On April 16, 1947, three ships—the "Grandcamp", the "High Flyer", and the "Wilson B. Keene"—were docked in the Texas City port. They were loaded with cargo, including ammonium nitrate fertilizer, bound for Europe to assist in the Post-World War II recovery effort. At 8:33 a. m. the Texas City fire department responded to a call for assistance with a fire on the "Grandcamp". As smoke billowed from the ship, spectators gathered to watch. The "Grandcamp" exploded at 9:12 a. m. with a tremendous force that was felt for miles around. A second explosion came at 1:10 a. m. on April 17, when the "High Flyer's" cargo caught fire, destroying the "Wilson B. Keene" as well.
More than 550 people, including 27 firemen, were killed; flying pieces of concrete, steel, and glass injured thousands more; resulting fires took days to extinguish. Response to the disaster came immediately, with the American Red Cross coordinating relief efforts.
Far-reaching effects of the Texas City disaster included the implementation of safety standards and revised emergency medical treatment procedures. Citizens determined to rebuild. By 1950 few physical reminders of the disaster remained, although the event retains a prominent place in state and national history.