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

Just before night fell a group of priests from Houston probed deep into the smoke and wreckage, finding their way with flashlights in order to administer the last sacrament to the dead who still remained buried.

Father M. A. RECORD, of St. Thomas High School, Houston, was one of these.

"There are hundreds of bodies still to be found," he said. "It is an indescribable tragedy. I saw charred bodies being brought out and I even saw them floating in the water."

LEWIS ALEXANDER, jewelry store employee, cleaned shattered glass from every display window in his downtown store. His face was bandaged and streaked with adhesive.

"I have never heard a four-ton block buster," he said, "but now I know what they sound like." He was cut by flying glass.

He said there had been no attempt to loot his store and he had heard of no looting.

The town's picture show is wrecked. The walls and roof have caved in.
For a mile around the explosion area I could not find an undamaged home.

Tonight the work of rescue goes on. Great search lights have been brought to the scene and great tubes of light cut through the smokey[sic] wreckage.

Officers from as far away as Dallas direct traffic and aid rescue operations. The Salvation Army and the Red Cross have set up dozens of units to feed and clothe the homeless. The Navy has flown three relief planes from Hensley Field, Dallas.

People felt the explosion painfully miles from the chemical plant. JOHN MICKA, of Brooklyn, N. Y., was 12 miles away at the Navy field at Hitchcock, Tex.

"I was a few yards from the hangar," he said. "And I thought the hangar had blown up. It was really terrific."

From many persons I got a report of a ball of fire that hung in the air almost a minute after the chemical plant exploded. One of these was E. S. CASTRO.

"The fire was all mixed up with a big cloud of smoke," he said.

ROGER SHEPHERD, also told of seeing the fireball. SHEPHERD received injuries to his hand and head when when his trailer house was crushed.

I talked to one man who worked in the chemical plant and lived through the explosion. He would not give his name because he said "I have my folks in Georgia and I don't want them to know what I have been through."

Continued on page 7

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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.