to jump to the conclusion that this supports the otherwise crazy Port Chicago bomb theory is not warranted). And for the record, ANYONE can file a FOIA, not just the media. If I were to really suspect something for radiological contamination, it would not be a hypothetical and highly unlikely atomic bomb blast, but something related to one of the nearby reactors (Vallecitos?), national laboratories (Berkeley, Livermore?), or Cold War atomic research that took place at Hunter's Point (which was home to the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory from the 1940s until 1969). But anyway, this sort of original not peer-reviewed research doesn't belong on Wikipedia, which is the real reason to move it to the Talk page, not just the fact that I find it to be a bit tin-foil hat. --Fastfission 21:35, 18 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Merge from The Port Chicago 50

The Port Chicago 50 is a basically just a poorer quality version of this article; I don't see any reason it shouldn't just redirect here, with any worthwhile new bits merged. Pimlottc 21:28, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

The Port Chicago 50 was submiited to discuss the individuals involved vice the actual incident. Then intent is to provide a discussion about the individual sailors. I would be willing to see a merge done if the the article was broadened to discussed the people.
Absolon S. Kent 15:57, 27 October 2006 (UTC)
I think these should be merged. Port Chicago Mutiny is a redirects to Port Chicago disaster, even though more logically it should be a redirect to The Port Chicago 50. But changing the redirect would point to a brief article that glosses over the mutiny itself. Improving The Port Chicago 50 would just create a lot of duplication between the two articles. Merge'em. — Randall Bart (talk) 21:42, 6 August 2007 (UTC)
I agree that they should be merged. Unless someone was going to put lots more details about the 50 soldiers convicted of mutiny (and there are not that many details available on most of them), the other article is just not that helpful. Especially since there aren't any real details there now. Anything there could be moved here. I am reading the rerelease of the Allen book (rereleased in 2006). Pretty interesting. --Tinned Elk 01:38, 18 August 2007 (UTC)

Information merged on 30 August 2007 and redirect page created.
Absolon S. Kent 14:04, 30 August 2007 (UTC)


The atomic explosion "speculation" is used as an example in WP:FRINGE at [2]. DGG (talk) 06:18, 15 February 2008 (UTC)

Right, but that's just because the guy who wrote the first draft of FRINGE is someone who worked on this page. It's not exactly an ironclad rule. -- (talk) 08:31, 30 April 2008 (UTC)

The quotes around "mutiny"

I have removed the quotes around the word "mutiny". Mutiny is when two or more men conspire to disobey orders, so the word is correctly used. That their gripes were legitimate and that they were later pardoned doesn't change that fact.  Randall Bart   Talk  19:18, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

I agree that the quotes should go. The Navy really convicted the men. However, there is a good deal of question regarding the legality and correctness of the proceedings of the courts-martial... The mutiny conviction would never stand today. The men didn't try to take control, most of them were willing to do any work but load ammo. Most were not ordered to load ammo, they were asked. The men were individually afraid. More than one modern observer has called the refusal a "work-stoppage" or in some cases a "refusal to obey an order"--a crime that is much lesser than mutiny. The mutiny conviction was a done deal before the trial even started. Binksternet (talk) 06:02, 4 December 2008 (UTC)

Crackpot nuclear theory

Perhaps there should be a section on the crackpot nuclear theory. Proper cites were provided. I agree there shouldn't be an uncommented link to, but we shouldn't be censoring loonies who provide cites.  Randall Bart   Talk  17:09, 1 May 2008 (UTC)

