For the People, by the People

The American Red Cross

The report of the American Red Cross covers a period beginning April 16 and ending July 1, long after the departure of organizations that responded only for emergency duty. Even then, the work of the Red Cross was not finished. It maintained a disaster office in Texas City until August 15, and much remains to be done by the Galveston County Chapter.
Many are the Texas City families who are devoutly thankful for the generosity of the American People, made manifest through the agency of the American Red Cross.

Red Cross Emergency Relief

"For God's sake, send the Red Cross - there's been a big explosion, and thousands are injured," thus Johnny Erquart, telephone employee at the switchboard in Texas City, set in motion a chain of operations that marshalled the vast resources of the Nations Disaster Relief Agency, the AMERICAN RED CROSS.
Within minutes after the SS Grand Camp exploded at 9:12 A.M. on April 16, 1947, the Galveston County Chapter headquarters was notified, and the disaster relief chairman called his sub-chairmen and their committees. A prearranged plan of action was quickly outlined, and each unit for rescue work, survey, medical aid, food, shelter, clothing, volunteer personnel. transportation, communication, registration and information went into operation.
The chairman of the disaster medical aid committee, looking from his Galveston office window, saw the explosion across the Bay. He immediately alerted all city physicians for emergency duty, then called the John Sealy Hospital, St. Mary's Infirmary and the U. S. Marine Hospital to prepare for a mass intake of casualties.
Red Cross Chapters within a radius of 100 miles of Texas City called the Galveston Chapter to say they were standing by and requested specific instructions as to the type of help most urgently needed. A call was then placed to the Red Cross Midwestern Area Office in St. Louis by the Galveston Chapter.
Within 15 minutes after the explosion, the chairman of the transportation committee, an official of the Galveston bus company, bad buses and cars at Galveston hospitals ready to take doctors, nurses and medical supplies to Texas City. Two buses were immediately dispatched to Texas City direct, and two experienced transportation dispatchers were rushed there with Red Cross identification to ascertain what additional transportation might be needed. When the threat
of another explosion was announced later, the Galveston Transportation Chairman advised Texas City officials that sufficient equipment was available to evacuate 4,000 people from Texas City on thirty minutes notice. Highway authorities were alerted so that this equipment could move in and out without unnecessary interference.
The Galveston County Chapter Survey Chairman and the Chapter Chairman were in Texas City within an hour to determine what was needed, and found that the Texas City Red Cross Survey Chairman had perished in the disaster. The Galveston Disaster Chairman contacted the Mayor of Texas City to ascertain what specific assistance was needed, and began arrangements for housing the homeless.
Within 30 minutes, Red Cross rescue and relief squads were on the way. Fifty-five first-aid men from the Galveston Chapter were rushed to Texas City to aid physicians at emergency stations set up in the City Hall, the Chamber of Commerce building and other points, and to help bring out the injured. It must be remembered that while these were Red Cross Volunteers, trained in first aid, water safety, rescue, etc., the rescue operation is a function of the city, and these trained workers were only an aid to the duly constituted authority of the people. While Red Cross is the coordinating agency in disaster relief, this work is conducted under the authority of the city affected. Red Cross canteen workers were ordered to leave the dock area by the city police on occasions when there was fear of another explosion. Red Cross responsibility to the injured is supplemental to the great work carried on by hospitals and local medical fraternities. Active care of victims rests upon these institutions and the local people. Red Cross assists by recruiting doctors and nurses, supplying drugs, medical supplies and equipment to augment the local medical officials. Red Cross also pays the hospital and rehabilitation expenses when the victim is not able to do so for himself.
As rescue work progressed, replacements were sent from Galveston as needed. In all, over 150 Galveston Chapter rescue workers served in the blast area by Saturday, April 19.
Red Cross canteen units were on their way from Galveston in less than two hours with 20 gallons of coffee, 40 gallons of distilled water, 30 cases of milk, and the entire day's supply of doughnuts and rolls from two Galveston bakeries. A canteen was promptly set up in the blast area to feed rescue workers and the injured. Canteen workers served continuously on a 24-hour schedule through the emergency.
In the meantime, help and supplies from neighboring Red Cross Chapters began to arrive in Texas City to lend aid to the Galveston County Chapter in the tremendous task. A fleet of cars arrived from the chapter at Beaumont with 6 motor corps drivers for transportation duty. 21 canteen workers with supplies. 14 doctors, 18 nurses, 2l Navy pharmacists' mates, an embalmer, 6 first-aid men, 12 experienced rescue workers, 250 units of blood plasma. 270 blankets, and 122 gas masks, procured through the Navy.
Sixty motor corps members from Harris County Chapter arrived before noon, bringing in the first shipments of drugs and medical supplies. They also brought doctors and nurses. The Tar-rant County Chapter, at Fort Worth, sent immediately 26 nurses, 25 motor corps members with 7 automobiles and a 30-passenger bus for transporting the ambulatory injured, homeless refugees, nurses, doctors, and relief workers. A contingent from the Matagorda County Chapter at Bay City arrived in Texas City three hours after the morning explosion, with 6 first-aid experts, 6 doctors, 10 nurses, 2 ambulances, a mobile kitchen, a supply of blankets, blood plasma, drugs and an inhalator. The Port Arthur Chapter sent 35 canteen workers and supplies. Also from that chapter came 75 first-aid and rescue workers.
