Apr. 16, 1947 Texas City Galveston County Texas, USA
Apr. 17, 1947 Texas City Galveston County Texas, USA
On the morning of April 16, 1947, a fire started abooard the cargo ship "Grandcamp". At the time, the Grandcamp's cargo consisted of quite a bit of combustable material, not the least of which was 2,300 tons ammonium nitrate fertilizer. A thick column of smoke rose above the ship, causing much curiosity among the townspeople. Soon, several hundred onlookers crowded within a couple hundred feet of the ship, apparently not aware of its contents. Shortly after 9:00 am, the Grandcamp disintegrated in a mammoth explosion that could be heard up to 150 miles away. A mushroom cloud billowed more than 2,000 feet high. Shrapnel rained down for several minutes, and fell up to a mile away, causing damage to oil storage tanks at nearby refineries, ripping open pipes and tanks of flammable liquids, causing numerous fires. Samaritans from surrounding communities flooded to the scene to assist in any way they could. No one gave much thought to another Liberty ship, "High Flyer", nearby that contained 1,000 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and sulphur. At 1:00 am on April 17th, with rescue crews still on the scene, the High Flyer exploded in a blast that witnesses thought even more powerful than that of the Grandcamp. Although this didn't cause as many casualties as the first explosion, it compounded the already severe property damage. More oil tanks exploded causing another chain reaction of fires. The Grandcamp's explosion triggered the worst industrial disaster, resulting in the greatest number of casualties, in the history of the United States. The exact death toll is impossible to determine due to the intensity of the blast. What is known is the 405 bodies were identified, 63 more were unable to be identified, and approximately 100 more people were classified as "presumed missing" as no evidence of their bodies was ever found. The estimate of injuries as a result of the tragedy is approximately 3,500-5,000. A burial service was held on June 22, 1947, for the 63 unidentified dead on a plot of land dedicated solely to these unidentified victims. No one else has ever been buried in the cemetery, and no one else ever will be.