Just because they provide citations doesn't mean they can be included. The question is whether anyone cites them. -- (talk) 01:35, 2 May 2008 (UTC)
I think WP:Undue weight applies, and would suggest we not include it. --Falcorian (talk) 05:41, 2 May 2008 (UTC)
Isn't it just one self-published, independent journalist who is advancing the nuclear explosion theory? Even if that is true, if any independent sources have discussed his claims, it's ok to have a small section about it in the article. The way to give it an NPOV treatment in the appropriate context is to say something like, "Independent researcher ________ (whatever his/her name is) has claimed that the explosion was caused by the accidental detonation of a nuclear advice. He further claims that the Navy covered this up by..." then add the citations. If done this way, it isn't giving undue weight to the theory, because the section is making it clear that it's a theory being promoted by only one person, although it has gained some publicity. Cla68 (talk) 06:28, 2 May 2008 (UTC)
As far as I know he's gotten an occasional mention in mainstream news (that didn't bother to really do any critical assessment of it) and has been totally ignored by actual historians, specialists, etc. It has not been taken seriously as a real theory (his work is nothing but innuendo and his own misunderstanding of certain historical documents—check out his chapter on Teller, if you dare, to see exactly how unrigorous his reasoning and research is and how much of his book is mostly just fluff padding out a weak thesis), nobody has bothered to even debunk it, which to me means that it probably violates NPOV. The reason for this is quite simple: it would be very undue weight if we wrote about it without pointing out it was completely nonsensical, but that would require us to do the debunking, which would violate NOR. If not violating NPOV means we'd violate NOR, that's the concise definition of a fringe theory, in my opinion.
(As for debunking it, it is clearly based on a misunderstanding of a document. He saw references to the Port Chicago explosion among Manhattan Project documents and incorrectly inferred that 1. the Port Chicago explosion must have been nuclear and 2. there was a huge conspiracy to eradicate all evidence of such by Project leadership. The more logically simple interpretation is that they used the Port Chicago explosion as a way to understand the effects of large, relatively concentrated explosions on populated areas—something necessary for their strategic planning relating to the atomic bomb—and as it happened during the war it was an event that they could actually get live data from immediately after the fact. This answer doesn't involve shadowy conspiracies, doesn't contradict known technical capabilities, and doesn't lead one into such bizarre ideas as having a left-winger, anti-racist like Oppenheimer blowing up Black soldiers just to get his jollies off). -- (talk) 22:53, 2 May 2008 (UTC)
I agree with 98's view. It's such a fringe theory that including it is inherently either A) NPOV or B) violates OR. --Falcorian (talk) 23:23, 2 May 2008 (UTC)
Okay, I would suggest that whenever someone tries to add this theory to the article that we leave a note on the editor's talk page with a link to this discussion. Cla68 (talk) 01:21, 3 May 2008 (UTC)
Sounds like an excellent idea. --Falcorian (talk) 01:42, 3 May 2008 (UTC)

You arn't going to put wikipedia high up on the credibility scale if you denounce a perectlay credible theory as 'Crackpot'. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:26, 4 May 2008 (UTC)

It's not credible by our definitions though, as described above, and which concern mainly WP:RS. --Falcorian (talk) 18:02, 4 May 2008 (UTC)
It doesn't matter whether any one of us thinks it is "credible" (I don't think it's perfectly credible in the slightest—there isn't one shred of direct evidence for it). It's a question of whether its inclusion or not violates Wikipedia content policies. If you don't understand the distinction, then you aren't going to get very far editing on Wikipedia. As for whether someone on the talk page call it crackpot or not, that's their own opinion, not "Wikipedia's". -- (talk) 19:18, 4 May 2008 (UTC)
I think this should be mentioned - not in so much as that it is editorially judged to be a possible explanation though. There is a certain amount of reaction to Vogel's claims which should be worth a sentence or two. San Jose mercury, Sacramento bee, The Voice in the UK have all run stories on the subject. I don't think two sentences would be undue weight, and their inclusion does not amount to any endorsement of the theory. (talk) 02:05, 6 June 2008 (UTC)
Fortunately, that's not a danger in this case. Argyriou (talk) 05:24, 6 June 2008 (UTC)
I don't mind somebody adding Vogel's idiot theory (with newspaper citations) so long as it's clear from a bald statement of facts that Vogel's waaay off base. For instance, it would have to be mentioned that the first nuclear test was AFTER the Port Chicago explosion. It's hard enough to get an experimental nuclear device to explode when hundreds of scientists and technicians have to be there to make sure all the parts are working as planned. To have a notional device explode accidentally BEFORE the first-ever test is preposterous. If Vogel is injected into this article, he should be hoisted on his own petard. And briefly; no undue weight. Binksternet (talk) 18:25, 7 June 2008 (UTC)
Where are the mentions of Vogel's theory in credible publications? Cla68 (talk) 03:27, 19 June 2008 (UTC)
This article might be about it, but I don't have access. -- (talk) 22:47, 23 June 2008 (UTC)
From their abstract: "This article examines that evidence critically, and refutes the conclusion that Port Chicago could have been a nuclear event. The episode demonstrates insights into the sociology of publishing astounding knowledge claims, and suggests how historians might better assist journalists in evaluating such claims." I'm not sure if that is an argument for or against inclusion. --Falcorian (talk) 23:50, 23 June 2008 (UTC)
San Jose Mercury, Sacramento Bee both have run articles on the subject, I'm sure someone will be able to dig them out. Brilliantine (talk) 16:25, 28 June 2008 (UTC)
It's an argument for inclusion with heavy emphasis on it being considered inaccurate by professional historians. The question isn't whether the article agrees with it, but whether it talks about it at all. I don't really consider the Mercury and Bee stories to be as important — they're both what I'd consider to be "local news" (though the Mercury is somewhat more than that). If it were the New York Times, or even the LA Times, sure, but I wouldn't trust Bee coverage of something like this as far as I could throw it. (No offense to reporters on the Bee, but I've found most "local" papers, and even most "national" newspapers, do a pretty bad job at stories like this, where there is a high degree of potential sensationalism and a high degree of historical and scientific confusion.) But Hewlett is a real-deal historian (wrote the official history of the AEC, has had access to classified sources, and would not, if he saw evidence to the contrary, shy away from something like this), ditto Badash (who also has the benefit of not being "official"). -- (talk) 16:42, 29 June 2008 (UTC)
To be fair, although I don't necessarily know if this is a measure for due weight, the phrase "peter vogel port chicago" turns up about 240,000 hits on Google, while both "holocaust denial" and "holocaust revisionism" only turn up about 700,000 hits each. That's pretty remarkable considering that the holocaust conspiracy theories have been around much longer and have had much more presence off the internet than the Port Chicago theories. Also Time Cube, which is blatantly ludicrous, only turns up 50,000, and many sketchy theories are present on the JFK assassination page. Either way, I think almost a quarter million hits on Google is pretty notable for something one guy cooked up on his website. (talk) 20:21, 26 September 2008 (UTC)
Except: It only turns up 377. 1,080 if you only use Vogel. --Falcorian (talk) 21:05, 26 September 2008 (UTC)
That's true, I messed up. I didn't use the phrase, it was just the keywords without quotes. My mistake. (talk) 00:49, 27 September 2008 (UTC)

