By the Community, State and Nation
But for those organizations who responded so promptly and nobly to Texas City’s cry for help, the toll of death, injury and destruction would have been immeasurably greater. Many of our own citizens toiled heroically until exhausted, but no city in the world could have coped with so huge a task without aid.
Aid came, quickly, gallantly, generously, from individuals and organizations civil, military, and naval. Some of the following reports are graphic, but the best of them inadequately describes the tremendous tasks accomplished, the heroism of those who rushed in to help and toiled amid soul-shattering surroundings of flames, smoke, gas, explosions and honor.
GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF TEXAS
TO ALL TO WHOM THESE PRESENTS SHALL COME:
WHEREAS, the Texas Gulf Coast area in the vicinity of the City of Texas City has suffered a major disaster of tremendous proportions; and
WHEREAS, hundreds of our people have lost their lives, many thousands are injured, and the property damage is so great that all efforts to estimate it at this time are quite futile; and
WHEREAS, it is imperative that we proceed in an orderly and efficient manner to bring prompt and adequate relief to our people who are in distress; and
WHEREAS, we are receiving expressions of sympathy and offers of assistance from all over the world, necessitating the prompt formulation of plans for coordinating our relief work;
Now, Therefore, I, Beauford H. Jester, Governor of the State of Texas, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of this State, do hereby declare a state of emergency in the affected area of the Texas Gulf Coast; and do direct that the following steps be taken, effective with the issuance of the proclamation;
(1) The Texas Department of Public Safety is designated to represent State and Governor in giving such aid and assistance as local law enforcement officers may require, and to coordinate all police and rescue activities in the affected area;
(2) The Adjutant General of Texas will take such emergency steps as may be indicated to hold the military forces of the State in
readiness for such service as may be determined upon in further conference with the Governor;
(3) In line with the proclamation issued by the Governor of Texas on April 12, 1947, naming the American National Red Cross as the
disaster relief agency for the State of Texas. I hereby designate that organization and its trained personnel as the co-coordinators of
disaster relief activities in Texas City Area and as the receiving office for funds and such other assistance as may be offered, and I
all agencies, public and private, to dear individual and family relief work for these disaster relief victims through the American Red
(4) I appeal most earnestly to all sight-seers and to others without official business in this area to refrain f mm efforts to move into
(5) I direct that all public highways and roads leading into Texas City be closed to all except those persons who are proceeding on
official business or who have passes issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety;
(6) I commend the Texas Department of Public Safety for the steps it is taking to deal drastically with all attempts at looting or other
(7) I call upon the people in the area concerned to maintain the calm and composure necessary to sustain the proper order and to
effectuate our relief activity;
(8) I suggest — reverently and earnestly — that the people of Texas offer, in public service and in private communion with Almighty
God, their prayers for our stricken people and for their fellow beings who are devoting a full measure of strength and effort to relieve
their great suffering.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto signed my name officially and caused the seal of the State to be affixed hereto at Austin, this 17th day of April, AD. 1947
(signed) BEAUFORD H. JESTER
Governor of Texas
By the Governor
(signed) PAUL H. BROWN
Secretary of State
April 19, 1947, 6:30 P.M. Gov Beauford H.
Jester, on Texas Quality Network and Texas
MY FELLOW TEXANS:
In the face of tragedy, of suffering, and great sorrow, it is the natural impulse of all of us to move closer to one another — and in communion of each others presence — to share our common sorrow.
It is with that feeling and with that sentiment that I come to talk to the people of Texas tonight — to talk with you intimately, quietly, and from the depths of my heart — to talk with you at the very time that the people of Texas City are holding a solemn memorial service for their dead.
Mankind created as it is in the image of God — is essentially kind and sympathetic and despite bitterness in this world, there is ample evidence that we still build our ultimate thought and action on the firm foundation of neighborliness, of good fellowship, and of love — one for another.
We are indeed our brother’s keeper, and when our fellow man is in sorrow and great distress, we rally to his side, we support him, we embrace him in the everlasting arms of friendship and good will.
The State of Texas has been sorely stricken these last few days. Hundreds of our people have lost their lives in the catastrophe at Texas City. Thousands have been injured and property damage has reached such proportions that an attempt to estimate it would be futile. This commonwealth has faced one of its saddest and most tragic hours.
We are stunned and dazed in the contemplation of our immeasurable loss.
All that sustains us is our faith in the infinite wisdom of Almighty God and the comfort which we have received from a vast outpouring of sympathy from our fellow men everywhere.
In behalf of the State of Texas and of the people of Texas City, I have received a vast number of messages, expressions of sympathy. and offers of assistance from all over the world:
From the President of The U. S. of America, from the President of the Republic of France, from Ambassadors of the great nations of the world, from our friends and neighbors to the South; from the Chief of Staff of the Armies of the U. S., from Governors of our sister States in the American Union — from great artists and authors and men of affairs — and from the people — from people of whom I had never heard before, and who probably had never heard of me until the tragic word flashed around the world that Texas had suffered this great loss.
I have tried without success to acknowledge all these messages. But my office is completely overwhelmed by the number of these expressions and — with the other demands upon us in connection with the coordination of relief activities — it is quite impossible to reply as promptly as we should. We so earnestly want to tell friends everywhere how the State of Texas and the people of Texas City appreciate these expressions, how deeply touched, how profoundly moved we have been at this manifestation of the loving care of people everywhere.
I speak to you tonight to bring you the assurance of our very great gratitude for the consolation of your friendship and concern.
I visited the scene of this disaster as quickly as I could get there. Within a period of hours after the terrible explosion, I spoke with the people of Texas City who had gone through this dreadful experience. As best I could, I consoled those whose loved ones were lost. I comforted those who were in suffering and in pain.
I watched the volunteers —I watched the friends and strangers alike rush to the side of these stricken people. I saw the tenderness and the loving care with which mankind looked after his brother in distress — and my faith in the inherent greatness and goodness of man was sustained and strengthened.
As Governor of the State of Texas, I thank all who have helped in the critical hour; your recognition will doubtless be small — but your reward will be great in the eyes of God and in your own contemplation of your good deeds.
