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News: Service members honored during 70th anniversary of West Loch disaster

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Service members honored during 70th Anniversary of West Loch disaster Staff Sgt. Chris Hubenthal

Wreaths are laid to honor those who lost their lives in the 1944 West Loch disaster during the 5th Celebration of Life for West Loch Internees ceremony at the National Cemetery of the Pacific May 21, 2014, in Honolulu. General Vincent Brooks, U.S. Army Pacific Commander, honored the memory of the fallen and was the keynote speaker at the event. The ceremony marked the West Loch disaster's 70th anniversary. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

HONOLULU – Gen. Vincent Brooks, Commanding General of U.S. Army Pacific, and Hawaii’s joint military forces honored the West Loch disaster fallen during the 5th Celebration of Life for West Loch Internees ceremony at the National Cemetery of the Pacific May 21.

The West Loch disaster was a maritime accident that occurred on Pearl Harbor May 21, 1944. That afternoon Landing Ships, Tank (LSTs) were tightly positioned as service members loaded them with munitions to support the U.S. Marine invasion of Saipan. At 3:08 p.m. there was a blast aboard a vessel followed by a chain reaction of fire spreading explosions.

“It’s fitting that we stop to honor those who lost their lives in the midst of performing hazardous duty and for the many more who were wounded by the explosions and the fires that began in what was really a second day of infamy in Pearl Harbor, this time in the West Loch Channel,” Brooks said.

The 29th Chemical Decontamination Unit, consisting of mostly African Americans and stationed out of Schofield Barracks, suffered the most fatalities while loading and unloading the munitions on the LSTs.

Many who survived the blasts began an effort to extinguish the fires and rescue the injured.

“We know that the efforts of those who were present that day were heroic and gallant in the midst of unthinkable chaos and danger where high explosives and fuel shredded metal and wood and flesh, but many lives were saved,” Brooks said. “Sadly, many perished or were injured after they initially survived as they were trying to assist or rescue others.”

One hundred and sixty three men lost their lives and 400 were injured during the tragedy. To this day, some of the fallen have been unidentified.

“Let us remember them with the dignity that they so richly deserve and let’s continue to serve our nation with their example in our hearts,” Brooks said. “I’ve been given the gift of understanding the meaning of service and sacrifice through the example of those who rest here under the name ‘Unknown, West Loch disaster 21 May, 1944, Pearl Harbor.’”

The ceremony marked the 70th anniversary since the disaster and honored the memory and contributions of the men and women who lost their lives that day.


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This work, Service members honored during 70th anniversary of West Loch disaster, by SSgt Chris Hubenthal, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.

Date Taken:05.21.2014

Date Posted:05.22.2014 14:41

Location:HONOLULU, HI, USGlobe

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