Home Intro People Events Equipment Places Maps Books Photos Videos Other Reference FAQ About

World War II Database

The Port Chicago 50

ISBN: 978-0804167420
Review Date:

Full Title: The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights

As the author Steve Sheinkin put it, before Jackie Robinson, before Rosa Parks, before Martin Luther King, there were the Port Chicago 50. Despite WW2 placing great demands for manpower, the US Navy continued to mistreat the African-American minority. At Port Chicago, California, United States, a group of African-Americans, who were full members of the US Navy, were treated as unskilled labor. Without proper training, they were tasked with the loading of ammunition aboard transports destined for the western Pacific. On 17 Jul 1944, an accident occurred, triggering an explosion that killed 320 and wounded 390, most of which were African-American stevedores. In early Aug 1944, an African-American work party refused to load ammunition, for that the US Navy had done nothing to improve safety nor to provide training. 50 of them were found guilty of mutiny by a court martial and were sentenced to hard labor.

Sheinkin's The Port Chicago 50 told the story of the men, with much focus on the details of the events leading up to the explosion, the disobedience, and the court martial proceedings. Although I had learned of this event in a previous book, The Color of War, I was still taken aback by the two parallel paths taken by the Americans, on one hand freeing peoples from Axis oppression, but on the other hand failing to view their own minority populations as equals. As with The Color of War, this book left me shaking my head, unable to comprehend how different things were merely 70 years ago, and how much situations had improved, despite there are still much ground to cover. Sheinkin perhaps placed a bit too much weight on the Port Chicago incident in terms of it being said to be a major milestone in the civil rights movement of African-Americans in the United States, but it undoubtedly played a part, and the author did a great work with the telling of this American story. I had also enjoyed his dramatic narrative which placed me inside the court room.

I had reviewed this title in its audio book format. Dominic Hoffman did a good job with the reading, meanwhile offering enjoyable voice acting.

The Port Chicago 50 made a great diversion from the typical histories and memoirs of the war, and I would recommend it for those interested in the history of the civil rights movement in America.

Back to Main | Back to Book Reviews Index

Did you enjoy this article or find this article helpful? If so, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 per month will go a long way! Thank you.

Share this article with your friends:


Stay updated with WW2DB:

 RSS Feeds

Posting Your Comments on this Topic

Your Name
Your Email
 Your email will not be published
Comment Type
Your Comments
Security Code



1. We hope that visitor conversations at WW2DB will be constructive and thought-provoking. Please refrain from using strong language. HTML tags are not allowed. Your IP address will be tracked even if you remain anonymous. WW2DB site administrators reserve the right to moderate, censor, and/or remove any comment. All comment submissions will become the property of WW2DB.

2. For inquiries about military records for members of the World War II armed forces, please see our FAQ.

Change View
Desktop View

Search WW2DB & Partner Sites
More on The Port Chicago 50

Famous WW2 Quote
"All that silly talk about the advance of science and such leaves me cold. Give me peace and a retarded science."

Thomas Dodd, late 1945

Support Us

Please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 a month will go a long way. Thank you!

Or, please support us by purchasing some WW2DB merchandise at TeeSpring, Thank you!