To the people of Texas City, I express the profound sympathy of your fellow Texans, and the assurance of our tender concern in your hour of sorrow.
Texas City will rise again. The people of Texas City will carry on. It was in that spirit that they came to have one of the most important industrial centers of the world. It is in that spirit that they will rebuild; that they will re-dedicate themselves to progress and to the fine things of life. It is in that spirit that they will reconsecrate themselves to everlasting faith in the wisdom of Almighty God.
Lewis Mumford wrote some words once upon a time which I would like to recall tonight. He said:
“Counting gain or loss as one, knowing that gains are losses and losses are often gains; there lies a truth to take us through these hard days. In that spirit, only in that spirit, can our civilization be saved.
“Man’s destiny is a great one because the essence of it is tragic. All that he builds crumbles; all that he embodies turns to dust; all that he loves most, he must one day leave behind him. That which alone endures on earth is the spirit in which he understands and meets his fate. This he passes on to his children and his comrades; only a breath indeed, but the breath of life. Death comes to all; but death comes best to those who are ready to die, so that Man may live. The words of Jesus are ultimate in their wisdom: ‘He that loseth his life shall find it.’
“That applies to individual men; it applies to nations and peoples. No smaller faith can console us for temporary defeats, sustain us in the hours of despair, or give us the strength to push through to Victory.”
Good night — and God bless you.
THE TEXAS CITY POLICE
By W. L. LADISH, Chief
At 8:33 A.M. [April 16, 1947] I received a telephone call that a ship at our docks was afire. I immediately sounded the fire siren and instructed Mrs. Ann Brunson,
the radio dispatcher, to call Officer J. M. Wright, who was in car 752, and Officer J. M. Bell, on motorcycle number 754, to proceed at once to that area and keep all sightseers from entering. I then called Officer W. A. Reeves, in car number 753, to go to the fire and keep me informed of conditions and if any assistance was needed. As I approached the window of my office at the time the explosion occurred, at 9:12 A.M., I was thrown to the floor and received a few cuts and bruises about the face from flying glass.
All communication at Police Headquarters was disrupted. Judge Hallenbeck and I went to the local telephone office and put through a call to Houston Police Department, where I got in touch with Captain W. M. Simpson. I explained to him that a ship at our docks had exploded and resulted in serious loss of life and innumerable persons injured, and I requested that he send me 50 uniformed officers immediately. I also asked that police radio technician, Paul Franklin, and identification experts be sent. I then requested Captain Simpson to notify the Texas Rangers. Texas Highway Patrol, Sheriff Neal Polk, and to send all available officers possible, together with fire apparatus, ambulances, doctors, and nurses.
Upon my return from the telephone office, I instructed Officer J. M. Wright to summon all available plant guards and private citizens to form a blockade on roads leading to Texas City in order that doctors, nurses, ambulances and fire equipment could have clear passage to and from the disaster zone.
At 11:00 A.M., the Houston Police, Galveston Police, Highway Patrol, Texas Rangers and hundreds of other officers reported to me for assignments. As quickly as possible, I called for heads of all these departments to assemble in the Corporation Court Room where I organized them in groups as follows: Captain Volney Shown of Houston Police Department, with his 50 men, was given the dock area wherein lay the dead, dying and injured. Captain Glenn Rose of the Texas Highway Patrol, with his officers, relieved the plant guards and civilians who were previously stationed at blockade points. Captain Hardy Purvis, of the Texas Rangers, assisted me in placing officers and civilians in every section of our city to prevent looting of stores and business houses, and to keep all lanes open for fast moving emergency traffic. Mr. Jake Colca, Harris County Sheriff’s department, was given policing details of the morgues located in Central High School Gym and McGar’s Garage. The Federal Bureau of investigation was assigned to the morgue to enclose in envelopes and list all personal effects, which were subsequently turned over to judge Hallenbeck and later given to the care of, and disposition by, Chief Glenn McLaughlin of the Texas Department of Public Safety. The Texas State Guard and the National Guard were assigned to the residential section to insure its safety, to search for bodies of any injured.
Governor Beauford Jester, in company with Senator Jimmie Phillips and Representative Godard arrived and consulted with me. The Governor checked on all assistance sent me and instructed me to advise him immediately of any further help I might need.
Mayor Oscar Holcomb of Houston arrived, asking if there was anything he could do. He requested to be kept informed.
General Jonathan Wainwright stood at my side and assured me of more help if I needed it.
The Governor’s presence was a great moral support to me.
Following is a list of the heads of the many organizations who appeared so timely at Police Headquarters: Col. Homer Garrison, Jr., Director of the Department of Public Safety; Captain Hardy Purvis, of the Texas Rangers, with 30 men; Captain Glenn Rose, State Highway Patrol, 80 patrolmen; Chief Glenn McLaughlin, State Identification Bureau. 10 experts; Mr. W. N. Broman, Engineer of Communications Division of the Department of Public Safety, IS technicians, and a mobile radio station; Judge G. P. Reddell, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 5; Chief B. W. Payne, Houston Police Department, Captain Volney Shown, 100 men; Mr. Lloyd Frazier, Identification expert of the Houston Police Department; Mr. Paul E. Franklin, Radio Supervisor of Houston Police Department, 30 technicians from all over Texas; Chief Fred M. Ford, Galveston Police Department, 14 men; Sheriff Frank Biaggne, 8 deputies; Constable Henry Feigal of Galveston, with 2 men; Chief C. F. Hansson, Dallas Police Department, Inspector D. A. Loe, 30 officers; Chief K. E. Dysart, Fort Worth Police Department, Sergeant Wood, 30 men; Chief Bruce Weatherly. San Antonio Police Department, 30 men; Chief Artie Pollock, Beaumont Police Department, 30 men; Chief Claude Goldsmith Port Arthur Police Department, 15 men; Sheriff T. W. Lane, Wharton County, 6 deputies; Mr. Galen Willis, Special Agent F.B.I., 6 field men; Sheriff Neal Polk, Harris County. 100 deputies under Jake Colca; Bert Ford, Supervisor Texas Liquor Control Board, W. V. Mills, 3 men; Chief A. F. Temple, Driver’s License Division, Captain H. C. Smith, 12 men; Lt. W. E. McElroy, Commanding Officer of United States Coast Guard, with fire and radio equipment. Mr. A. T. Deere, President Plant Protection Association, Freeport, 100 men; Commander S. Wall of Texas City Post No. 89, American Legion 50 men; Captain Milton Hinkley of the National Guard, 100 men; Col. Wm. Martin and Staff, with Lt. Col. Geo. W. McLean, 150 men. There were numerous police officers from other communities in the state, but due to the great pressure under which I worked, I was unable to obtain their names.