During the first hour after the blast, a Civil Air Patrol plane from Port Arthur landed at Texas City with 3 doctors and 2 nurses recruited by the chapter. The East Wharton County Chapter sent its station wagon for transportation duty, bringing to Texas City 6 additional nurses and a canteen worker, who was one of the first to feed rescue workers on the dock, in the heart of the blast area. When the SS High Flyer exploded at 1:07 AM., April 17. almost 16 hours after the Grand Camp went up, a rescue worker at her right was instantly killed, and the man on her left suffered a shattered leg. Almost miraculously, she remained unhurt, and promptly rendered first aid to the injured man's leg.
When the force of the first blast was felt throughout Brazoria County, the Chapter at Freeport immediately alerted all doctors and nurses. Within 30 minutes, a radio-equipped car loaned by the Dow Chemical Co. and manned by the Chapter Disaster chairman was on its way. Two ambulances followed immediately with doctors and nurses, first aid, firemen and rescue workers. During the first day, 150 workers from that Chapter were involved in relief operations.
Simultaneously, as convoys of disaster relief personnel, equipment, supplies and medical aid poured into Texas City during the first few hours, from surrounding chapters, another dramatic scene of relief activity was unfolding at Galveston.
The Army disaster plan at Fort Crockett [Galveston] had been placed into effect three minutes after the blast. Colonel John P. Horan, Commanding Officer of the Post, immediately placed the entire facilities of his command under the jurisdiction of the Galveston Chapter. Colonel Horan also requested Fort Sam Houston to send at once 30 doctors and 50 nurses by air to reopen the Fort Crockett Hospital. Gas masks, blood plasma, medicines and dressings for burns, fractures, and shock were requested. Later, on the request of the Red Cross, Colonel Horan radioed for a medical battalion to be flown to the Hitchcock airfield. Army ambulances were dispatched to move the injured to hospitals in Galveston.
Fort Crockett maintained a constant flow of trucks bringing food, medical supplies, and other necessities to and from Texas City. Twelve mess officers were also sent. By noon, April 16, Red Cross canteens were augmented by personnel from Fort Crockett, who had set up three field kitchens, and food was being served to 7,000 Texas City residents and rescue volunteers,
In answer to Colonel Horan's call to Fort Sam Houston, the 32nd Medical Battalion was dispatched to Fort Crockett, bringing with it 20 ambulances. This battalion also brought with them 2,000 vials of tetanus antitoxin, 10,000 blankets, a radio communication truck, 500 gas masks, and 2,600 cots. Embalming fluids and fingerprinting sets were made available to the Red Cross, while a chemical warfare officer was dispatched to Texas City.
General Jonathan Wainwright, Commanding the 4th Army, appointed a committee of four key officers to cooperate with tile Red Cross disaster committee of the Galveston County Chapter in their assistance to Texas City blast victims. They were under the direction of Major General J. R. Sheetz. These officers were: Col. L.M. Murphy in charge of Army planning; Col. J. F. McKinley of transportation and supply, Capt. Harold Busch, of Intelligence, and Lt. Col. I. H. Marshall, of the Medical Division.
Rear Admiral A. S. Merrill, Commandant of the 8th Naval District, offered the facilities of his command to the Red Cross.
Almost prophetic was a shipment of 210,000 war surplus surgical dressings that had arrived at the Galveston Red Cross Chapter about an hour before the explosion occurred.
By noon, a registration and information headquarters was established in the Chamber of Commerce building in Texas City, to clear the great deluge of welfare inquiries pouring in from relatives and friends of Texas City residents, and for determining individual family needs.
Realizing that available stocks of tetanus and gas gangrene antitoxin, indispensable for multipIe-puncture wound patients, were depleted in the Texas area because of treatment of the injured in the Oklahoma-Texas Panhandle tornado, the St. Louis Red Cross Supply Office combed all St. Louis drug firms for large amounts of these serums. A call to the Galveston Chapter revealed that the greatest immediate need was for blood plasma. Six hundred units on hand there had been sent to Texas City within the first half hour. The State Health Department at Austin, Texas, was asked to fly in 2,000 of the 6,000 units donated for State use by the St. Louis Red Cross office a short time before. Arrangements were completed by the Red Cross State Relations Officer at Austin for the Army to fly the shipment in two lots, to Galveston and Houston, to insure one being immediately available if roads were blocked. These arrangements were completed within an hour alter the first call was received by the Red Cross Midwestern area office.
Through its extensive experience with all types of disasters, Red Cross was able to anticipate and prepare for the most urgent needs peculiar to this disaster. The Monsanto Company placed a plane at the disposal of the Red Cross and by 2:30 P.M., April 16, five trained disaster people and an initial shipment of 160 pints of whole blood, 180 units of tetanus, and 250 units of gas gangrene antitoxin was in the air and on its way to Texas City. Meanwhile, the Red Cross Medical Director who was directing medical aid for the tornado victims in Woodward, Okla., was ordered to Texas City. He was sent by plane to coordinate medical facilities and personnel. By early nightfall, he was on the scene.
