Everyone knows about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. But did you know that there was another explosive disaster in the harbor that involved the destruction of many naval vessels, but did not involve an enemy attack? Visit Pearl Harbor today and explore what it faced during World War II era. Book your Pearl Harbor tours now!
In May of 1944, the U.S. Navy was preparing for an assault on the Japanese-held Marianas Islands in the Pacific. They named their attack project Operation Forager. The U.S. Navy amassed a large contingency of LST (Landing Ship, Tank) and other amphibious assault vehicles and moored them tightly together in the West Lock of Pearl Harbor. West Lock was abuzz with repairs, munitions loading and positioning of vessels. It was also busy with work being done by young and inexperienced seamen and marines, newly enlisted to man the attack on the Marianas Islands.
Aboard these vessels were stored high-octane gasoline for quick fueling of assault vehicles once they were ashore. The close proximity of the 29 – LST vessels to one another, the not too distant munitions cargo ships, numerous other small vessels and the nearby barrels of fuel was a disaster waiting to happen.
It was never determined what exactly caused the explosions according to Naval Reports the two most plausible explanations were considered to be:
- The accidental dropping of a mortar round being unloaded from a LCT (Landing Craft Tank) on to an LST.
- The ignition of gasoline vapors from high-octane fuel drums. The source being a cigarette (although banned) or welding, which had been occurring on that ship.
Image Source: Wikipedia
The explosion was so loud that it could be heard miles away at Pearl Harbor Headquarters. Subsequent explosions of increasing intensity caused many to suspect another Japanese attack or even an earthquake.
When it was over, 163 men were dead, 396 wounded. The Navy ordered a press blackout following the incident. It did not want to provide the enemy with any undue morale boost. In fact, details of the West Lock disaster was classified information until 1960. Therefore, this terrible disaster, perhaps caused by a cigarette went unnoticed by the American public for many years.
Remember & honor Pearl Harbor! Get Pearl Harbor tickets today and be ready to experience the historical events that unfolded during World War II.