History of West Loch Disaster
On May 21, 1944, 34 ships gathered in Pearl Harbor's West Loch to load ammunition and supplies in preparation for the invasion of Saipan. The LSTs (landing ship, tank) or ships designed to land battle-ready tanks, were closely nested together along six berths. At 3:08 p.m, an explosion rocked the deck of LST 353. A chain reaction of explosions followed that left six LSTs sunk and several more severely damaged. In all, 163 men were killed, and 396 wounded.
It was Pearl Harbor's second greatest disaster in terms of casualties. Though the incident could have caused a serious operational delay, replacements of ships and men were quickly rounded up. The LSTs got underway only one day late as the invasion of Saipan took place on schedule.
All that is left as a reminder of that fateful day is the rusted hulk of LST 480, standing silently off of Waipio Peninsula. In 1994, the National Park Service, in conjunction with the U.S. Navy, placed a wayside exhibit directly across from LST 480 to commemorate the event.