In the meantime, the Red Cross in St. Louis and Washington, D. C., continued marshalling the nation's resources in a steadily mounting crescendo. At Washington, the Navy placed a special plane at the disposal of the Red Cross to fly three disaster officials to Texas City. The Navy immediately alerted the Naval Air Stations at Corpus Christi, Texas, and Pensacola, Fla., putting every plane at the disposal of the Red Cross.
As soon as first reports of casualties and damage could be determined, the Galveston County Chapter placed into operation a plan for sheltering, feeding and clothing homeless families. Although primarily drawn up for readiness in case of hurricane, the plan provided necessary housing for this disaster as well, It is the responsibility of Red Cross to have access to stores of blankets, cots, medical supplies and other articles needed in a disaster. Arrangements are made for new stock in local stores or stock piles previously arranged.
Sixteen main shelters in Galveston were made ready, and with the use of Camp Wallace, facilities were available to house 11,380 persons. Many of the refugees leaving Texas City, however, went to homes of relatives and friends in nearby towns. Experience has shown in disaster work that the heaviest shelter load is not in the first few days, because many families are sheltered by friends.
Three hundred Negro families were housed, fed and given necessary clothing at the Red Cross center in the schoolhouse at La Marque. Fifty persons were sheltered and fed at the Federal Works Housing Project, Island City Homes near Galveston, 47 persons at Wright Cuney Park. and 20 persons at the Galveston Y.W.C.A.
During the first few hours after the blast, the Federal Works Agency opened Camp Wallace, ten miles from Texas City, as a shelter. A Red Cross Field Director from the Naval Station at Orange, Texas, was assigned to supervise arrangements of this camp. Red Cross volunteers from Galveston and neighboring county chapters staffed the dormitories, the mess hall and the kitchen. The Army sent the Red Cross mess personnel to assist. By evening, 653 persons had registered at the shelter, and a hot supper was served in the mess hall from the camps regular kitchen.
The Harris County Chapter at Houston established and staffed a shelter in the auditorium there, where 214 refugees were housed. Meals were prepared by the Chapter's canteen. Another Red Cross shelter was opened that first day by the Brazoria County Chapter in the City of Alvin, where 60 persons were housed, fed and given clothing. The Red Cross at Dickinson, Texas fed over 1,000 and housed 450 at the Baptist, Catholic and Methodist Churches, the High School and the Community Club and the Negro School. La Marque, High Island and Bay Shore also housed refugees in previously prepared shelters.
By early afternoon of the first day, all hospitals in Galveston and Houston had been checked by the two respective Red Cross chapters to determine how many additional doctors, nurses, extra drugs and medical supplies had already arrived. Later that day, the Red Cross Medical Director and the Director of Red Cross Nursing, made a visit to all Galveston Hospitals to ascertain their patient loads, their problems, and their needs, both of material and personnel.
Upon completion of this tour of inspection, the Red Cross medical and nursing directors began immediately to assign the volunteer doctors and nurses where they were needed most. Hospital needs were changed hourly. A tremendous task was accomplished in establishing contact with constantly shifting medical requirements. Two hundred and twenty-five nurses volunteered their services to the Red Cross on the first day to augment the staffs of the Galveston and Houston hospitals, for the emergent period. Of these nurses who were able to remain, and others recruited, a total of 219 were on the paid Red Cross nursing staffs of the three Galveston hospitals and the Harmon, St. Joseph, Jefferson Davis, Parkview, and U. S. Naval hospitals in Houston, and the La Porte Hospital, where nearly 800 blast victims were hospitalized the first night. Sixty-four were taken to the reopened hospital at Fort Crockett.
Securing doctors and nurses was never a problem. Professional medical people were arriving by the hundreds in Galveston and Houston by bus, car and train from nearby cities, and flying from all sections of the Midwest to volunteer their services to the Red Cross. A very real problem was encountered, however, from confusion in more doctors and nurses arriving in Galveston and Houston than could be used, by their failing to check with their local Red Cross Chapter as to whether their services were required. It has been estimated that between 500 and 600 doctors and nurses came into Galveston and Houston. However, the fullest utilization was made of those who reported to their local Red Cross Chapters, and who were dispatched on the basis of need.
While on duty when the second ship, SS High Flyer exploded at 1:07 AM., April 17, one of the Beaumont Red Cross volunteers lost a leg and an eye. The Beaumont chairman of the Nurses' Aids Committee suffered severe head injuries from flying shrapnel. One Navy Pharmacist's Mate working with the Beaumont Chapter was also injured. The Beaumont station wagon, driven by the chairman of the Chapter's Motor Corps, was badly damaged by flying steel.
