US Navy commemorates forgotten WW II disaster (West Loch)

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It is a forgotten tale from an almost forgotten saga.
Nearly 2 1/2 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. military was island hopping through the South Pacific, slowly whittling away at Japan's war-fighting ability.

In an area of the vast naval base known as West Loch, almost three dozen large landing ships brimming with fuel, ammunition and other equipment sat lashed together in preparation for a brutal invasion code-named "Operation Forager."

On May 21, 1944, an explosion rocked one of the vessels. Within minutes, more explosions ripped open several other ships as flames engulfed men and machinery. Before the day ended, 163 were dead and 396 lay wounded. Nine of the landing ships were destroyed and several others damaged.

When the Navy holds a commemoration Thursday of the 65th anniversary of what became known as the "West Loch Disaster," the horror of the day and the bravery it inspired will be remembered — particularly the courage of the 29th Chemical Decontamination Company.

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