lol you guys realize that the talk page is 90 times the size of the article, right? several points: Vogel was a trained physicist who studied under Teller and knew him personally, well enough to take his documents to him for inspection. Second, if you want to scrub out the conspiracy theory, use the simplest argument: Concord was used to scrub nuclear-contaminated ships from 1950 on. There's a perfectly plausible explanation for anomalous background radiation levels. Third, the article FAILS to tell us poor slob readers why the mutiny even took place. It happened, there were gripes, there were courts martial and a Supreme Court justice took up the cause of the 50. Why did they revolt? Point four: the US didn't have enough nuclear materiel to meet the politicians' schedule for deployment. They had divided their reserve in the "Western Electrical District" between enriched uranium and uranium for producing plutonium in breeder reactors. Where did the fuel come from for the Port of Chicago test? Where did the missing fuel come from for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for that matter? Teller knew. He had to. So you can hopefully take these points and work them in as you like, from your POV which is what excluding the "conspiracy" from the article is about. There is a lot of background to the mutiny you can work into this too. Blacks were brought to San Francisco for the war effort. The resettlement affected the old Japanese community there to quite an extent. San Franciscans came to terms with their new black residents but there was a lot of friction. Anyway, anyone who knows, please explain what the grievances were here. Thanks. Furuncle (talk) 04:12, 29 October 2008 (UTC)

Article expansion

This article is on my "to do" list [3], but it's going to be awhile before I get to it, at least a year probably. I plan on my main source being Robert Allen's book, which I assume has the most/best information on the background and details, more than the rest of the Internet has. In the meantime, if anyone wants to crack that book open and get to work on bringing this article up to speed, please feel free to do so. Cla68 (talk) 05:51, 29 October 2008 (UTC)

Looks like I dug into it before you! I've still got some work planned and the borrowed library book is sitting at my desk, ready for another round of editing. Tomorrow I'll put more into the court martial section. FYI, I'm not at all inclined to mention anything about nukes. Even Vogel put his sword away after researching the subject further--now the atomic blast banner is carried by various people recently coming into contact with his writings, hoping to uncover a scandal. The real scandal was racism and the incompetence of the command, not atomic fission. Binksternet (talk) 06:02, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
From what I've read, the racist and incompetent leadership probably is the real heart of the matter, in addition to, of course, the inherent dangers involved in loading and transporting explosives and ammunition. Please drop me a line once you get close to finishing your work on the article and I'll try to help out with a review/copyedit. Cla68 (talk) 06:21, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
You bet! Not there yet, though. Binksternet (talk) 23:10, 4 December 2008 (UTC)