Within a few hours after the first explosion, the handling of inquiries on the welfare of Texas City residents, pouring in from all parts of the nation, Mexico, Canada and other foreign countries, became an operation unprecedented in a decade of Red Cross disasters. As high as fifty inquiries were received from different cities concerning a single person. With the attention of the entire nation centered on Texas City, many persons inquired about relatives with whom they had not been in contact for years. They wired and called in descriptions for identification in the faint hope of locating them. The welfare inquiry staff at the Galveston Chapter soon was working in six-hour shifts of 50 persons, totalling 200 volunteers, on an around-the-clock schedule. A similar inquiry bureau was set up in Texas City, staffed with 32 workers on a 24-hour schedule.
Amateur radio operators in Alameda, and Los Angeles, Calif., picked up messages from service personnel, stationed in Tokyo, Japan, and notified their Red Cross Chapters, who wired the names of the persons about whom information was desired. On one message alone, which asked information on 30 different people, some of whom there were no addresses for, Red Cross volunteers of Texas City, with the help of the Boy Scouts and groups of church youth, made 116 home visits and 165 telephone calls in one day in an effort to get this desired information.
A teletype system connected the Texas City and Galveston Red Cross inquiries section. The first night, two teletypes were installed in the Galveston inquiry office to augment the one already there. By the third day, a total of 7 had been installed, and were in operation, manned by Red Cross telecommunication system operators and Western Union personnel.
Some conception of the tremendous task involved can be realized by the fact that over 27,000 inquiries were received, each requiring individual handling. As more persons were located after leaving Texas City for other towns, more injured identified, other bodies found, or parts of bodies identified, pending inquiries were reviewed each day to determine whether the new information would supply the answers. Some inquiries required as many as 10 phone calls, personal visits, or other wires to obtain the necessary information. The fact that 55% of the persons about whom inquiries were sent resided in communities adjacent to Texas City added to the task. Another fact which caused considerable difficulty was the absence of a city directory in Texas City, plus the fact that in accordance with wartime telephone restrictions on telephone installations, the help which is usually provided from the phone directory was absent. Another contributing factor was the manner of information given about the person being sought. Many wires gave only names and sometimes the spelling was not correct. The help given by the Boy Scouts and Sea Scouts and Junior Red Cross members in the handling of information for these messages was invaluable. The Scouts seemed to be everywhere, both in Galveston and Texas City.
Amateur radio operators were of invaluable assistance to the Red Cross in clearing inquiry messages as well as transmitting all types of information. With the telephone circuits so overloaded, and the overwhelming deluge of calls, many urgent messages would have been undelivered and many needs unmet if it bad not been for the volunteer service of the "hams."
Short wave station W5GKI. San Antonio, set up a two-way radio in Galveston, and handled a total of over 250 welfare inquiries from all parts of the nation. Members of the Galveston Amateur Radio Association, in conjunction with the Houston Power and Light Company, set up communications between Red Cross in Texas City and the Galveston Chapter. The Texas Guard Representatives' station W5KVM also set up equipment in the Galveston Chapter to handle exclusively emergency supply orders, offers of supplies and services. This station, for example, called cities for a critically needed supply of 24 pints of Type 0 blood, which was located in San Francisco, and ten minutes after the call was made, the blood was on a plane for Houston.
The International Business Machine Company of Houston assigned four of their highly skilled statisticians to assist in compiling casualty reports, filing and cataloguing inquiries. They also furnished a special plane which made several daily trips between Galveston and Houston to process these reports.
Simultaneously with other operations, the clothing and supply units of the Galveston County Chapter were functioning. Hundreds of articles of clothing began pouring in to be sorted, warehoused, and distributed. Urgent demands from hospitals in Galveston and Houston for sheets, pillowcases towels, blankets, shaving kits and hospital bed shirts were promptly met from existing supplies; others were purchased. A total of 5,700 articles were furnished hospitals, and over 200 persons clothed. The central purchase committee of the Galveston Chapter had made prior arrangements with the merchants of Galveston to have special crews available at all hours of the night to fill orders.

All these vital Red Cross operations were at work in the few frantic hours following the first explosion. This instant action, covering every phase of emergency relief, was the result of previous organization and training, mandatory in every Red Cross Chapter, and of disaster volunteers from each of the chapters reaching the scene. The steps in meeting each new emergent need as it developed had been planned in earlier chapter meetings, conferences with National and Area highly trained personnel, and also at regional disaster preparedness institutes conducted among groups of several chapters, one of which was held in Texas City for the Galveston County Units only three weeks before. Of course, adding to this preparedness was the ability of the Red Cross to call upon all organizations and coordinate their resources to the common objective of relieving suffering and want.
By 2:15 P.M. that first afternoon, planes began arriving at the Galveston airport carrying plasma, whole blood, medical supplies, cots, gas masks, blankets, oxygen, radio equipment, Red Cross national disaster workers, and doctors and nurses requested by the Red Cross. Planes were landing at the rate of one every 15 minutes up until midnight.
Four volunteers from the Galveston Chapter were stationed at the Galveston airfield to receive shipments and direct supplies to their proper destination. A fleet of Red Cross trucks, buses and private cars arranged for by the Chairman of transportation committee, stood ready to rush supplies and personnel to where they were needed most, when the first planeload arrived carrying the 1,000 units of blood plasma which had been requested by Red Cross from Austin, one-third of it was rushed to Texas City and the remainder to John Sealy Hospital at Galveston. By 4:00 P.M. that first day 1900 units of blood plasma had been flown into Galveston.
