Fort Knox, KY Shell Explosion, Aug 1939



Fort Knox, Ky., Aug. 14. (AP) -- Six young Indiana national guardsmen were dead today, killed when an artillery shell they thought was a
"dud" exploded as they tinkered with it.
Three other guardsmen suffered "flesh wounds."
Maj. Gen. Robert H. Tyndall, commanding the 38th Division, 130th Field Artillery, of which all nine were members, ordered an immediate military inquiry. The accident occurred into yesterday on a "company street" of the guard units here for annual summer training.
The general admitted the board of inquiry had little to go on in its investigation because "every man directly connected with the explosion is dead."
Those killed in the blast were:
Corp. CHARLES E. HANDRICKS, 21, Oakland City.
Corp. ROY E. MAXEY, 20, Oakland City.
his brother, Private PAUL MAXEY, 19.
Private WILLIS SNOW, 19, Evansville.
Private JOHN R. JONES, 22, Princeton.
Private AARTHUR McCARTY, 19, Princeton.
The injured, taken to this army post's hospital are:
Sergt. WILLIAM C. HART, 43, Princeton.
Private RALPH CARTER, 21, Fort Branch.
Private DORRIS K. FITCH, 19, of Princeton.
Officers, piecing together fragments of information
said indications were that the six men killed were standing n a group around the shell, which they had picked up on the artillery range.
Tyndall said there apparently was no way to determine exactly what caused the explosion but expressed belief the group dropped they shell or tinkered with the fuse. He said he believed it was a .75 millimeter shell, a caliber widely used during the World War, and failed to explode when fired from a mortar.
He added that army orders forbade "soldiers or civilians from touching shells on artillery ranges, whether exploded or not."
Fort Knox, approximately 30 miles southwest of Louisville, is one of the country's major army posts. It is the home of the mechanized Seventh Cavalry Brigade, the only completely mechanized army outfit in the United States. Here also is a federal gold storage vault where approximately
$12,000,000,000 of the nation's bullion is kept.
The explosion victims were here with other national guard units from Indiana, West Virginia and Kentucky for the 15-day training course.
Tyndall said the tragedy was the first of its kind at Fort Knox in the 17 years national guardsmen have been training here.
Most of the fort's regular army troops are at Plattsburg, N.Y., for maneuvers of the United States' first army.
Five of the blast victims were killed outright as the shell exploded in front of a tent which they occupied. McCARTY died an hour later in the post hospital.
Tyndall said the three injured men were "some distance from the explosion -- 50 feet or more, probably."
From his hospital bed, FITCH, one of the injured, said he was with the others when the shell was picked up and that he warned them of the post regulations. He said he was on the opposite side of the "street" as the youths took the shell to their tent.
"I heard a big boom and fell flat on the ground," FITCH said. "I looked at my hands and found blood on them."

Kingsport Times Tennessee 1939-08-14