Caul and Todd

I deleted another link that talks about the nuclear blast theory:, an article that ran in a the local Napa paper, apparently edited by David Caul & Susan Todd. This one was added by User:Marasama who probably wasn't aware of the discussion going on here. This implausible and contentious link shouldn't sit out there amid the other External links with no explanation at all. I'm bringing the link back here to the Talk page in case somebody ever takes a stab at writing a paragraph that explains the Vogel theory in a neutral manner, in which case this link might come in handy. It has a long Freedom of Information-based bibliography at the end, though wading through the long-windedness is a real task. Binksternet (talk) 01:54, 30 June 2008 (UTC)

More photos needed

Now that the text is longer, more photos are needed. I know of one that shows the mutiny trial with its lawyers and defendants:

...and one that shows the port's undamaged pier, barracks and revetments taken late in the initial construction phase:

Any enterprising soul who knows the ins and outs of porting an image from Flickr to Commons or Wiki, feel free to dig in and do it. Binksternet (talk) 05:09, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

Here's another one that looks kind of weird until you realize that the photo needs to be rotated 180 degrees:

Either that or the airplane was flying upside down. :P Binksternet (talk) 05:14, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

The person who uploaded those photos into Flickr didn't give the copyright status of them. They're probably US Navy photos, but without it explicitely saying that, someone might object sooner or later. Do any of these photos appear in Allen's book? Cla68 (talk) 06:24, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
If you click on Port Chicago under "public content" the following gallery comes up: [4] which I assume means all of these images are public domain. I've never uploaded an image with the Flickr license so I'll have to look into how to do it. Cla68 (talk) 06:35, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

Flickr has a "commons" where they host PD works... Searching there leads my only to this. The ones Cla68 found are just user uploaded it looks like (and so probably not usable unless when have another source for them). However, I can upload to WikiCommons from flickr should you find anything that we can use. --Falcorian (talk) 16:55, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

Here's some sites dealing with Port Chicago:,, Online documents (Maybe good to put on wikisource?). --Falcorian (talk) 17:01, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
The site keeps showing up in my Google searches but I can never get a page based at that address to load. I would love to see what they've got. Binksternet (talk) 17:29, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
I've been able to get something of an idea from the Wayback Machine's version of the Navy site. This Google cache of the Navy site says they've been having trouble keeping up with the server load so they're in the middle of transferring their photos and files to a better facility. Binksternet (talk) 20:53, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

Bronze Stars or what?

I've got conflicting sources saying four or five sailors got bravery medals directly following their success in fighting a boxcar revetment fire and that the medals awarded were either Bronze Stars or Navy and Marine Corps Medals. The National Park Service says five guys got Bronze and lists their names. Christopher Bell's book Naval Mutinies of the Twentieth Century: An International Perspective says that four guys got Navy and Marine Corps Medals--the book quotes the citation for bravery that was issued but doesn't list names. Another source (I forget which) offered a third scenario: four enlisted men receiving Navy and Marine Corps Medals plus one officer getting the Bronze Star. Which version is what really happened? Binksternet (talk) 18:01, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

A wee break in article expansion

Real life calls, forcing me to break off expansion work for a few days. Planned expansion includes more about closing arguments and the verdict, more about NAACP and other subsequent reactions including the appeal by Thurgood Marshall, more about the 1945 official confirmation of guilt, a new bit about the 1994 official confirmation of guilt and more about modern efforts to obtain exoneration or pardons. Perhaps something relating to efforts to expand the National Memorial site past one acre in size. Perhaps something about the effort to have a US stamp commemorate the event. Perhaps a mention of the "Port Chicago Jazz Suite" written by Marcus Shelby. Anybody wishing to poke at the article: have at it. :) Binksternet (talk) 18:14, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

...And more page numbers from the Allen book. Binksternet (talk) 18:16, 9 December 2008 (UTC)
Great work. Looking forward to what you add in the future. In the meantime, I'll give it a copyedit and try to add any wikilinks, formatting, etc that it might need. Cla68 (talk) 21:09, 9 December 2008 (UTC)
Done with legal eagle stuff. Still looking to add something about the quality of men assigned to Port Chicago. I think an angry comment from one of the guys who didn't refuse to load ammo would be appropriate. Gettin' there... Binksternet (talk) 07:55, 27 December 2008 (UTC)
Let's say I'm done. The commemorative stamp effort and the jazz suite don't seem as pressing as they once did, especially since I would have to write a new article for Marcus Shelby who I'm not very familiar with. Binksternet (talk) 23:27, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