Col. Garrison, Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the State of Texas, was satisfied with the organization, and was particularly pleased at the coordination of all departments. He made recommendations which proved very valuable. He was kept fully informed on all details.
Texas City Police Department Officers: Sgt. J. G. McKee, Sgt. G. B. Gibbs, Sgt. H. C. Pickens, Detective J. M. Wright, Mrs. Ann Brunson (Radio operator), J. M. Bell, W. A. Reeves, M. W. Robertson, J. M. Willoughby, E. S. Buckley, C. C. Bieg, F. T. Farrow, C. W. Jones, W. M. Chrestman, S. D. Gibson, Gaile Steinback, Willie Cole.
Officer Reeves was seriously injured in the April 16th explosion, and one leg was amputated above the knee. The explosion of April 17 caused the injury of 6 police officers, but none was serious.
Eight police cars were damaged, four beyond repair.
As Chief of Police of Texas City, I have communicated my personal commendation to every man sent to this stricken city who accepted dangerous assignments fearlessly and willingly.
CITY OF DALLAS POLICE
By C. F. HANSSON, Chief of Police
“Every one of the men sent to Texas City praises most highly the morale of the citizens of that community and are most appreciative of the treatment accorded them.
“In Texas City: Inspector D. A. Loe, Lieut. E. Preston, Sgt. O. O. Cauley, Capt. W. S. Brogdon, Sgt. L. M. McKinney, Sgt. J. J. Jones, and C. L. Brown, E. L. Munday, R. T. Mullins, L. E. Smith, J. M. Ferguson, J. B. Drake, Jr., A. B. Carpenter, D. D. East, 0. B. Johnson, W. R. Steen, 0. H. Pender, B. V. Burkholder, P. W. Lawrence, E. S. Crisp, J. W. Finley, F. S. Proffitt, D. V. Harkness, L. V. Patterson,
J. W. Fuller, K. L. Hamilton, C. T. Townsend, J. A. Miller, B. A, Bohanon, H. C. Kochos, W. H. Hutton, Police Mechanic.”
CITY OF HOUSTON POLICE
The hours these men worked vary from 4 to 70. They did an outstanding job.
In Texas City: Sgt. A. 0. Aaron, Sgt. J. E. Armstrong, Lt. Fred Cochran, Insp. W. P. Haley. Sgt. C. L. Phillips, Lt. L. D. Pyle,
Lt. G. H. Shepperd, Capt. V. J. Shown, Sgt. W. S. Whatley, Sgt. C. T. Bigley; Detectives: C. F. Langston, Harry Cole, Lt. A. W. Rainey,
H. M. Sullivan, Kenneth Moore; Identification: Lloyd Frazier, Edward Moellering, Forrest Patton; Patrolmen and Investigators: J. C. Baxter, Jack Betz, R. O. Biggs, L. N. Black, C. E. Buckner, E. A. Boehler, W. W. Chambers, L. C. Collev, A. L. Cooper. S. A. Cooper, R. 0. Crockett, M. M. Ferguson, Paul Franklin, 0. C. Friday, B. F. Friery, 0. B. Hitt, K. W. Johnson, J. E. Kent, S. A. Kent, J. L. Lamar, 0. I. Lewis, A. B. Lott, M. A. Macaluso, Earl Maughmer, W. L. McNeel, H. H. Merritt, Cal Morgan, W. B. Potter, J. A. Robbins, R. K. Rowell, B. N. Squyres, J. W. Tennison, K. D. Thornton, L. C. Thornton, Robert Vaughn, S. A. Weisinger, R. C. Whatley, Edd White, J. C. Wiener, Jr.”
*Report submitted by Laurine Schwartz.
CITY OF BEAUMONT, DEPARTMENT
PUBLIC SAFETY, POLICE
By ARTIE POLLOCK Chief
In Texas City: Chief Artie Pollock, Sgt. 0. C. Johnson, Sgt. P.F. Ewald, Sgt. C. W. B. Kelly, W. P. Hayes and R. R. Dupree; Identification Bureau Officers: R. M. McCall, A. Christian, S. A. Brammer, E. V. Haggard, C. V. Perricone, Ray Yaw, C. D. Small.
GALVESTON COUNTY SHERIFF’S
F. L. BIAGONE, Sheriff
About 8:32 A. M. on the morning of April 16, 1947, KPWL, the Texas City police radio station, called KRPW, Galveston police station, asking for a fire boat, as a ship was on fire. The reply came, “Will send.”
I started for Texas City, and at 9:12 was about one mile on the Tin Smelter road when the SS Grand Camp exploded. I stopped at the Stone Oil Company, where a tank was ablaze; the tank blew up. I noticed a woman whose clothes had been blown off, and whose body was covered with (brown) oil, running down the highway. Lee Polk, head guard at the Republic Oil Company (adjoining Stone Oil property) succeeded in stopping the woman and was about to put her into my car when a Malloy Ambulance came by and took her.
I called Texas City on my police radio, but received no answer. I realized I had the only 2-way radio not knocked out by the blast, and called Galveston to send all available ambulances. I then drove to the Monsanto, then called for help again, asking the Galveston police to secure Army groups to help out with ambulances and soldiers. People were running from the falling debris by this time, and I again called for help, estimating that about 500 were dead and 2,000 injured. In 40 minutes Tri-Cities and Pasadena had ambulances on the scene. In one hour, at least 20 ambulances with doctors and nurses were in Texas City. Two hours after the blast, the Red Cross and Salvation Army were present. The police radio at 11:10 gave out messages to Beaumont, Orange, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston and Austin. Austin notified other cities over the state.
