Flashback in history: The “Black Tom Island” incident, 30 July 1916

Maritime Cyprus

The “Black Tom Island” incident occurred on Sunday, 30 July 1916. German saboteurs ignited a fire at the munitions-loading facility in Jersey City, across from Manhattan. The ensuing explosions destroyed the waterfront facility and largely obliterated the island, killing four persons and causing over $40 million in property damage. It was the first state-sponsored terrorist attack in US history and was the genesis of the US Coast Guard’s port security program.

Aftermath of the Black Tom explosion on July 30, 1916. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

All was dark and quiet on Black Tom Island in New York Harbor, not far from the Statue of Liberty, when small fires began to burn on the night of July 30, 1916. Some guards on the island sent for the Jersey City Fire Department, but others fled as quickly as they could, and for good reason: Black Tom was a major munitions depot, with…

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