Vogel's claim on the article

I just trimmed back a new section describing Peter Vogel's theory. I felt that the section, though somewhat critical of Vogel, afforded too much substance to his ideas. Instead, I put a boundary of years on Vogel's interest in the subject (1982-2005) and I wrote that Vogel has since given up on the nuke claim. This is taken from an extremely brief cite in the 2006 addendum to the Robert L. Allen book ''The Port Chicago Mutiny which states "In 1982 I published an article on my Port Chicago research in The Black Scholar (Spring issue). In that issue, which I edited, there was also an article entitled The Last Wave from Port Chicago, by Peter Vogel. Vogel, who then worked as an information officer in the energy research and development programs of the state of New Mexico, presented circumstantial evidence suggesting that the explosion at Port Chicago was nuclear in origin. The article provoked a storm of controversy in the Bay Area press. Eventually, Vogel himself abandoned the theory when no hard evidence could be found to support it. -Robert L. Allen, PhD. Hope that helps! Binksternet (talk) 06:51, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

I'd like to hear the reasoning behind the continued introduction of any of Vogel's specific theoretical points into the article. The connection to the uranium hydride bomb design is certainly one of Vogel's foundational concepts that could have supported his theory. The theory had a lot more to it, of course; I wonder why this one datum is considered more worthy of mention. We could also say that Vogel's theory relied upon an assessment that the TNT and torpex on the dock at Port Chicago weighed 1750 tons and couldn't have created the size of fireball that was observed. Another data point used by Vogel was that the nearest survivors to the blast, two men who were rescued from underneath the collapsed joiner shop 1000 ft away, "would probably not have suffered adverse short-term health consequences as the result of ionizing radiation exposure, prompt gamma nor subsequently from any local radioactive fallout." These points and more can be added to the article in support of Vogel's theory, however, the theory as a whole has been roundly discredited, making unnecessary any sort of delineation of Vogel's supporting evidence. Binksternet (talk) 18:50, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
I was curious about this statement quoted by Allen. So I sent an email to Vogle to inquire if he in fact had abandoned his theory. I heard back from him immediately, he wrote "Certainly I have not abandoned the work. That erroneous statement has been in circulation during 20 years."
I also just found this article where Vogel was quoted from Aug. 2008, (talk) 00:13, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Allen put that "Vogel himself abandoned" phrase in his 2006 addendum to the 1993 edition which did NOT have it so Vogel is wrong in saying such a statement about his abandoning the theory has been in circulation for 20 years. It's been in circulation for 2-3 years.
Interesting that Vogel would be taking part in interviews about the subject in July 2008. Is he simply shaking the money tree while he quietly works on other projects? Or is he back pounding the pavement looking for further clues? We don't really have a lead solid enough to change the wording at this point. Binksternet (talk) 00:53, 1 January 2009 (UTC)

Vogel's "theory" isn't notable (nor is it a theory). It's fringe. There is no requirement to give any weight to this kind of fringe idea in any article, and in fact WP discourages it. The book might have been newsworthy when it was released, if one stretches one's imagination, but it's old and moldy now. So why does this article still refer to it? Anyone? Dcs002 (talk) 08:10, 3 August 2011 (UTC)

Agree that all mention of Vogel and his theory should go at this point. --Yaush (talk) 13:46, 3 August 2011 (UTC)
Robert Allen wrote in 2006 that Vogel's article in the 1982 Spring issue of The Black Scholar "provoked a storm of controversy in the Bay Area press." It would be remiss not to include Vogel if Allen thought he was worth mentioning. Binksternet (talk) 14:06, 3 August 2011 (UTC)

Quinalt or Quinault?

The Victory ship SS Quinalt Victory is spelled with no 'u' in Allen's definitive book The Port Chicago Mutiny. The ship was built in Portland, Oregon in June 1944 and was part of a series of Victory ships named after towns in the Pacific Northwest. The place the ship is named after is Quinault, a small community in Grays Harbor County, Washington.