In other air shipments came 200 units of tetanus antitoxin and 160 units of gas gangrene antitoxin, and 200 grams of the very rare streptomycin, which was rushed to the Galveston hospitals. In addition to the medical supplies and equipment ordered by the Red Cross some companies added other supplies which they knew would be needed later.
At the airport in Houston, similar activity was taking place. One plane followed another in landing more personnel, supplies and equipment. As operations progressed through the night and the next day, the Houston airport became the focal point for the greater portion of relief supplies arriving from other localities. A Red Cross volunteer transportation squad of eighty of the leading transportation men in Houston, with their vehicles, kept supplies and arriving personnel moving to their destinations.
As relief work continued at an undiminished pace throughout the night and next day, replacement volunteers from Galveston and surrounding chapters were sent in to the disaster area to reline the first workers, some of whom had gone without sleep or rest for forty hours.
At Galveston and Houston hospitals, the first nurses who had volunteered their services to the Red Cross became exhausted and requests for more nurses steadily increased. All available nurses in these two cities had been on constant duty from the beginning of the catastrophe. The Red Cross disaster nursing director contacted recruitment nurses in nearby chapters to supply volunteer nurses until others could be recruited on a paid basis to stabilize hospital nursing needs. Each Red Cross chapter has a rosier of available nursing resources in their community. For example the Harris County Chapter provided 186 volunteer nurses alone.
Army and Navy planes were placed at the disposal of the Red Cross to bring in these recruited nurses. Twenty-six came in from Travis County Chapter, 28 from Bexar County, 52 from Beaumont and Port Arthur, 10 from Corpus Christi, 5 from Chicago, Ill., 28 from Dallas, 26 from Fort Worth and 18 from Harris County.
During the first 34 hours of the emergency, needs for drugs, medicines, surgical and medical supplies were so varied and great that it was decided to centralize these supplies with a Red Cross Medical officer who had been assigned to the disaster from Eastern Area headquarters, and pool all additional shipments at the reopened Fort Crockett Hospital. One medical man at each hospital was delegated to order additional supplies from this stockpile, to prevent duplications.
When it was reported that gas gangrene had developed among some of the blast victims, enormous doses of penicillin were used at the rate of 500,000 units per hour, which threatened to exhaust the entire supply in the nation. A total of two billion units of this drug were procured. Fresh supplies of tetanus antitoxin for multiple-puncture wound cases were being asked for constantly, and five and one-half million units were supplied. More and more shipments of whole blood and plasma were needed.
Steadily increasing requests for additional large quantities of drugs and medical supplies came day and night into Red Cross headquarters at St. Louis. Within a few days, available supplies from the Army and Navy drug firms in the disaster area were practically exhausted. Large amounts were secured in Sr. Louis. Chicago and as far as Brooklyn, N. Y., and flown directly to Houston and Galveston.
On Saturday night, April 19, a request for more than a ton of drugs, surgical instruments, medicines and dressings totaling $57,000 was received by the Red Cross office in St. Louis. Wholesale drug firms there opened their warehouses, called in their employees, and before dawn, a large cargo transport plane furnished the Red Cross by the Naval Reserve in St. Louis left for Houston. Other items in the request, unobtainable in St. Louis, were secured by long distance phone calls to Chicago and flown direct from there.
Along with hospital requirements, there was also a tremendous need for Public Health nursing service. Only major critical victims of the explosion were hospitalized, and the hundreds of explosion victims who had received only first aid needed immediate attention. The local Galveston County Health Unit under the direction of the Health Officer, Dr. Roy Reed, and the State Department of Public Health cooperated with the Red Cross medical and nursing directors to pool their resources.
Plans were immediately instituted for an intensive home-to-home Public Health-nurse visiting program throughout Texas City to assist all persons who had received minor injuries. The State Health Department sent in three of its supervisory nurses, whose services were of inestimable value. This program was carried out on a cooperative basis with the Director of the Red Cross Nursing Service acting in an advisory capacity. The staff was composed of the local public health nurses and public health nurses from all health agencies in Harris County, plus additional assistance from the Dallas Health Department. Other public health nurses recruited by Red Cross were also assigned to this program. Over 900 home visits were made in Texas City and adjoining communities by these nurses within one week. Seven hundred persons with minor injuries were found, who otherwise would not have received further attention. There were a number of other health problems discovered which needed follow-up work. An over-all of 27 nurses were used on this project. After it became necessary for the local and neighboring staff nurses to return to their regular duties, replacement public health nurses were supplied by Red Cross to continue the work. These nurses were assigned to the County Health Department. Three nurses were loaned to the Red Cross by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company for a period of one month.
In Galveston and Houston, local nursing agencies gave much assistance in visiting patients' homes after patients were discharged from the hospitals.
