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Naval Weapons Station (NAVWPNSTA)
Port Chicago Naval Magazine
Concord, California

Naval Weapons Station (WPNSTA) Concord is a 12,800-acre site located in the north-central portion of Contra Costa County. WPNSTA Concord facility is comprised of two geographically separate units, the Inland (5,170 acres) and Tidal (7,630 acres) Areas, and a radiography facility in Pittsburgh, California. Aside from typical administrative and support work activities, this facility is the major ammunition transshipment port of the West Coast for the Department of Navy.

Responsibility for port operations at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station in California transferred 01 October 1999 from the Navy to the Army's Military Traffic Management Command. The Department of Defense directed the action in a December 1998 Program Budget Decision and approved transition plans hammered out between the Army and Navy in July. Rationale for the decision stems from the Navy's dwindling need for the facility coupled with DoD's continuing need to retain it for contingencies, officials said.

Concord Naval Weapons Station is located on Suisun Bay in California and the base's history dates to December 1942 when Concord was formed as an annex to the Navy's Mare Island facility. Concord remains important to America's national defense even though the Navy no longer requires the facility in support of its Pacific fleet.

With roots dating back to the mid-1800s, Detachment Concord is one of the oldest naval ordnance support bases on the Pacific coast. In 1857, the first ammunition magazine was completed at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, located 35 miles northeast of San Francisco, near the confluence of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers in Suisun Bay. In 1942, the Navy built an annex to this magazine, located across the Sacramento River from Mare Island. This Annex was later renamed Naval Ammunition Depot, Port Chicago after a nearby town. By April of 1945 three large piers had been constructed. Roughly 13,000 acres of land were divided into a Tidal Area (7,600 acres) and an Inland Area (5,200 acres).

The Naval Magazine, Port Chicago was established in 1942 at Suisun Bay, California, as an ammunition trans-shipment facility. During the first part of World War II, it was rapidly built up to support the heavy explosives demands of the Pacific War. On 17 July 1944, Port Chicago was the scene of a massive ammunition detonation, which took the lives of over 300 persons, destroyed two cargo ships and wrecked or damaged structures at a considerable distance from the blast. The blast destroyed both the original pier and two munitions ships, the S.S. E.A. Bryan and S.S. Quinault Victory, docked there. 320 people, many of them African-Americans working to load the ships, were killed. It was the largest stateside disaster of the war. Following this tragedy, Port Chicago was rapidly returned to service. It is now part of the US Naval Weapons Station, Concord.

Port Chicago Naval Magazine was dedicated as a national memorial to honor the courage and commitment of the 320 Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, Merchant Mariners, and workers killed and injured there during World War II. It recognizes the critical role they and the survivors of the explosion played in winning the war in the Pacific. Port Chicago was dedicated in 1994 by the survivors of that tragic incident. The tragedy and its aftermath was a catalyst -- one of many that helped persuade the US Navy and military establishment to begin the long journey on the road to racial justice and equality following WWII.

Without warning, in the morning of April 28, 1973, 18 boxcars loaded with bombs began detonating in the Southern Pacific Railroad yard at Roseville, Calif., about 18 miles east of Sacramento. The yard at Roseville was a classifying yard used to make up trains carrying ammunition. More than 6,000 Mk-81 bombs loaded with tritonal were involved in the explosion. Their destination was the Naval Weapons Station, Concord, Calif. for further shipment overseas to Southeast Asia. The train arrived at the Roseville Yard entrance at 0605 and was staged in the westward department yard by 0630. Since the train was too long for the yard, the forward cars (which are the ones that exploded) were placed on a track well separated from the remaining three cars, which were loaded with more than 1,000 bombs. These three cars were saved with only minor damage. The bombs were securely blocked and braced and in perfect condition. At about 0740, two people saw smoke rising in the vicinity of the ammunition cars. One witness said the smoke was black at first, then turned white, followed by flames rising from the end of a boxcar. Immediately after seeing the flames, the witness heard a low-order detonation, followed shortly by a massive high-order detonation at 0803. Major explosions continued from that time to about 1030, with smaller explosions continuing until 1605 the following day.

Approximately 350 people were injured-some seriously by flying glass. About 5,500 buildings were damaged in varying degrees. Heavy damage to buildings and residences occurred as far away as 6,800 feet from the center of the explosions. Even buildings as far away as three miles had slight damage. One hundred sixty-nine freight cars were destroyed. A locomotive and 98 others were damaged.

Although the Roseville disaster was spectacular and caused millions of dollars of damage, no one was killed. This was remarkable, since people have been killed in less spectacular mishaps involving transporting explosives. The Navy can't even say what caused the Roseville explosion, since most of the evidence was destroyed.

As a direct result of the Roseville explosion, spark shields above railcar wheels and non-sparking brake shoes were required. In 1974, Congress passed the Transportation Safety Act, which brought together numerous regulations by various agencies into one publication. Also, the law placed responsibility for shipping hazardous materials on everyone, be it the shipper, carrier or receiver. Another result was the increase in better and more effective training to implement the provisions of these new regulations. Rail, truck and air carriers conducted courses and seminars, primarily to train their own employees. The trade associations, such as the American Trucking Association and Manufacturers Chemical Association, instituted training courses for all people involved in the movement of hazardous materials. These courses are still on-going.

