Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Western Front? No, New Jersey — A Forgotten Disaster

Western Front? No, New Jersey, USA

At 7:36 p.m. on 4 October 1918, building #61 in the T. A. Gillespie Shell Loading Plant in Morgan, New Jersey, exploded, causing the evacuation of nearby South Amboy. To this day the cause remains unclear. The U.S. Coast Guard distinguished itself in the evacuation effort. Reports have blamed the explosion on an accidental spark, company negligence, and German sabotage. At least 64 residents and employees died from the explosions that lasted three days. Spent shells in large numbers were still being removed from the area as recently as 1997. 

Evacuees from the Explosions


  1. There is a short video clip and some still frames on this accident that can be viewed (without charge) at Critical Past ( Interesting blog posts at and Many survivors of the explosion later fell victim to the Influenza Pandemic then raging in the New York area (as well as worldwide)

  2. I'd read of this disaster, but only as a brief mention in accounts of America's involvement in the war. These two pictures "say" more than any description could! Your title is spot on; without an explanation, I would have assumed it was Belgium or northern France! Amazing! Thanks so much for this post.