At Camp Wallace on Thursday, April 17, homeless refugees from Texas City, needing shelter, food and clothing, swelled to 1250 persons. Three hot meals were served daily by the Army mess cooks and Red Cross volunteers, with the food being furnished by the Galveston Chapter. The Midland, Texas, Junior Chamber of Commerce donated one load of 8,000 pounds of food.
Many health problems arose among the homeless persons at Camp Wallace. Army doctors and nurses gave medical and nursing care during the early emergency until the Red Cross could recruit doctors and nurses to meet the need. The Dallas Board of Education loaned the Red Cross two of its nursing units of five nurses each. These nurses staffed the dispensary, the milk station where babies' formulas were prepared, and also carried on a public health nursing program, contacting each member of each family housed at the camp.
It was also necessary for the Red Cross to provide nurses for duty at Texas City Morgue and later at Camp Wallace when the morgue was transferred there. These nurses provided trained care and attention for the hundreds of overwrought grief stricken persons who went through the morgue to identify members of their families.
With many personal matters and problems confronting disaster patients lying helpless in hospitals, 6 trained Red Cross medial social workers stationed at nearby Army and Navy hospitals were dispatched by plane to Galveston and Houston. These workers communicated with families and relatives for patients, arranged for the families' welfare, cleared pending personal business matters, provided comfort articles and attended to hundreds of things which the patients were not able to do for themselves. They registered every hospitalized disaster victim. When patients were released from the hospitals the medical social workers helped them to secure living quarters, arranged for follow-up medical and nursing convalescent care, helped reunite families, arranged for vocational rehabilitation for the permanently injured, arranged for clearing financial problems and were of assistance arranging to meet every need for resuming normal living.
Volunteer Gray Ladies from Galveston, Houston and surrounding Red Cross chapters also served in the hospitals and at Camp Wallace, writing letters, reading to patients providing books, comfort articles and supplying many helpful services that made life more pleasant.
From the 16th until the 22nd of April, the Galveston Chapter alone furnished 120,000 sandwiches, 150,000 doughnuts, 50,000 gallons of coffee, 40 gallons of soup, 1,000 cases of milk and 250 cases of Coca Cola.
A very important service which the Galveston Chapters transportation committee performed was in assisting the numerous people who came in from distant points to locate missing relatives and friends. These people were furnished a car and a driver who acted as their assistants in their heartbreaking mission.
Whenever a need arose among victims of the tragic disaster, the Red Cross was there to meet it. While scouring the nation for medical supplies, the Red Cross office in St. Louis was also filling another request in an entirely different field. More than three truckloads of toys, games, books, playground equipment, together with two motion picture projectors and film of feature movies were shipped to Camp Wallace, accompanied by a trained Red Cross recreation worker, to occupy the time of the 400 children made homeless. A large scale recreation program got under way at once, with the full cooperation of every child in the Camp. Two recreation halls were opened, sewing machines and pianos were brought in.
Local 305 of the A. F. of L. Motion Picture Projectionest Union in Galveston immediately sent two men to the camp to install and operate projectors. Twice a week these men, volunteering their services, made a trip to the Camp to show movies. Galveston and Houston and neighboring communities sent entertainment groups to the camp. Divine services were held each Sunday.
Until telephone equipment was installed at the camp, the United States engineers, in cooperation with the Southwestern Bell Telephone Co., installed a short-wave radio telephone transmitter. The Federal Communications Commission at once approved the use of this equipment and assigned a frequency and the call letters KIWO. It is a ship-to-shore circuit and thus Camp Wallace was dubbed "the SS Camp Wallace."
In an effort to establish a normal way of life for the temporary residents of the camp, members of a Texas City ministerial group, in cooperation with the Red Cross, assisted the residents in setting up a "council" form of self-government. The council supervised the cleaning of the camp, preventing fire hazards, supervised maintenance of playgrounds, recommended changes in regulated activities and aided in settling family and language problems. The Red Cross established a bus line between the Camp and Texas City so that workers who were homeless could continue their work in Texas City. Regular trips were made to the hospitals in Galveston and Houston, as many of the camp residents had relatives and friends in these hospitals. The Fort Worth Chapter sent a 30-passenger bus, together with drivers from their motor corps, which was later used at this camp.
As soon as possible, registration units were established, by Red Cross relief headquarters, at Texas City, Galveston, Houston and Camp Wallace, where disaster victims needing help could apply for rehabilitation assistance. Many emergency needs were met before this. A total of 1810 persons registered for assistance. In some cases, it was merely for a piece of clothing, a grocery order, or roofing paper to close in damaged portions of a house, in others, it was for complete rebuilding of homes. Whatever the need, and however small or great, Red Cross case workers experienced in disaster work reviewed each application, and assistance was furnished on the established Red Cross disaster policy of meeting every need for disaster-affected families who were unable to provide for themselves. The Texas State Department of Public Welfare quickly loaned 10 of their highly trained case workers to the Red Cross so that the needy people might have their long-time needs met as expeditiously as possible.

