The Port Chicago 50

During World War II, Port Chicago in San Fransisco was a beehive of activity. All day, and all night, men worked to load huge ships with ammunition bound for troops in the Pacific. All the officers shouting orders were white. All the men handling the ammunition were black.

Then one night, a huge explosion rocked the port, killing everyone working on the ships and the docks. The horror of it frightened the men in the barracks. And after a few weeks, they decided they would not go back to work on the docks without proper training in handling munitions.

Those soldiers became known as The Port Chicago 50. Author Steve Sheinkin writes about the men, their background and how they joined the Navy. He tells of the conditions at Port Chicago before the explosion, and the trials of the men who survived. It’s a story from the segregated United States, which can be difficult to hear and process, yet important to know.

I’d recommend reading the book, instead of listening to the audiobook. Narrator Dominic Hoffman does a great job reading. The problem is there are a lot of details to keep straight, and sometimes it’s easier to follow when you can flip back a few pages to remind yourself of what you’ve forgotten.

Recommended for ages 10 and up. (Some of the descriptions of the explosion’s aftermath can be too gruesome for sensitive readers.)

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