On the night of July 17, 1944, residents in the San Francisco area were jolted awake by a massive explosion that lit up the sky. At Port Chicago Naval Magazine 40 miles east of San Francisco, 320 men were instantly killed when the munition ships they were loading with ammunition and bombs for the Pacific Rim troops mysteriously blew up. It was the largest homeland disaster during World War II.
Everyone within 1,000 feet of the loading dock perished; Sailors, Marines, Navy Armed Guard, Coast Guardsmen, Merchant Marines, and working civilians. Over 200 of the deaths were young African-American enlisted sailors working for a segregated military. The explosion and its aftermath led to the largest Naval mutiny trial and was one of the catalysts to persuade the U.S. Armed Services to desegregate following the war.