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Before Hiroshima, there was Halifax. The cataclysmic eruption of over six million tons of TNT and other explosives from a collision in Halifax harbor in 1917 killed thousands and obliterated much of the city in the most horrific manmade disaster before the atomic bomb. Yet the story is not only a brutal side effect of war, but a tale of people who immediately, and instinctively, banded together to resurrect what remained of their city, their families, and themselves. — Mike Hare
Although the people in Halifax, Nova Scotia who had gathered along the harbor to watch the fire didn't know it, the burning French cargo ship Mont Blanc was carrying 6 million pounds of TNT and volatile picric acid. When the ship exploded about fifteen minutes later, the blast turned the surrounding area into a hellish, body strewn wasteland, killing 2,000 people. This is the harrowing story of one of the worst man-made disasters in history and the courageous determination of people from both Canada and Boston to build a new city from the rubble. — Alden Graves
From New York Times bestselling author John U. Bacon, a gripping narrative history of the largest manmade detonation prior to Hiroshima: in 1917 a ship laden with the most explosives ever packed on a vessel sailed out of Brooklyn's harbor for the battlegrounds of World War I; when it stopped in Halifax, Nova Scotia, an extraordinary disaster awaited. . . .
On Monday, December 3, 1917, the French freighter SS Mont-Blanc set sail from Brooklyn carrying the largest cache of explosives ever loaded onto a ship, including 2,300 tons of picric acid, an unstable, poisonous chemical more powerful than TNT. The U.S. had just recently entered World War I, and the ordnance was bound for the battlefields of France, to help the Allies break the grueling stalemate that had protracted the fighting for nearly four demoralizing years. The explosives were so dangerous that Captain Aim Le Medec took unprecedented safety measures, including banning the crew from smoking, lighting matches, or even touching a drop of liquor.
Sailing north, the Mont-Blanc faced deadly danger, enduring a terrifying snowstorm off the coast of Maine and evading stealthy enemy U-boats hunting the waters of the Atlantic. But it was in Nova Scotia that an extraordinary disaster awaited. As the Mont-Blanc waited to dock in Halifax, it was struck by a Norwegian relief ship, the Imo, charging out of port. A small fire on the freighter's deck caused by the impact ignited the explosives below, resulting in a horrific blast that, in one fifteenth of a second, leveled 325 acres of Halifax--killing more than 1,000 people and wounding 9,000 more.
In this definitive account, Bacon combines research and eyewitness accounts to re-create the tragedy and its aftermath, including the international effort to rebuild the devastated port city. As he brings to light one of the most dramatic incidents of the twentieth century, Bacon explores the long shadow this first weapon of mass destruction would cast on the future of nuclear warfare-- crucial insights and understanding relevant to us today.