Now that the emergent period is over, much of the Red Cross assistance is not apparent to the average person. One does not readily see the vocational and medical therapy that must of necessity be given to many homeless and hospitalized victims. Many persons will require training in different kinds of endeavor because of their injuries or because of circumstances. Over 300 persons had their eardrums punctured or blown out entirely, including the bones of the middle ear. These persons will require assistance long after they are discharged from the hospital. The job is not over yet for the Red Cross. Red Cross medical directors estimated on May 15, a figure of course subject to change, that of the patients in the hospital on that date, 438 hospital weeks' care will be required. There will be a total of 113 months convalescent disability after hospitalization, 50 hospital read-missions for further corrective work, and 18 persons, who, because of their injuries, will require retaining rehabilitation and 24 straight rehabilitation cases. Some medical care will continue for at least 2 years.
An initial sum of $250,000 had been appropriated by Mr. Basil O'Connor, Chairman of the American National Red Cross, shortly after the disaster occurred, with the statement that additional, unlimited amounts would be made available as needed from the National Red Cross disaster reserve fund set aside during the annual Red Cross fund campaign. Red Cross medical directors estimate that up to the 15th of May $250,000 has been incurred for hospital expenses and physicians' fees, medical supplies, drugs, nurses' expenses and medical equipment. Although no special appeal for funds was made, contributions continue to pour into chapters in all parts of the country, indicating the desire on the part of all Americans to lend their assistance through the Red Cross, even though they could not actively participate in the relief operations.
On May 15, a staff of 40 National Red Cross disaster relief workers whose combined disaster experience totals in excess of 250 years, with scores of Red Cross volunteers, was working in Texas City, Galveston, Houston and Camp Wallace. It will be many more weeks before the last home is rebuilt, the damaged homes repaired, the last patient leaves the hospital, the last permanently crippled victim is trained to help himself again. But not until then will the Red Cross close its books on what is officially known as Disaster Operation Number 1869.

Red Cross Rehabilitation Work Among Texas City Disaster Victims

Red Cross disaster relief program consists of two phases - the immediate, emergency relief as related in the preceding pages of this section, and with which everyone is familiar; and that which is now going on, permanent rehabilitation. The Red Cross assists in the rehabilitation of those families with disaster-affected needs, and who, through their own labor, resources or credit cannot meet these needs. This rehabilitation by the Red Cross is on an individual family basis. This assistance may include maintenance, clothing, furniture and other household furnishings, building and repair of homes, medical and nursing care, farm supplies and equipment, occupational training, equipment and supplies.
The disaster-caused NEED of a family, rather than its LOSS, is the basis upon which assistance is given. The relief funds have been contributed by the American people, not to take the place of insurance and replace losses, but to meet actual needs. The Red Cross does not make loans to disaster sufferers; all assistance is an outright gift - a gift from the American people to those in need - given through the medium of the Red Cross. Neither does the Red Cross duplicate services rendered by local, State and Federal agencies or other organizations in meeting basic continuing needs. When assistance is not available from insurance or any other source to disaster-affected families, it is furnished by the Red Cross.
As to the question of what essentials are necessary so that a family can reestablish itself, it must be pointed out that no two cases are quite the same, so no definite rule can be made. Each case is considered separately, and the problems of the individual family are taken into account.
One victim of the Texas City explosion is totally and permanently disabled. He has a wife and a large family. When he is able to leave the hospital he and his family want to return to their original home some 1500 miles away, where they have a home and sufficient resources for basic necessities. In this case, the Red Cross is assuming all hospital and medical costs and will continue to provide medical and nursing care for him as long as it is needed. The Red Cross will transport him and his family to their original home. This continued nursing may eventually cost $10,000 or $13,000, but whatever it is will be met by the Red Cross.
Another victim, a young boy, will be hospitalized for over a year. He is one of a large family and his parents are unable to provide for his medical care, so it is being provided by the Red Cross. The family desires that the boy remain in the hospital in Galveston where the specific medical attention required is available. They live in another city, not very far away, but their financial condition will not allow for frequent visits to see their son. In order to keep up the boy's morale, which is necessary for his recovery, and to grant the parents the privilege of seeing him from time to time, the Red Cross has set up a fund to provide transportation for periodic visits by parents as long as the boy is in the hospital. There may be vocational training required after he is discharged, and if no other source is available, the Red Cross will provide it.
A young woman, widowed by the explosion, was left with two small children. She had done secretarial work before her marriage, and now wanted to take up that type of work again, but because she needed more training and had the children's care, she saw no way out. The Red Cross is providing maintenance for the children and is paying for a refresher course that she may reestablish herself once again.
A man who had lost some fingers on one hand, by ironic fate, lost two fingers on the other hand in the disaster. When he is discharged from the hospital, his case will be referred to the Vocational Rehabilitation Division for the State of Texas, that provides vocational training. The Red Cross will provide maintenance for his family during the training period, and when the training is completed, will assist him in establishing himself in his chosen field.
One woman who lost her husband in the blast had been a beauty operator before her marriage. In a plan worked out with the Red Cross case worker, she is being given a refresher course and the Red Cross is building a shop in her home and furnishing the equipment so that she might resume her former business. Red Cross has many times established disaster victims in various kinds of small business, such as florist shops, beauty shops, snack stands, etc.
