Texas City, TX Explosion, Apr 1947

View Across the Bay Troops evacuating civilians Aerial View

Series of Blasts Touched Off by Nitrate Ship Ravages Texas City.

1,200 FEARED DEAD.

Coast Jarred For 150 Miles

TEXAS CITY, April 16 (AP) - The worst American disaster of the last 10 years - a chain of blasts set off by the explosion of a nitrate-laden ship - smote this Gulf port today, killing an estimated 1,200 persons and injuring more than 1,000. Much of the boom industrial city of 15,000 population was destroyed or damaged. Property loss will run into millions of dollars. Fires followed the blasts. Poisonous gas from exploding chemicals was reported filtering through the area. The first blast rocked the surrounding region for 150 miles, inflicting heavy damage in Galveston. All aboard the ship, the French freighter Grandcamp were killed.
A reporter flying over the scene likened it to bomb destruction of European cities in the recent war. The mushrooming cloud of smoke that arose was described as resembling the aftermath of the atom bombing of Hiroshima.
First eye-witnesses to move into the area after the explosion saw workers stream from buildings with blood gushing from noses and ears, the result of concussion.
"Bodies were tossed about like playing cards," said a reporter for the Houston Chronicle.
The estimate of dead was reported by G. B. FINLEY, state highway commission maintenance engineer, on information from the disaster area.
"Rescue parties bringing out casualties from the blast area estimated that about one out of every three persons had been killed," FINLEY said, "which would indicate around 1,200 dead."
He referred to the sock area, where principal damage occurred and where there were some 3,500 persons at the time of the major blast.
Many of the fatalities occurred on the waterfront after the nitrate-loaded Grandcamp an American- built Liberty ship, exploded, killing all of its crew of about 40 men. Sightseers flocked to the docks, to be caught by following blasts which demolished the 19 million dollar war-built plant of the Monsanto Chemical Company.
The Grandcamp explosion at 9:12 o'clock this morning followed a fire that broke out at about 8:30 o'clock, while it was being loaded with nitrate and, The Houston Post said, "possibly with small ammunition."
The Texas City fire department fought the blaze and seemingly had it under control when an explosion ripped the ship apart.
The blast at the Monsanto plant, in the rear of the dock area, followed.
A report to The Houston Post said that residents were evacuating the city of 15,000 tonight because of a feared new explosion of a nitroglycerine-loaded ship at the Texas City docks.
Estimates of the fatalities ranged from 1,200 down to 450.

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Comments

Texas City explosion remembered

My parents were married in Austin on April 16, 1947, and many times over the years they mentioned the explosion on that day. Many years later there was a tv special about the Texas City explosion and I understood why it was so ingrained in their memories. A tragic day for so many.

Texas City Fire '47

My father was in the Army at the time of the "Texas Fire," stationed in Texas for medic training. He joined the military after World War II, so he had not seen any war action. At this terrible time of emergency, he was only 18-years old; and, his unit was ordered to the docks to help with medical treatment.

Although he would never talk about what happened, my mother told us he was never the same after that terrible disaster. Apparently he told her that one in three people he saw were dead and that what he saw was horrific. With the indelible imprint of seeing indescribable injuries and painful death upon death, he suffered from severe panic attacks and terrible anxiety the rest of his life at a time when there was no diagnosis and no treatment for his crippling disorder. The next year, he had what the military called, "a nervous breakdown" and he left the military. He was ostracized his entire life because his emotional disabilities prevented him from keeping a job. I remember more than once being in the back seat of his car with my brothers when we passed a house fire. My dad would became so upset he had to pull over to try to get control of his emotions so he could take us home.

As a talented musician, singer and extremely intelligent man who could have done anything, he-- a non-drinker-- eventually began to use alcohol to treat his debilitating symptoms himself, and became an alcoholic.

About two years before he died at age 71, a doctor at a V.A. hospital diagnosed dad with post-traumatic stress disorder and related it to the Texas Fire. This man's entire life was affected by this hideous incident. He received no help or treatment from the military, was not supported to re-build his life after the event, and his family received no help, so we grew up very poor. My mom always worked full time and took care of everything. She tried hard to not give up on him because she knew what he went through and what a different person he was before the fire.

His musical "band" of entertainers back then were Jimmy Dean, Roy Clark and others who are classic C/W players. As lead singer and player of all stringed instruments, he could have been called the talent of the group. When they had their big call to NYC, he could not go-- his nerves simply could not take it. This fire destroyed in many ways-- some that are just being discovered. What would it have been like for us to have a "normal" dad who had not been through the experience no 18-year old should ever be around? Or, if this illness could have been treated when he was young, what would he have achieved? We also wonder if the chemical blast had anything to do with the throat and lung cancer he died of. Whenever I hear about this fire, I can only wonder.