Various official sources list the name with and without the 'u' in Quinault:

It appears that the ship's name is spelled both ways within different parts of the Navy, the Coast Guard and the National Park Service. So, which spelling should we use? What spelling was painted on the ship? Binksternet (talk) 19:51, 18 December 2008 (UTC)

I'd say QuinaUlt as that's the towns name... But I think you might want to ask this question on Wikipedia:WikiProject Ships and Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/World War II task force. I'm sure they have run into similar problems, and they might either have a standard way of addressing it or a 'holy bible' of ship names they can consult. Interesting side note: List of Victory ships say no 'U', but the reference they have for the page to says yes 'U'. ;-) --Falcorian (talk) 20:19, 18 December 2008 (UTC)
Good idea. Will do. Binksternet (talk) 22:39, 18 December 2008 (UTC)
Lloyd's Register listed her as Quinault Victory per this scan of the 1944–45 listing. That's fairly definitive. Maralia (talk) 01:26, 19 December 2008 (UTC)
You say definitive, I say thank you. :) Binksternet (talk) 03:48, 19 December 2008 (UTC)
I agree, that's definitive. However, since there are sources that misspell the name, that should be noted in the article as well. — Bellhalla (talk) 22:25, 19 December 2008 (UTC)
I'll bring in the 'alt' (pun intended) spelling as well. Binksternet (talk) 21:35, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

Compacting References

The duplicate references should probably be named so they can be shared, as in this edit. I'll try to work on it when I have some free time... Others are welcome to if they feel bored. ;-) --Falcorian (talk) 07:55, 19 December 2008 (UTC)

What's not here

This article is just a summary of the explosion and subsequent mutiny trial; a lot of interesting material has been left out in the interest of keeping the article from becoming too large. Here are some of the topics I purposely left out of this summary:

  • SS Mormactern, last successful ship loaded at Port Chicago prior to explosion
  • more details about which munitions (and how much) were loaded on SS E. A. Bryan
  • full listing of the explosion victims
  • full listing of the 50 men who received mutiny convictions
  • full listing of the 208 men convicted of disobeying orders
  • damage to Coast Guard patrol boat Miahelo
  • damage to Roe Island lighthouse
  • damage to SS Redline, a small tanker
  • damage to military buildings
  • damage to town
  • damage to Port Chicago movie theater during its showing of China (1943)
  • post explosion development of the weapons depot
  • Navy annexation of the town in the 1960s
  • Lieutenant Commander Glen Ringquist, last man to leave the dock before explosion
  • Army Air Force pilot witness to explosion
  • civilian airline pilot witness to explosion
  • Mare Island chaplain Lieutenant Commander Jefferson Flowers who tried to persuade Division 4 to load the San Gay after they refused on August 9
  • possible effect of November 1944 presidential elections on mutiny trial outcome--FDR needing to court African-American voters
  • full account of the various officers and men who testified at the courts-martial
  • 1977 attempt by convicted man Martin Bordenave to have the case reopened

I encourage readers who want more information to check out Robert L. Allen's book The Port Chicago Mutiny as well as other sources listed in the References section. Binksternet (talk) 17:38, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

Terminal Island prison

Does anybody here know whether the Federal Correctional Institution, Terminal Island is the same facility as "Terminal Island Disciplinary Barracks"? The latter name is listed in numerous sources as the place where the Port Chicago 50 served their hard time. If these are two separate facilities, I'll go take out mention of the 50 at the FCI, TI page, and change the mention here, too. Binksternet (talk) 17:44, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

Incident in popular culture

The text in the popular culture sections needs citations or else removal. Other than that, I think the article is ready for A-class or FA nomination. Cla68 (talk) 22:01, 30 December 2008 (UTC)

I believe I've addressed the concern. Binksternet (talk) 06:23, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

Query re bold in Lead

Why are three different terms in the Lead rendered in bold? --Dweller (talk) 13:37, 19 June 2009 (UTC)

Those other two boldings are redirects: Port Chicago 50 and Port Chicago mutiny. Binksternet (talk) 17:20, 19 June 2009 (UTC)

Bad conduct discharges for following orders?