Water was needed to drink, and I gave that message, and 5 trucks of water were sent immediately from nearby towns. Later the Santa Fe railroad sent in tank cars full of water.
I went to the Texas City police station. Chief Ladish of Texas City called in Ranger Capt. Harvey Purvis, Capt. Glenn Rose of the State Highway Department, and the Colonel of the 4th Area.
Officers and men came from Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Beaumont, and these men, together with sheriffs and deputies from nearby counties, directed traffic and served as guards for the area.
I stayed 10 days in the ruined area. For 52 hours I was without sleep or a hot meal. I have great admiration for the fine spirit of cooperation evidenced by chose in uniform who volunteered their services.
*From interview by author.
CAMP WALLACE FIRE DEPARTMENT
H. C. LIMERICK, Chief
Fire Chief Limerick was at his home in Houston at the time of the explosion. When he heard the report over the radio, he telephoned to Camp Wallace, and a Fire Company was dispatched to Texas City. The crew consisted of J. L. Greer, Assistant Chief, Neal Eliot, A. Bessent, J. D. Esclavon, A. B. Culbreth, H. C. Limerick, Jr., M. Terrasso, and the Chief joined them one hour later.
Upon arrival in Texas City, the crew, with a 750-gallon American LaFrance Pumper, reported to acting Fire Chief Dowdy, at the scene of the explosion.
There was no water available on the water front, and after assisting all concerned in any way possible, we were sent to the Stone Oil Company, where several oil tanks were burning. The area around the tanks was a sea of flaming oil, caused by burst pipes discharging oil. The pumps were put into operation drafting water from the earthen tanks in the oil company’s yards, and using foam hoppers we were able to extinguish the burning oil fires around the tanks covering several acres. The fire was controlled after several tanks blew up and collapsed. With the exception of one tank, the entire refinery was secure by nightfall.
At that time, Camp Wallace was replaced by two more fire-fighting crews. Camp Wallace was called again at the 1:10 A. M. explosion. We remained for a brief time in Texas City proper as stand by, owing to orders to let no one enter the dock area. There was no one hurt during the entire operation.
DR. CLARENCE F. QUINN
PRESIDENT, MAINLAND MEDICAL AND DENIAL PLANNING GROUP
The tremendous burden thrust upon local doctors as a result of the explosions would have been insupportable without the speedy and able assistance of the doctors of the neighboring areas and the military corps. Our equipment was damaged, there were too few of us, and our store of medicines and supplies was inadequate to have cared for the thousands of injuries sustained almost in the same instant. Hundreds of patients descended upon us from every direction, with injuries ranging from minor cuts to shattered legs, arms, skulls, and every conceivable wound.
Supplementing the medical fraternity were trained workers of the Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Volunteers of America, and volunteers from civic and service organizations, as well as individual volunteers.
Each played a vital part and contributed materially to the success of the whole. As Director of the emergency program, I am deeply appreciative of the splendid work accomplished as well as the fine spirit in which it was done.
(signed) CLARENCE F. QUINN, M.D.
President of the Medical and Dental Planning Group of the Mainland
The following splendid reports outlining the activities of Army and Navy medical groups during the disaster period were supplied through the courtesy of Dr. Quinn: Dr. Quinn’s letter from Brig. Gen. J. R. Sheetz (a report); Letter from Rear Admiral Swanson (submitting the Navy reports) ; Assistance by Naval Air Station; U. S. Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi; U. S. Naval Hospital, Houston; U. S. Naval Hospital, Corpus Christi; Atlantic Reserve Fleet, Orange; District Director of Naval Reserve, Galveston (local); Dr. Quinn’s own report.
HEADQUARTERS FOURTH ARMY*
Fort Sam Houston, Texas
May 19, 1947
Dr. C. F. Quinn
President Mainland Medical and Dental Planning Group
822 Sixth Street North
Texas City, Texas
DEAR DOCTOR QUINN:
In compliance with your request contained in letter to me dated 3 May l947, the following information is furnished herewith in answer to your questions:
QUESTION No. 1 - What Army Medical Units came to Texas City following the disaster and when did they arrive in Texas City?
QUESTION No. 2 - The names of medical officers sent in command of these units, as well as MAC’s and individual medical officers sent on special missions?
ANSWER TO QUESTIONS 1 AND 2 - The 32nd Medical Battalion, consisting of one Clearing Company and one Collecting Company, with the following medical officers, from Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, arrived at the Texas City, Texas, disaster area at 12:00, midnight, 16Apr47:
Lt Col Edward R. Wernitzinig, MC in command
Capt James L. Peiffer, MAC
Capt Charles A. Pendlysok, PC
Capt John C. Watts, MC
Capt John It. Blazetic, MAC**
1st Lt Robert H. McDonald, MAC
1st Lt Sam W. Keen, Jr. MAC
1st Lt James L. Graud, MAC
1st Lt Benjamin J. Phillips, Jr, MC
1st Lt Anthony P. Skerynac, MAC
1st Lt Warren S. Wareham, DC
1st Lt Robert F. O’Brien, MC
1st Lt Dominic J. Cora, MC
2nd Lt Douglas M. Hunt, MAC
1st Lt Frank G. Gruich, MC
1st Lt Eugene M. Murphy, III. MC
1st Lt Travis L. Wells, MC
1st Lt Samuel M. Scott, MC
The following named Medical Corps, Medical Administrative Corps, and Army Nurse Corps officers were sent to the Texas City Disaster Area by the United States Army to assist in the care and treatment of the injured, and to supervise the issue of emergency medical supplies and to operate the Army Station Hospital at Fort Crockett, Texas, to care for casualties.
*This is a report.
*Subsequently, Brigadier Gen. John It Willis, Commandant, presented the Amy Commendation Ribbon to Captain Blazetic and ambulance drivers Sgt Chandis L. Stewart and Pfc. L, Marler. More than 200 men of the 32nd rendered medical aid to the victims of the disaster.
