July 17 1944 A 7,212-ton Liberty ship, was moored at Port Chicago Naval Base, California, taking on ammunition and high explosives. Just before 10.20pm, the ship, loaded with 4,600 tons of munitions and 1,780 tons of explosives, blew up in one gigantic explosion completely wrecking the port and sending smoke and debris 12,000 feet into the air. Windows were shattered some 20 miles away. A second ship, moored nearby, the brand new QUINALT VICTORY was getting ready for its maiden voyage and also loaded with munitions. It had taken three days and nights to load the two ships, the work mostly done by black naval personnel. All on board the two ships, and many on the pier, were killed instantly. (E.A. Bryan, 53 killed, Quinalt Victory, 44 killed) A total of 320 men died including 202 black sailors. A total of 390 military and civilian personnel were injured. A twelve ton locomotive operating on the pier simply vanished, not a single piece was ever found. The 1,200 ft. wooden pier and 16 boxcars loaded with bombs and ammunition disappeared. The damage bill to the Port of Chicago (now the Concord Naval Weapons Station) was estimated at $12 million. The cause of the explosion was never officially established by the Court of Inquiry. (After this disaster, ammunition loading ceased to be a 'blacks only' affair). Following the Port Chicago explosion, 258 black sailors refused to load explosives on to Pacific bound ships until safety was improved. Fifty were court-martialled, and convicted of mutiny. They were reduced to the lowest rank and sentenced to long prison terms. Ten of them to 15 years, twenty four to 12 years, eleven to 10 years and five got 8 years. The public outcry was such that all were released from prison some months later to spend the rest of their lives under the pall of injustice and deprived of veterans benefits. One black sailor, a Freddy Meeks had his honour restored by President Bill Clinton in 1999 who gave him a pardon. Freddy Meeks died in June 2003 aged 83. June 2003 Freddie Meeks, a black sailor who was pardoned by President Clinton for his role in a World War II mutiny, died. Cause of death was not released. He was 83.