The way I read this article, it seems to say that the 208 who agreed to follow orders and load munitions received bad conduct discharges and were disqualified from veterans' benefits, but the 50 who continued to refuse (or otherwise were unable) received a general discharge and were not disqualified. Is that true? Wnt (talk) 00:13, 17 July 2009 (UTC)

That is correct. It was totally unfair. Binksternet (talk) 01:14, 17 July 2009 (UTC)


The article describes stevedores as unskilled. In The Avenue by R. F. Delderfield, one of the characters is a stevedore, and the work is described as skilled. Is there consensus to remove the word "unskilled" from the sentence? Mjroots (talk) 07:06, 17 July 2009 (UTC)

Stevedore is indeed a skilled position. The way it is being used in the article, the word 'stevedore' alone would have implied that the men were suddenly skilled at a job they were not trained for. The word 'unskilled' is being used to tell the reader that the men were made to do stevedore work, but were not skilled. I think the sentence is okay as it is. Binksternet (talk) 14:33, 17 July 2009 (UTC)
The sentence currently reads "but the men were instead put to work as unskilled stevedores" It could be phrased better as "but the unskilled men were instead put to work as stevedores" which makes it much clearer. Mjroots (talk) 05:55, 18 July 2009 (UTC)
Your version could be construed as, the men were taught a military trade, but even with the training they lacked skill, and so they were put to work as stevedores. How about "but the men were instead put to work as stevedores, without any such training"...? Binksternet (talk) 15:04, 18 July 2009 (UTC)


I remember hearing about this incident in an explosive cargo handling class. Call it the "worst case" case study, if you will. But I had never heard about the race element or the mutiny charges until I saw the article today from the front page. Congratulations to the editors who got it to FA. ~PescoSo saywe all 17:03, 17 July 2009 (UTC)

Thanks! :) Reading the Robert Allen book inspired me. It's the best one out there. Binksternet (talk) 17:29, 17 July 2009 (UTC)
Saw the PBS doc & "JAG". This is better. :) TREKphiler hit me ♠ But...

More bang for the buck

Can you explain why there were fewer killed for comparable amts TNT here than here? Thx, Bink. ;D TREKphiler hit me ♠ 16:15, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

I would just be guessing... Perhaps the 2 kilotons in Port Chicago detonated in a fast series of 0.4 kiloton sections, hold by hold, spreading the deadly impulse energy out over time. The 3 kiloton Halifax blast may have been all at once and it may have focused the energy in some way that I don't know about. Binksternet (talk) 01:11, 13 November 2009 (UTC)

Information that isn't in the article

I have noticed there is no information about medical attention needed for this mass casualty event. Those that did not die in the explosion but were injured had to flood the medical facilities of other towns. I've heard from several sources that many people felt the explosion like an earthquake, looked out their window and when the windows blew they pelted people's eyes and face with glass. I have a first person source who attended to townspeople who lined up for blocks to get medical attention. I've also heard from several sources that the military recruited any townspeople they could to help with the cleanup, including driving dump trucks full of debris, body parts, to be incinerated (the current article seems to suggest only the surviving military cleaned up). And as was previously mentioned here, the entire town of Port of Chicago was siezed by the federal government, which in itself is a violation of the constition, even at a loose reading of "takings clause" of the fifth amendment, property owners were not given just compensation for the land. Perhaps that in itself might deserve its own article, but it could certainly do for maybe 1 sentence here as it was a direct result of the explosion. Promontoriumispromontorium (talk) 05:51, 21 June 2010 (UTC)

What kind of text changes do you suggest? Binksternet (talk) 06:38, 21 June 2010 (UTC)

Compensation Errors

The following passage is incorrect in almost all respects, as is the source upon which it was based.

"The Navy asked Congress to give each victim's family $5,000. Representative John E. Rankin (D-Mississippi) insisted the amount be reduced to $2,000 when he learned most of the dead were black men.[44] Congress settled on $3,000 in compensation,"

In fact:

- The Navy did not ask Congress for such compensation; the bill originated with Rep Carter, the representative for the district that included the Port Chicago area.

- The bill was intended to compensate the civilian residents in the community outside of the base - i.e., Rep. Carter's constituents. It was never intended to compensate the military victims or their survivors. In fact, the bill's language specifically excluded personnel “not then members of the armed forces or civilian employees of the United States” from any coverage in the act.

- As servicemen, the sailors were covered by NSLI (the forerunner of SGLI) and as such were not eligible for separate compensation. The sailors' families received the benefits of the NSLI insurance coverage, but this had nothing to do with Congress' compensation act.

- As there were no fatalities among the civilians in the surrounding comminutes, there was no compensation paid to any survivors - so the matter of race did not bear on this issue.

