Newport, RI Torpedo Station Explosion, Jan 1918

Rigid Probes Being Made of Disasters as Hand of German Plotters Is Seen.


Loss of Life in Explosion Kept Down by Underground Shelters.

NEWPORT, R. I., Jan. 26.--late tonight a rescue party heard voices in the ruins of No. 1 bombproof. A pipe was sunk and it was learned two men were alive. They were given stimulents[sic] and nourishment through the pipe and a derrick was pressed into service to relieve the heavy debris over them. Both died, however, before they could be reached. By midnight ten bodies had been recovered. Eight of them were indentified.

NEW YORK, Jan. 26--Indication of a widespread plot of cripple the war activities of the United States were seen today in a series of fires in shipyards, on munitions ships, in war plants and storage buildings at various points along the Atlantic seaboard and further inland. Nearly all of them were of distinctly suspicious origin.

Fears that the flames may have been set by enemy aliens were given strength by the fact that they started within a few hours at widely separated points almost a week to a day after Edward N. Hurley, chairman of the United States' Shipbuilding Board, gave warning the government had been given warning of a German plot to apply the torch to plants of all kinds producing implements of war, especially shipyards.

Disastrous fires started only a few hours apart in shipyards at Newark, N. J., and at Baltimore. The losses will aggregate $2,000,000.

Fires were discovered on munitions ships at two Atlantic ports today, but they were extinguished before serious damage had been done.

Eight men were killed and many injured by an explosion in a magazine at the United States Navy Torpedo Station at Newport, R. I. In this case, however, there was nothing to indicate this disaster was the work of enemy aliens.

There were other fires of a suspicious nature in New York, Paterson, N.J.; Buffalo, Maynard, Mass., and Peterboro, Canada. In every case a rigid investigation will be made either by military or municipal authorities in an effort to fix the responsibility.


Wrecked by Blast at Newport; Several Killed.

NEWPORT, R. I., Jan. 26--Three bombproofs at the naval torpedo station here were wrecked by an explosion of fulminate of mercury late today. At least eight civilian employes[sic] were killed and seven were injured, one probably fatally. Ten others were buried in the ruins of the heavily concreted structure and little hope was expressed that any of them would be removed alive.

Captain Edward L. Beach, commandant of the station, said none of the survivors was able to give an account of what had happened, but there was no doubt of what had happened, that the explosion was accidental.

The identified dead; William Caswell. John Francis Murphy

The official figures of those unaccounted for up to a late hour tonight did not, in many instances, contain the initials. The names were C. Burns, ______ Connolly, ______Spooner, D. Sullivan, ______ Anderson, ______ Matoza, ______ Frazier, ______Andrea, _____Bailey, C. Veti.


The explosion occurred in Bombproof No. 2, used as a drying room for detonators after they had been filled with fulminate of mercury. The detonators are designed for setting off the high explosives in torpedo heads.

Only enough explosive is kept on hand to meet demands for the day, and the shelters are built for the most part underground, to localize explosions. There are eight bombproofs on the island and today's explosion was of sufficient force to wreck only Numbers 1 and 2.

That the loss of life in the bombproofs was not greater was due to the fact that at noon about half of the usual number of employes[sic] in the three shelters had been transferred temporarily to another department.

Women Nearby

The big shops where hundreds of workers are engaged in the manufacture of the navy's torpedoes are located only a few hundred feet from the shelters. One building devoted exclusively to women workers was located only 100 feet away. The terrific concussion threw most of the girls into hysterics, and many of them fainted. When it was seen that their building was not harmed and that none of them were hurt they were quieted and went on with their work.

The discipline of the large force of marine guards and seamen on the island was up to the best traditions of the service. Led by Captain Beach, the marines and bluejackets attacked the heap of demolished masonry and timbers even before the flames were put out. Some of the dead were badly mangled and were extricated with difficulty from beneath heavy concrete blocks. Other victims were buried deeply in the ruins and it was impossible to reach them for hours.

It was reported at first in this city that scores of the girls employed in the shop had been killed and the excitement among their relatives here ran so high the guards had difficulty in handling them.

Lexington Herald, Lexington, KY 27 Jan 1918