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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 21, 2010

Memorial planned today for 1944 West Loch disaster

Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

On May 21, 2004, the 60th anniversary of the West Loch disaster, a Navy honor guard fired a 21-gun salute to those who died.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Victims of deadly explosions that rocked Pearl Harbor's West Loch in 1944 will be remembered this afternoon.

A memorial is set for 3 p.m. at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

On May 21, 1944, as landing ships in West Loch were preparing for the Saipan invasion, an explosion tore through one of the fuel- and ammunition-laden LSTs. The blast set off a chain reaction of explosions among almost three dozen similarly laden vessels.

Before the day was over, 163 servicemen were dead, 396 lay wounded, and several vessels were destroyed or badly damaged.

Of those who died, more than a third belonged to a nearly all-black Army unit that was handling ammunition on the ship that first exploded.

The memorial is being organized by the African American Diversity Cultural Center Hawaii and Hawaii Joint Military Forces.