The ammunition ship SS BADGER STATE fire and munition explosions

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On or about 26 December, 1969 an accident aboard the SS BADGER STATE22 caused the ammunition cargo ship to sink with the loss of 5336 long tons of munitions destined for Vietnam. The ship was fully loaded, mostly, with MK-82 (500 lbs), M117 (750 lbs), and MK-84 (2000 lbs) bombs. These bombs were loaded, respectively, with H-6 (TNT/RDX/aluminum/wax), Tritonal (TNT/aluminum), or Minol 2 (TNT/ammonium nitrate/aluminum) explosive compositions.

The ship was in the North Pacific some 500 miles from Midway Island when it encountered a storm. During the storm, some of the dunnage securing the cargo broke loose and bomb pallets came apart. Because of the heavy seas, the crewmen were unable to restrain the bombs from rolling around in the hole of the ship. Finally, one of the bombs exploded. It blew a hole in the starboard side of the ship and started a fire.

When it became obvious that the fires could not be controlled, the Captain ordered that the vessel abandoned and lifeboats were launched. As one of the lifeboats drifted in the water near the starboard side of the ship, a 2000-pound bomb fell out of the hole that had been blown open by the bomb explosion. It capsized the lifeboat and threw the men into the water.

Eventually, the fire spread and more munitions exploded. The ship sank on 5 January 1970. In this incident, there were only fourteen survivors out of the crew of forty men. The cost of the ship and the cargo lost was in millions of dollars.

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22SEA-64E Memo to SEA-06 Via Sea-06I, Ser. 64E/150, dated 13 August 1984; Subject: Summaries of Explosive Incidents.