Texas City, TX Disaster - Explosion and Fire, Apr 1947

Wreckage, Texas City, Texas Disaster, April 16, 1947 Ruins, Texas City, Texas Disaster, April 16, 1947 4 Ruins, Texas City, Texas Disaster, April 16, 1947 2 View Across the Bay Aerial View Troops evacuating civilians Ruins, Texas City, Texas Disaster, April 16, 1947 Searching for Bodies, Texas City, Texas 1947

When identification and embalming are completed a body is wrapped in a rough brown blanket and a numbered ticket is wired to a toe.

An ambulance is then called out of the long line in front of the garage and the body is passed out on a stretcher and taken to the gymnasium.

A mile away black smoke from six roaring fires billows 5,000 feet into the air and drifts southward out over the Gulf. A 50-acre area of devastation marks the scene where the twin explosions of a ship and a chemical works wrought the greatest tragedy this area ever knew.

I stood in the city hall and saw a woman find the name of her son on a casualty list. Her shoulders sagged, her arms fell limp at her sides and her face twisted with grief. Her husband, his face a dazed mask, caught her under the arm and led her out.

In the light of the towering blazes a few hundred yards from the grotesque mountains of twisted steel, I talked to PHILIP FLORES, young Army veteran.

"I was working in a warehouse 25 yards from the ship when it blew up, he told me." "The concussion knocked me down."

"I crawled over to some flour sacks and buried my head under them. Then a few seconds later the (Monsanto) chemical plant exploded. The roof and walls of the warehouse were coming down around me. I got up and ran for my life. Later I helped pull bodies out of the wreckage. It was the most terrible thing I've ever seen."

"One man with a leg blown off was screaming with pain. I couldn't tell you how he looked because he didn't have much face left."

"Most of the bodies were mangled."

JUAN TORRES lives in a house a quarter of a mile from the destroyed chemical plant. I found him sitting on a bed in the front room staring at the floor. In the back part of the house the walls had caved in and the place was in a shambles.

TORRES was away at work when the explosions took place.

"I came home," he said, "and found my brother, my father and my sister-in-law missing. They may be dead."

We went out into the back yard. It was pited[sic] with huge pieces of jagged steel. One piece weighed half a ton. It had buried itself three feet into the ground. The smoldering ruins of a small house was in the back yard.

Continued on page 5

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Comments

My grandfather was present

My grandfather was present when that disaster happened but he was dead when my parents got married. He was working to one of the ships and my grandmother always describe it as a nightmare. After the incident my grandfather can't talk clearly and he also suffered concussion. One year after the incident he died and everytime I heard about Texas Fire, I always remembered him.

Survivors

My dad was six years old at the time of the explosions living several blocks from the explosion. He recalls that my grandmother had just picked up my uncle, who was about 7 months old, out of his high chair when the explosion hit. The windows were blown out on one side and in on the other side. A large piece of glass was embedded in the back of the high chair! If my grandmother had been distracted or waited just a few more minutes to get him out of his high chair my uncle would have been killed and four of my cousins would never have been born.
This disaster left an indelible image on my grandparents and my father's lives.

Dads with PTSD

I am a WWII daughter of a man that came back from the European campaign, inc. the Battle of the Bulge. He was decorated. He came back to work with his father on the docks and railroad. He lost his father that day, and almost lost his leg. He too used alcohol to self medicate as there were no means and diagnosis such as shell shock and he now had my g.mother to care for. I feel your sense of loss for the full life our dads should have led.

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.

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.