The Detachment's primary purpose is the loading and unloading of large quantities of weapons and equipment from cargo and pre-positioning ships. This differs substantially from most other naval weapons stations and detachments, where weapons are loaded aboard combatants, amphibious vessels or replenishment ships one at a time or in very small groups. Base infrastructure is uniquely suited for bulk quantity operations with one floating crane, seven shore cranes, 1 superstacker, one Rough Terrain Container Handler, 342 forklifts, 101 miles of railroad track, and 79 miles of roadway. During wartime conditions, Detachment Concord has the capability to load 4,500 tons of munitions per day.

The Navy's concern for the surrounding ecosystem has led to a large portion of the base being designated as a wildlife preserve. Deer, Tule Elk, golden eagles, quail, pheasants, and foxes are just some of the many birds and mammals living at Detachment Concord. In addition, much of the acreage has been leased to local farmers for cattle grazing.

Concord provides a vital capability to support the movement of munitions off the west coast in support of contingency requirements in the Pacific theater. Under the plan, the Navy will retain ownership of the installation's approximately 13,000 acres and continue to provide operational support for one year. MTMC assumed responsibility for operating and maintaining the installation's 7,000-acre Tidal Area which will be renamed Military Ocean Terminal Concord. The Military Ocean Terminal Concord will be maintained in a reduced operating status and be exercised on a limited basis to maintain readiness.

The command's 834th Transportation Battalion, which is located at Concord, will provide operational and caretaker oversight at the California terminal. The 834th moved its operation to Concord in October 1997, as a result of the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure Commission's decision to close Oakland Army Base. The unit traces its organizational lineage to the San Francisco Port of Embarkation and coordinated the movement of military cargo through Oakland Army Base since the base's establishment at the beginning of World War II. The 834th coordinates the movement of Defense Transportation System surface cargo, excluding ammunition, through Concord and four West Coast strategic expansion ports.

Since Concord will be placed in a reduced operating status, routine use of the terminal for general cargo movement will be discontinued. During exercises and contingencies, the 834th will hand off responsibility for port operations to its Army Reserve counterparts at the 1397th Transportation Terminal Brigade, which has its headquarters in Oakland. Deployment Support Teams drawn from other units throughout DSC will support the 1397th, officails said, as will the Army Reserve's 6632d Port Security Company from Irvine, Calif.

As is the practice at all of the MTMC terminal operations, officials said commercial contracts will be used to provide stevedoring and rail services at Concord.

The Navy station's 45 W-80-0 Tomahawk SLCMs for US Navy SSNs were in a storage facility at Concord Naval Weapons Station (near the city of Concord, California, 25 km west of Oakland).

The station was established in 1942 as an annex to Naval Ammunition Depot, Mare Island, which was the first Naval ordnance facility on the West Coast. The history of the station dates back to 1853 when a location at Mare Island was established to provide storage for ships ammunition as the Naval Magazine of the Yard. The first magazine was constructed in January of 1857. On 28 January 1936, the facility became Naval Ammunition Depot (NAD) Mare Island. To provide West Coast capability for ammunition transhipment, the Naval Magazine, Port Chicago, was established on 27 January 1942, as a subordinate command to NAD Mare Island, and commissioned as a US Naval Magazine on 4 December 1942. By 1944, with the purchase of additional land for an inland storage area, the Naval Magazine had grown from an original 650 acres to an area encompassing nearly 7,000 acres, and had become the principal Pacific Coast transhipment port for Department of Defense ammunition and the storage point for naval ammunition.

The US Naval Magazine, Port Chicago (inland area) was established on 20 January 1944. On 17 July 1944, an explosion destroyed the pier. Three new piers with six berths were constructed and were in operation by 1 April 1945. On 18 January 1946, the US Naval Magazine, Port Chicago, became the US Naval Ammunition Depot, Concord. NAD Mare Island was consolidated with the Concord depot and became the Mare Island annex of the Concord Depot. Acknowledging the change and expansion of the Station's mission with the advent of space age weaponry, NAD Concord was redesignated Naval Weapons Station, Concord. The Mare Island annex was discontinued, and Naval Shipyard, Mare Island assumed plant account responsibility, and became the activity manager for the entire Mare Island Annex facility.

The station is located in north­central California about 35 miles northeast of San Francisco, and 70 miles southwest of Sacramento. The tidal area is on the south shore of Suisun Bay about three miles north of the inland area. It includes several offshore islands and the former town of Port Chicago. This area provides the required safety buffer zone for explosives during ship loading operations. The inland area is located south of the tidal area adjacent to the city of Concord, Contra Costa County. It is bound on the north by sandstone hills, on the south by the city of Concord, on the east by agricultural lands, and on the west by Port Chicago Highway.

The station occupies a total of 12,881 acres. The current plant value is $491.93M. Buildings include 210 permanent (944,390 sq ft), 88 semi­permanent (314,359 sq ft), and 36 temporary (20,300 sq ft).

As of 30 July 1994, the total civilian work force was 1,072. The projected payroll for FY94 was $34.3M. The total civilian work force population at NAVWPNSTA Concord comes from the following areas: 55 percent from Contra Costa County, 26.6 percent from Solano County, 4.6 percent from Alameda County, 13.8 percent from Other surrounding areas and some detachments. The station work force includes approximately 20.3 percent professional, 46.3 percent wage grade, 10.1 percent technical, and 23.3 percent administrative/clerical.

Modes of transportation include 3 commercial air terminals, 3 military air terminals, 3 commercial class 1 railroads, 3 military port facilities, and 5 commercial port facilities. The four major highways include I­680, I­80, State Route 4, and State Route 24.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:46:20 ZULU