THE TOWN THAT DIED by Michael J. Bird


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In Halifax Harbour, Nova Scotia on December 6, 1917, there occurred a misunderstanding over right of way. A French freighter, the Mont Blanc, overloaded with 2,500 tons of high explosives, and a Norwegian mercy ship, the Imo, collided. Fire broke out and the French cargo detonated. 1,963 people were killed, 9,000 injured, and 199 by the volleys of shattering glass. Property damages tolled $35 millions. The misunderstanding in Halifax Harbour precipitated the most powerful manmade explosion prior to Hiroshima...Michael Bird tells this story thoroughly, readably, with the insights of a seasoned journalist. There are relevant histories of the two ships, of the affected towns, of the people involved- ""a day like all other days"" depiction aboard the Imo and the Mont Blanc. In the town of Richmond before devastation, in homes, offices, and schools. There's the inevitable looting, the vigilante committees, the mass hysteria (hundreds swore they saw German Zeppelins dropping bombs), the acts of heroism, the operations without benefit of anesthetic, the mobile horrors: ""Both his eye sockets were empty and from one of them there dangled an eyeball that tapped against his cheek when he moved"", and the legal aftermath to ascertain responsibility. A competent work.

Pub Date: Jan. 5th, 1962
Publisher: Putnam