From the Surgeon’s Office, Headquarters Fourth Army, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Date of Arrival at Texas City:
Col Robert P. Williams, MC, Fourth Army Surgeon,
12:50 P.M., 20 Apr 47
Lt Col Geo. J. Matt, MC
1:30 P.M., 19 Apr 47
Col Prentice L. Moore, MC
12:45 P.M.,17 Apr 47
Lt Col Irvine B. Marshall, MC
2:30 P.M., 16 Apr 47
From Office, Medical Director, Veterans’ Administration Br. No. 10, Dallas, Texas:
Anesthetists, Date of Arrival at Galveston, 2:00 P.M., 17 Apr 47:
1st Lt Eugene M. Addison, MC
1st Lt Francis X. Mack, MC
1st Li Charles E. McKenzie, MC
1st Lt Thomas C. Wickendon, MC
Lt (jg) Thomas L. Dykes, MC
1st Lt Robert F. Greene, MC
Surgical Consultant to the Surgeon General, U. S. Army, Col. Frank L. Cole, MC Dr. Champ Lyons, from Tulane University
From Medical Field Service School, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Date of Arrival at Texas City, 17 Apr 47:
Maj Douglas Lindsey, MC
Col William E. Shambora, MC
Maj Jasper S. Moore, MAC
Maj Edwin J. Pulaski, MC
From Brooke General Hospital, BAMC, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Date of Arrival at Texas City, 16 Apr 47:
Capt Rex M. Barrett, MAC
Maj Elizabeth Fitch, ANC
Maj Mildred F. Lee, ANC
Capt Ethel B. Calahan, ANC
Capt Elizabeth 0. Carville, ANC
Capt Margaret M. Price, ANC
1st Li Florence M. Seidler, ANC
1st Li Florence M. Boldra, ANC
1st Li Marilyn J. Machacek, ANC
1st Lt Eva L. Brackert, ANC
1st Lt Marjorie Camon, ANC
1st Lt Esther M. Woodward, ANC
1st Lt Doris M. Klecka, ANC
1st Lt Eleanor M. Wingaris. ANC
1st Lt Elaine W. Harris, ANC
1st Lt Anice E. Koen, ANC
1st Lt Ruth E. Anton, ANC
1st Lt Nancy C. Kermott, ANC
2nd Lt Georgia M. Valentine, ANC
1st Lt Jewel Dennis, ANC
1st Lt Elaine M. Nigro, ANC
1st Lt John E. Chapman, ANC
1st Lt Margaret C. Anderson, ANC
1st Lt Marjorie F. Daume, ANC
1st Lt Mary 0. Depp. ANC
1st Lt Louise E. Dittmar, ANC
1st Li Frankie B. Harris, ANC
1st Lt Daisy K. Matthews. ANC
1st Lt Dolores R. Bouchard, ANC
2nd Lt Ann M. McCullough, ANC
From Air University, School of Aviation Medicine, 27th AAF Base Unit, Randolph Field, Texas
Capt Eugene K. Nitschke, AC
1st Lt Charles R. Moore, AC
Capt James H. Colling, AC
1st Lt Eugene Murphree, AC
Maj Charles H. Roadman, AC
1st Lt Jack T. Woodyard, AC
(The above listed officers were on the plane crews which flew the personnel and supplies to the Texas City disaster.)
Date of Arrival at Texas City, 10:00 P.M., 16Apr47:
Lt Col Dan R. Sewell, MC
1st Lt Thomas 0. Barnes, MC
1st Lt Thomas B. Sappington, MC
1st Lt Thomas H. Williams, MC
1st Lt James H. Young, MC
1st Lt Dorothy Rebich, ANC
1st Lt Grace L. Heath, ANC
1st Lt Margaret A. Higgins, ANC
1st Lt Beryl Lamb, ANC
1st Lt Elsie Maudel, ANC
1st Lt Dorothy E. Mooneyham, ANC
2nd Lt Avis L. Briggs, ANC
2nd Lt Laura L. Hechtman, ANC
2nd Lt Ollie Mae Meyers, ANC
2nd Lt Sarah F. Neill, ANC
From Randolph Field, Texas, Date of Arrival at Texas City, 7:00 P.M., 16 Apr 47:
Col Jack Ballerud, MC
Lt Col Kenneth E. Pletcher, MC
Maj Richard J. Brightwell, MC
Maj Julius A. Goldbard MC
Maj Phillip B. Watkins, MC
Capt Arthur H. Coleman. MC
Capt Robert I. Cord, MC
Capt Edmund B. Dumbrouski, MC
1st Lt Robert S. Boyd, MC
1st Lt Earl K. Cantwell, MC
1st Lt Erin M. Dillard, MC
1st Lt Paul G. Donner, MC
1st Lt William C. Doust, MC
1st Lt James O. Ferguson, MC
1st Lt Leewan R. Kellarn, MC
lst Li Clayton N. Klakeg, MC
1st Lt Gerald J. Kochevar, MC
1st Lt Hugh B. McManus, MC
1st Lt Eustace P. Miller, Jr, MC
]st Lt William E. Murphy, MC
1st Lt Neils Neustrup, MC
1st Lt George B. Nicholson, MC
1st Lt William L. Sager, MC
1st Lt E. W Schmidt, MC
1st Lt Carrol C. Shinn, MC
1st Lt Davis H. Stoddard, MC
1st Lt Jesse E. Waller MC
1st Li George E. Wilson, MC
1st Lt Charles Pinkoson, MC
1st Lt Augustus C. Richardson, MC
1st Lt Jordan C. Ringenberg, MC
1st Lt Benjamin F. Fuller, MC
1st Lt Joseph W. Murphy, MC
1st U Carl K. Sherk, MC
1st Lt Donald W. Springer, MC
Capt Frances P. Thorp, ANC
Capt Mary E. Hoadley, ANC
Capt Lillie U. Crow, ANC
Capt Windred P. Madden, ANC
1st Lt Valerie P. Cigagna, ANC
1st Lt Alma C. Cancian, ANC
1st Lt Ann Bosshard, ANC
1st Lt Pauline D. Kepler, ANC
1st Lt E. Barbara Kulus, ANC
1st Lt Pearl J. Lichtner, ANC
1st Li Estaiene Holloway. ANC
QUESTION No. 3 - A general approximate list of medical supplies, including cots, blankets, plasma sent in from Fort Crockett and Fort Sam Houston?
