USS Mount Hood Explosion

At 08:30, 10 November 1944, a party consisting of the communications officer, Lt. Lester H. Wallace, and 17 men left the ship and headed for shore.

At 08:55, while walking on the beach, they saw a flash from the harbor, followed by two quick explosions. Scrambling into their boat, they headed back to the ship, only to turn around again shortly thereafter as "There was nothing but debris all around..."

Mount Hood, anchored in about 35 feet (11 m) of water, had exploded with an estimated 3,800 tons of ordnance material on board.The initial explosion caused flame and smoke to shoot up from amidships to more than masthead height. Within seconds, the bulk of her cargo detonated with a more intense explosion. Mushrooming smoke rose to 7,000 feet (2133 metres), obscuring the ship and the surrounding area for a radius of approximately 500 yards (500 m). Mount Hood's former position was revealed by a trench in the ocean floor 1000 feet (300 m) long, 200 feet (60 m) wide, and 30 to 40 feet (10 to 12 m) deep. The largest remaining piece of the hull was found in the trench and measured no bigger than 16 by 10 feet (5 by 3 m). No other remains of Mount Hood were found except fragments of metal which had struck other ships in the harbor and a few tattered pages of a signal notebook found floating in the water several hundred yards away. No human remains were recovered of the 350 men aboard Mount Hood or small boats loading alongside at the time of the explosion. The only survivors from the Mount Hood crew were a junior officer and five enlisted men who had left the ship a short time before the explosion. Two of the crew were being transferred to the base brig for trial by court martial; and the remainder of the party were picking up mail at the base post office. Charges against the prisoners were dropped following the explosion.

The concussion and metal fragments hurled from the ship also caused casualties and damage to ships and small craft within 2,000 yards (1800 m). The repair ship Mindanao, which was broadside-on to the blast, was the most seriously damaged. All personnel topside on Mindanao were killed outright, and dozens of men were killed or wounded below decks as numerous heavy fragments from Mount Hood penetrated the side plating. Eighty-two of Mindanao's crew died. The damage to other vessels required more than 100,000 man-hours to repair, while 22 small boats and landing craft were sunk, destroyed, or damaged beyond repair. 371 sailors were injured from all ships in the harbor.

A board convened to examine evidence relating to the disaster was unable to ascertain the exact cause. Mount Hood, after only a little over four months service, was struck from the Naval Register 11 December 1944.

There appeared a small explosion near the middle of the ship that was quickly followed by an enormous explosion. The radius of the smoke was 1,000 feet and the smoke quickly rose to a heigth of 7,000 feet.

Nothing remained of the ship. It was later determined that the blast tore a hole in the sea bottom 85 feet deep, 1,000 feet long and 200 feet wide.

382 sailors were killed and 371 injured on all effected ships. Needless to say no one survived aboard the USS MOUNT HOOD.

A court of inquiry later determined that the blast was most likely caused by "rough handling" of the ammunition. At least one witness said he saw a Japanese two-man submarine surface and fire a torpedo into the MOUNT HOOD. However, the court of inquiry never found evidence of that and the Japanese state that none of their submarines were in the area at that time.