- As even the original bill (introduced by Rep Carter) excluded the black (as well as white) sailors or their survivors from compensation, the entire section regarding Rep Rankin is wholly inappropriate and borders on baseless libel. The record of the debate mentions nothing at all about differentiating any compensation based on race. Instead, his objection was that the upper limit of $5,000 was absurdly high for roof repair (which, as the text makes clear, was the major object of the bill; the predominant damage to civilian structures was damage to roofs from falling debris).

The actual compensation bill was H. R. 5181, introduced, debated and passed during the 78th Congress. The Congressional Record covering this bill is here (see pages 786, 7494 and 7521):

Also erroneous is this passage:

"Many of them inquired about obtaining a 30-day "survivor's leave" sometimes given by the Navy to sailors who had survived a serious incident where their friends or shipmates had died, but no 30-day leaves were granted, not even to those who had been hospitalized with injuries. White officers, however, received the leave, causing a major grievance among the enlisted men."

- Survivors' Leave by definition was granted only to crewmen of a ship that had been sunk by enemy action in a theater of combat. It never applied to non-combat accidents within the continental US. Survivors' Leave simply did not apply to survivors of the Port Chicago explosion, whether they were white or black.

- Further, BuPers instructions at that period limited leave for personnel on shore duty to 15 days. Leave of 30 days was only authorized for true Survivors' Leave, and Rehabilitation Leave (granted to returning sailors who had been on sea duty for 18 months or more in a combat zone), neither of which applied to any of the Port Chicago survivors, whether they were white, black, commissioned or enlisted.

While the allegations cited in the article may accurately represent the scuttlebutt and barracks rumors – as remembered years later – of disenchanted junior enlisted sailors, they are neither accurate nor correct. No documentary proof has been provided; we have only the unsubstantiated charges of individuals. Given that the other allegations in this theme were entirely baseless (the compensation issue, for example), the leave allegations should therefore either be deleted, or balanced by a discussion of actual practices. (talk) 02:54, 10 May 2012 (UTC)

You bring up valid points. The stumbling block here is that the author Robert L. Allen published his version, and there is no specific rebuttal published to my knowledge. To fix the problem you discuss in terms of compensation could be over the line regarding Wikipedia's policy of WP:No original research which specifies that articles can only relay published information, not unpublished analysis. I will take a look at the Congressional record and see if it can be useful, but normally the Congressional record is not a reliable source for facts, only a source for debate.
Here's what Robert L. Allen wrote which is what I based the article text on:

"Memorial services for the dead were scheduled to be held on July 30, and in Washington steps were being taken to compensate the families of the victims. A proposal was presented in Congress to grant the families up to $5,000 in compensation. However, when Mississippi Representative John Rankin objected to the plan because most of the beneficiaries would be black, Congress in its wisdom reduced the maximum allowable grant to $3,000.

Allen is the foremost writer about the disaster. Because of that, the article text you object to represents the mainstream viewpoint.
Whether or not the accused men were eligible for survivors' leave, they thought they were, and it was an element of their frustration. Allen says it turned into "a major grievance", one that was discussed at the court martial. Binksternet (talk) 03:37, 10 May 2012 (UTC)

Citing the actual law that is the focus of Allen's passage can hardly be considered "original research". The Congressional Record is an openly available, verifiable, factual, published, primary resource with a neutral point of view. When it comes to how the law applied to this disaster, it is inconceivable that the law itself not be cited here. Citing the law is perfectly consistent with Wiki’s policy of primary sources “to make straightforward, descriptive statements of facts that any educated person, with access to the source but without specialist knowledge, will be able to verify are supported by the source.” Why would a rebuttal be necessary if the Public Law speaks for itself?

Allen may very well be the foremost writer on the subject, but as just demonstrated, that does not mean everything he published was correct or supported by other evidence (or in this case, even well researched). If his book claims the law provided for 'x', yet the law clearly contradicts this, then as a minimum, the facts regarding the law should be included as well. Similarly, as the record of the debate does not support Allen's allegations against Rankin (for which Allen provided no footnotes, sources or any other support), it should be noted that the Congressional Record does not support Allen's claim, and let the article leave it as an unresolved controversy.

As to the other grievances, they should indeed be mentioned as they did figure into developments; but to provide balance to the article, it should be noted that not all the grievances were necessarily justified or supported by naval regulations of the day. (talk) 19:45, 10 May 2012 (UTC)

  1. ^ Rose, Tanya. "Weapons station dirt hauling to start Thursday". Contra Costa Times. Retrieved 2008-08-13.