One victim of the blast had purchased a business and had built a small home for his family group nearby. His parents lived above the business. The place of business was completely demolished. Insurance covered the damage to his home, the equipment in his business, but not the rebuilding of it. His parents were forced to move to Camp Wallace, and he had to take employment elsewhere. The Red Cross case worker realized that this man could help his parents and himself if Red Cross would assist in the rebuilding of the business. This is being done in another locality so that he can be near another member of the family, who is an invalid.
The task of helping many families back to normal life requires weeks of hard work. The work in Texas City has been pushed with all possible speed, but the Red Cross as the disaster relief organization, is not willing to sacrifice thoroughness and fairness for speed.
Many cases have arisen where benefits which families may receive from other sources will not be determined for several months - in the meantime maintenance is being furnished by the Red Cross.
While the maintenance of Camp Wallace filled a need for the homeless, at best it is an abnormal life for families to live in barracks. The Red Cross has made every effort to provide more normal living for these affected families, by constructing 105 temporary housing units, in Texas City, on grounds provided by the city. There have been 80 single units of one room, 16 x 16 ft., and 25 units of two rooms; these units are 16 x 32 ft. Inasmuch as they are only temporary, 13 bathhouses have been strategically located throughout the project.
While these units are necessarily small, it does allow the families to live together as a family unit, as normal as is possible under the circumstances. Some of the larger families have been given a double and a single unit. These are merely temporary, to be used only until these families' homes are repaired or rebuilt. In many cases supplemental Red Cross awards of furniture have been given to augment the furniture they were able to salvage from their homes.
While the case workers are planning with the individual family, experienced Red Cross building advisors survey the damage to the homes of those homeowners who have registered with Red Cross. After talking with the disaster-affected family, the case worker may decide that more information is necessary. Occasionally it requires much time and work.
All information given to Red Cross case workers by families is confidential. It is necessary that the Red Cross know the financial condition of each family before it can determine what will be an adequate and fair award. This information is not made public.
When the plans of the family with the case worker are completed, along with the building estimate, if a home is involved, the case worker presents it to the advisory committee. This committee in Texas City is composed of:
P. J. Hayes, President of the Chamber of Commerce; H. M. Dansby. Texas City National Bank; Dr. H. J. Broderson, Pan American Refining Corporation; W. E. Eicher, Galveston County Red Cross Chapter; Mrs. Albert Aarlie, housewife; William Dazey, Attorney for the City of Texas City; Dr. C. F. Quinn, M.D.; Alvin Grospiron, CIO; Edw. Pearson, AFofL; Rev. James Perryman, representing the colored people; Mr. Raul Lopez, representative of the Mexican population of Texas City.
After the award has been made, the family is directed to call at the Red Cross Office and the disbursing officer informs them of the amount of the award. The Red Cross worker talks over plans for buying goods or services needed. The family then goes to the merchants or contractors of their own choice, and brings to Red Cross the list of articles selected and their prices. Disbursing orders are then given to the family, who takes them to the merchants for the goods listed on them. Each disbursing order must be signed by the family, showing that the goods have been received. The merchant then sends the bill to the Red Cross, which pays by check. All receipts and expenditures are audited by Red Cross accountants trained in disaster relief, and in addition, under an act of Congress, receipts and disbursements of the Red Cross are audited by the United States War Department. Thus when the relief work is over, the Red Cross has, for every dollar spent, the families' receipt for goods, the merchants' bill certifying delivery and the cancelled Red Cross check with which the bills are paid.
As can be seen, most of the money is spent in the community where the disaster occurs. Not only is the family helped by the award, but the merchants and contractors get the benefit of the business. When the repair or rebuilding of a home or other building is involved, the family selects the contractor and a contract is drawn up between the two. When the work is completed, the Red Cross building advisor here in Texas City, the City Engineer, examines the finished work before final payment is made.
It is always the hope of the Red Cross that their rehabilitation work keep step with the rebuilding of the community affected by a disaster. No one can return life, but rehabilitation assistance such as Red Cross gives is the one tangible effort that man can offer to mankind.
The following figures, while not official until audited by the United States War Department, represent in dollars and cents what the Red Cross has provided for disaster relief of the victims of the Texas City explosion since the day of its occurrence, April 16, to July 1, 1947.
In this total expenditure, $217,000 is in a deferred-payment fund from which are issued monthly checks to widows for payment of medical, hospital and nursing expenses. Some of these families will receive monthly Red Cross checks for years to come.

Rescue. Transportation,
Mass Shelter
$172,579.10   $172,579.10
Food, Clothing, and
other Maintenance
114,560.37 $240,745.16 355,305.53
Building and Repair 5,694.72 259.182.79 264,877.51
Household Furnishings 7,755.45 62,952.53 70,707.98
Medical & Nursing 177,177.21 138,067.79 315,245.00
Farm Supplies. Livestock
and Equipment
189.83 583.00 772.83
Occupational Training,
Equipment & Supplies
290.17 22,314.26 22,604.43
Total $478,246.85 $723,845.53 $1,202,092.38


What Happened

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