ANSWER to QUESTION 3 - Medical supplies shipped to Texas City, Texas, disaster area between 16th and 23rd April 1947:
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Space does not permit the printing of the list of medical supplies.]
|Rations, Type B||12000|
|Rations, Type C||3000|
(Information is not available as to the quantities of the above which were furnished from Fort Crockett stocks.)
QUESTION No. 4 - How many field kitchens were sent in by Army and under whose direct command while in this area?
ANSWER TO QUESTION 4
A. Four (4) large Mess Detachments were sent to Fort Crockett for the operation of Field Kitchens and other mess facilities as follows:
One (1) Detachment from Camp Hood, Texas, consisting of one (1) officer (1st Lt C. M.Thompson) and twenty-five (25) enlisted men.
One (1) Detachment from the QM Food Service School, Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, consisting of one (1) officer (Captain H. P. Graf) and twenty-two (22) enlisted men.
One (1) Detachment from Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, consisting of one (1) officer (Captain H. L. Penrod) and twenty-four (24) enlisted men.
One (1) Detachment from Ft. Sill, 0kla, consisting of two (2) officers (1st Lt L. Best and 2nd Lt J. C. Murphy) and twenty-six (26) enlisted men.
B. Equipment - Forty-eight (48) gasoline burning field ranges with all necessary utensils and spare parts.
C. Officer in direct command - All mess personnel and facilities operated under the direct supervision of Major Thor S. Anderson, QMC, Headquarters Fourth Army.
(signed) J. R. SHEETZ
Brig Gen, GSC
Commanding Fourth Army
BUREAU OF MEDICINE AND SURGERY
Navy Department, Washington 25. D. C.
2 June 1947
Dr. C. F. Quinn.
President Mainland Medical and Dental Planning Group
822 6th Street, North
Texas City, Texas
DEAR DR. QUINN:
I am enclosing the history of the part the Medical Department of the Navy played during the Texas City disaster, and hope that it meets with your request. I have also included the names of all personnel who helped with this work and have mentioned the names of the three young doctors who did the research on blast injuries.
Thank you again for your kindness to our medical personnel.
(signed) C. R. SWANSON
Rear Admiral (MC)
Surgeon General, U. S. Navy
My special representative was:
Captain Hilton W. Rose (MC), USN
The three officers doing research on blast injuries were:
Lieut. David Minard (MC) USN
Lieut. (jg) John Fl. Killough (MC) USNR
Lieut. (jg) Bernard Zimmerman (MC-R) USNR
ASSISTANCE RENDERED BY THE NAVAL AIR STATION OF DALLAS
DURING THE TEXAS CITY, TEXAS, DISASTER*
When the news of the recent explosion and fires at Texas City, Texas, reached the Dallas Naval Air Station, the Commanding Officer, Captain L. J. Dow, USN, immediately took over. We were told that a large French Government owned freight ship had exploded at the docks of the town. An estimated loss of 575 persons was made known. Buildings and oil storage tanks were aflame. Practically every building in the little coastal city was wrecked. Assistance from everyone was asked.
Leading all of these units sent to the distressed area were two senior officers of the Station who were directed to report as quickly as possible to the Relief Headquarters in Texas City. These officers were directed to make known the details of the help which NAS Dallas could render and to determine if possible the greatest needs of those whose homes and buildings had been twisted and torn by the terrific force of the blast which reached out some ten miles from the exploding ship.
After hearing of the disaster a few hours after it had taken place the Captain ordered all transport type airplanes on the Station to be made ready for flight and placed in standby status. All of the major institutions in Dallas concerned with relief procedures were informed of the availability of air transportation for men and supplies into the shattered and burning town. The American Red Cross, the larger hospitals, the local Doctors’ and Nurses’ Bureau, the newspapers and radio stations and similar organizations were reached and properly informed of the action taken on the Air Station. Practically all of these groups utilized the Naval aircraft placed at their disposal. Texas City was cut off from the rest of the state. Not only had one explosion taken place, others were expected and did take place. Blood, blankets, medicine, communications systems, doctors, nurses, all of these were requested and needed immediately.
Another first step taken upon receipt of the information of the devastation was the ordering of the Station’s Medical Disaster Organization into the coastal area. Within an hour from the time of the initial report of the explosion this unit was in the air and on its way southeast with stretchers, first aid equipment, plasma and medical supplies.
With the understanding that communications in the affected district were disrupted, a Portable Emergency Communications Unit was loaded into the airplane and sent away to those in need. Available expert fire fighters attached to NAS Dallas were equipped with gas masks and inhalators and ordered to the town also. One of the Station’s Mobile Radio Trucks was manned and sent to join the rescue workers there on the Gulf. Realizing the necessity of securing good photographs of the wrecked and burning buildings and the like, two photographers and necessary gear were flown to the scene.
AIR TRANSPORTATION FURNISHED TO THE RELIEF ORGANIZATIONS, THE NEWSPAPERS AND RADIO
STATIONS OF DALLAS
Immediately after the Captain caused the local relief organizations, newspapers and radio stations to be informed of the availability of quick Naval air transportation to the Texas City area, representatives of these agencies came aboard the Station to be flown to the coast. Soon after noon on the day of the explosion seven of the Station’s transport type airplanes took off for the wrecked town with medical supplies. Newspaper reporters, photographers and radio broadcasting officials were included when space permitted.
On the day following the explosion, four airplanes from the Station transported additional relief personnel, medical supplies, such as X-ray film, plasma. penicillin, whole blood, blankets, beds, and newspaper representatives. On the second day following the disaster four more flights were made carrying needed medical supplies from Dallas’ hospitals and large drug houses. On Saturday following the catastrophe three more flights took place conveying more help to our neighbors. On Sunday three more aerial trips were made. The final flight was made at night on 22 April when hundreds of pints of whole blood were flown from the American Red Cross to the Galveston, Texas, hospitals. In all, twenty-two mercy flights were made by NAS Dallas help fellow Texans in need of succor. Approximately one-third of the pilots who flew the airplanes are members of the Naval Air Organized Reserve of this Station. The others were active duty and volunteer reserve pilots.
