ATG MIDPAC Joins Local Commands in Observing 71st Anniversary of the West Loch Disaster
PEARL HARBOR – Members of Afloat Training Group Middle Pacific (ATG MIDPAC) joined with the Army’s 8th Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) and Surface Naval Association (SNA) Middle Pacific to host a remembrance ceremony for the 71st anniversary of the West Loch Disaster, May 21.
Other Participants included volunteers from Commander Navy Region Hawaii, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, and the African American Diversity Cultural Center Hawaii (AADCCH).
On May 21, 1944, while Sailors, Marines and soldiers prepared to load 34 ships with ammunition and supplies for the invasion of Saipan, an explosion occurred aboard LST 353 causing a chain reaction that sunk six LSTs and severely damaged several more. At least 163 men were killed and 396 wounded. Nearly one-third of the casualties came from the Army’s segregated African American 29th Chemical Decontamination Company.
ATG MIDPAC’s Lt. Malika Pettigrew, Mater at Arms 1st Class Pedro Rocha and Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Courtney Hebert took the lead planning and coordinating the event along with members of the Army’s 8th TSC staff.
The event was held on board the U.S. Army Logistics Support Vessel Lt. j.g. William B. Bunker (LSV-4) homeported at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The vessel sailed to the site of the tragedy while Mr. James Newman, CNRH Historian, provided a historical narrative of the base and event.
Major Gen. Edward F. Dorman, commanding general of the 8th TSC, offered remarks at the event. Lt. Cmdr. Kenneth Brown, the executive officer of ATG MIDPAC, served as master of ceremonies, and Maj. Douglas Johnson, a chaplain assigned to the 647th Air Base Group, provided the invocation and benediction.
The ceremony concluded with a rifle salute and the playing of “Taps” while the youngest service members placed an SNA sponsored wreath in the waters of Pearl Harbor in honor of those who lost their life.
“This was a truly a joint effort,” said Cmdr. Tim Wilke, the commanding officer of ATG MIDPAC.