ASSISTANCE RENDERED BY MEDICAL
By 1300 on the day of the misfortune the Station Medical Disaster Organization consisting of the following personnel, Lieutenant Commander H. B. Jenkins (MC) USNR, Lieutenant W. W. Moorman (MC) USN, Lieutenant Commander Alice Stanley (NC) USN, Lieutenant (jg) Mary L. Rials (NC) USNR and twelve Pharmacist’s Mates and Hospital Apprentices. were in the air headed toward those in need. Medical supplies, stretchers, blankets, plasma and emergency operating equipment were carried in the airplane containing the doctors and corpsmen.
The Medical Organization landed at the Texas City Airport at 1600 and immediately turned to the Civilian First Aid Station which had been set up in the hangar there. Numerous dressings and minor surgical procedures were performed. The medical personnel also assisted as stretcher bearers, unloaders of medicines and supplies from airplanes and loaders of these materials into other vehicles for distribution to the various First Aid Stations in the Texas City area.
When the two officers dispatched from this Station to report to the Relief Headquarters landed at the Naval Air Station at Hitchcock, Texas, some ten miles west of Texas City, they were informed by Lieutenant Thomas, Commanding Officer, that the Hitchcock Station Dispensary could be put in order to accommodate approximately seventy-five patients. It was also made known that accommodations for about 300 homeless victims of the disaster could be established there on the Station. In order that these services be made available it would be necessary to furnish medical personnel since no doctors or corpsmen were aboard. There was one Chief Pharmacists Mate on duty there. It was agreed that the officers from Dallas would continue on to Texas City and report the possibility of setting up the accommodations at Hitchcock to those in charge of relief. Mayor Trahan, Chief Medical Doctor Quinn and Mr. Davis of the Chamber of Commerce, all of Texas City, were informed of what could be established at nearby Hitchcock NAS. The three leaders of relief in Texas City immediately accepted the Navy’s offer and the news of the activating of the Naval Relief Unit at Hitchcock was broadcast both by word of mouth and over all broadcasting systems in the area. The American Red Cross agreed to set up a Field Kitchen at the Air Station.
The Dallas officers then located the Dallas Medical Relief Organization and requested it to move to NAS Hitchcock and set things in readiness. Automotive transportation from Navy Hitchcock was provided to transfer the unit from the Texas City Hangar to the local Navy Station. At 1730 the medical group proceeded to the Air Ease. On the way to the station some fifteen homeless men, women and children with minor injuries were picked up and taken to Hitchcock. An additional thirty more refugees who were walking along the highway trying to escape from the holocaust were also taken up by the moving medical group. Twenty of these persons were examined medically and found to be not in need of medical help. At their own request, they were left at a small town named La Marque. The remaining ten persons were taken to Hitchcock, examined medically and placed in the Navy barracks which were prepared for the homeless.
Upon arrival at Hitchcock the medical unit unloaded its medical supplies and prepared the dispensary for use. Medical gear formerly preserved with heavy grease was washed with carbon tetrachloride, cleaned and sterilized Beds were made and general preparations for receiving patients were completed. Twelve Army ambulances in the area were assigned to convey the injured to Hitchcock. From the opening of the dispensary until 2400, patients were admitted. Watches were set up and all hands remained aboard in a stand-by status. About 2100 a detail of three Hospital Corpsmen was ordered to Texas City to act as stretcher bearers. One of the greatest problems to be dealt with in Texas City immediately after the explosion was caring for the dead. A temporary morgue was established in a windowless garage there were no windows left in little Texas City there just off the main Street. Before the close of the day over 100 bodies were placed in the garage. Across the street a public school was transformed into another morgue. The corpsmen, needed badly, helped for many hours with this mission.
At 0115 on the morning following the first explosion of the Grand Camp a second explosion of another ship, the High Flyer, took place at the dock in Texas City. All hands at Hitchcock were awakened by the loud noise made by the second explosion. Many windows of the Air Station were broken out by the force of the blast. Medical workers returned to their posts and ten more patients were delivered to the dispensary. By 0440 most of the sufferers of the High Flyer disaster were cared for. From that hour on a few patients with minor injuries were admitted.
The Naval Air Station Dallas served as a liaison unit with the blood bank at Baylor Hospital of Dallas, and assisted in planning the expeditious transfer of several planeloads of whole blood from Dallas to Galveston, where it was sadly needed. Over 1000 volunteers were standing by in the vicinity of the Station to donate blood if required.
The Medical Disaster Organization of NAS Dallas worked long hours as they performed their duties in surgery. X-ray, laboratory and in feeding and care of the patients. They returned to Dallas at 1500 on 18 April. Commander Herman Revis, a Naval Reserve Aviator, remained at Hitchcock as liaison officer and maintained contact with the borne Station.
All persons from NAS Dallas who landed and served temporarily at NAS Hitchcock are greatly in debt to Lieutenant Thomas, the Commanding Officer there. This officer personally met each airplane when it landed, provided immediate transportation into Texas City and offered the facilities of the Hitchcock Station to the helpless. What assistance NAS Dallas rendered was certainly expedited and made possible by Lieutenant Thomas. All gratitude to him. His tireless efforts and performance of duty in this connection with relief are worthy of special commendation.
ASSISTANCE RENDERED BY THE PORTABLE EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS UNIT
The Dallas Naval Air Station Portable Emergency Communications Unit, consisting of five radiomen equipped with one ATC type transmitter and one ARB type receiver, departed from Dallas Naval Air Station by Naval Airplane at 1445 on the day of the disaster. This unit was landed at the Naval Air Station, Hitchcock, Texas, some ten miles west of Texas City. The Commanding Officer of the Hitchcock Station provided the unit with a panel type Navy truck in which the unit was conveyed at once to the dock area. At 1705 the unit established communications with NAS Dallas and NAS Hitchcock and began the transmission of information about the disaster to the Stations. This service continued until 2100 at which time the unit was ordered to evacuate the dock area because another explosion was expected. The unit moved to the City Hall in Texas City where it again established connections with the Stations at 2130. About 2300 the police requested that the unit return to the dock area since it was believed that no further explosions would take place. This was done and communications were again established. While in the dock area the unit also established a radio telephone circuit with the Texas City Police located at the City Hall, the relief Headquarters of the City.
At 0115, while the unit was functioning, another explosion of the major type involving the blowing up of the ship High Flyer took place. The unit was only one hundred yards from the ship when it exploded. The unit was badly damaged and two of its operators were injured, one severely. After the explosion the unit was driven into the city and again established communications. From 0200 until 0930 the unit maintained continuous contact with the Naval Air Stations. The unit established a CW circuit with Dallas and utilized radio telephone for communications with NAS Hitchcock, where a hospital had been established. Emergency traffic was handled for both the hospital and the civilian headquarters in Texas City.
At noon on Friday, three days after the first explosion, the unit was returned to Dallas. The unit formed the only communications operating directly from the stricken area near the scene of the first explosion. It also operated the only direct system between Texas City and NAS Dallas. It also handled the only traffic between the dock area and the City Police of Texas City. This unit transmitted information directly from the dock area to the Dallas newspapers. Managing Editor James F. Chambers, Jr., of the Daily Times Herald of Dallas in a letter to Captain Dow states: “Our coverage of the explosion would have been incomplete had it not been for your kindness and the fine help we received from your radiomen, pilots and the men you sent to the scene.”
The duty performed by these men of the Navy was outstandingly fine. They worked in the most dangerous area of the community throughout the night. They were only one hundred yards from the second major explosion — that of the High Flyer. Although the five men attending the Communications Truck were thrown about during the blast, they stayed at their post. Not only did they attempt to continue transmitting the messages, but they also turned to rescuing those recently injured by the last explosion.
The men operating the Portable unit were:
Chief Aviation Pilot W. B. (Spider) Webb, USNR. In addition to operating the portable radio equipment he turned to rescue work after the High Flyer blew up. He received a wrenched knee in the blast but continued working in the dark night, trying to do his part. He discovered a recently killed man and placed him on a stretcher. He discovered a Relief worker who had lost a leg in the blast and carried him to a First Aid Station.
Chief Aviation Radioman C. H. Lewis, USNR. When the High Flyer exploded he received a severe cut on his neck just over the jugular vein. Although he was bleeding profusely he charged into the darkened area near the water’s edge and removed from the mud and water an injured co-worker. From the nose and mouth of the severely injured man he removed mud and helped the brave unfortunate man breathe his last few breaths. The man, civilian employee of NAS, Corpus Christi, received severe chest wounds and suffered the loss of a leg. He died a heroic death there under the smoke and flames, amid pitiable surroundings. Lewis was forced to leave the area and was taken to the Marine Hospital at Galveston where his injuries were taken care of. Later in the day, he was returned to his Station, NAS Dallas. Both Webb and Lewis are amateur radio operators licensed by the Federal Communications Commission and are station keepers attached to NAS Dallas.
Charlie Gipson, AETMI, USNR. Gipson, alter being knocked to the ground was further stunned by having a corpse hurled upon him by the blast as he lay on the ground. Gipson continued helping by placing a tourniquet on a man who lost a leg.
L. C. Becknell, ALMI, USNR. After the explosion he carried a stretcher for the injured and dead.
M. L. Black, Technical Sergeant, USMCR. Black also served as stretcher bearer.
Each of these five men describes the explosion situation when the High Flyer blew up as terrible. They are also veterans of Naval Forces in the Pacific, some highly decorated. Thanks, they say to former wartime training. “We knew how to dig in, how to hunt cover. It saved our lives again.’’
Five additional radiomen were flown to Texas City to assist in operating the Portable system. Two of these men spent hours at the water front searching for the dead.
ADDITIONAL ASSISTANCE RENDERED
From Dallas on the afternoon of the explosion three expert fire fighters attached to N.AS Dallas flew to Texas City. They carried gas mask inhalators. They reported to the fire department of the city for duty and served until noon on Friday 18 April. One of these men was at work in the dock area when the second explosion took place. He was stunned and suffered minor injuries but continued to help.
V. R. Dersch, PhoM1, USNR, and W. J. Brown, AMMI, USNR, were flown to the burning area on the afternoon of the explosion with their Naval Photographic equipment. For two days and one night these men took excellent pictures of all areas. During the second explosion they laid aside their cameras and joined fire and rescue squads. They were in the heart of the area when the High Flyer blew up. Dersch was thrown through the air for ten or twelve feet. Brown received scratches about the face and suffered shock. These two photographers finally served on a body recovery party. They found and cared for the bodies of one girl and five men.
Late on the afternoon of the explosion a Mobile Radio Truck from NAS Dallas was driven to the City Hall in Texas City, where it established communications with NAS Dallas and transmitted emergency messages and general information to Dallas until Friday 18 April.
A total of sixty-nine officers and men from Dallas NAS went to Texas City in some capacity or another to give what assistance they could to a brokenhearted suffering community. There is no way of estimating tile numbers of those who stayed at home and helped with preparing the airplanes and loading their precious cargos.
To secure the work of assisting those in distress, the Dallas Naval Air Station finally transported some eighty large boxes of flowers donated by the florists of Dallas and Fort Worth to Texas City for a community mass funeral for those there on the coast who had been called to the final muster.
The following named hospital corpsmen attached to the U. S. Naval Air Station, Dallas. Texas, participated in the operations in connection with the Texas City, Texas, disaster:
|Banister, Kenneth W.||CPhM||USNR|
|Norris, Jack P.||PhM1c||USNR|
|Chambers, Billy R.||Phm2c||USNR||(MFT)|
|Delmenhorst, Alfred G.||PhM2c||USNR|
|Johnson, “W” “A”||PhM3c||USNR||(OrT)|
|Fulton, David T.||PhM3c||USNR|
|Johnson, Rex L.||PhM3c||USNR|
|King, Charles B.||PhM3c||USNR||(XrT)|
|Webster, John A.||PhM3c||USNR|
|Kirtley, William D.||HA1c||USNR|
|Pointer, William A.||HA1c||USNR|
|Agnew, Joseph F.||PhM1c||USNR||(DgT)|
By the Community, State and Nation Part Two
What the People Said and Did
For the People, by the People
By the Community, State and Nation Part One
By the Community, State and Nation Part Two
By the Community, State and Nation Part Three
Lest We Forget
United We Stand
In God We Trust
Annals of Texas City