Recently a community event was held in Angleton, TX where an author spoke about how scouts were first responders during the Texas City disaster of 1947.
Former Eagle Scout Frank Urbanic Jr. presented a slideshow about his book, “We Were Prepared,” an account of the Scouts during the Texas City disaster April 16, 1947.
“There’s no book, at least none I can find, about how the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts were mobilized as first responders,” Urbanic said. (so he authored one -RS)
The city was in dire need of first responders that day. Down at the docks, the S.S. Grandcamp was on fire, surrounded by frantic firefighters and curious bystanders. They died in a flash of fire when the ammonium nitrate inside the ship exploded, propelling fire and molten debris in all directions. Five hundred and seventy-six people died and 2,000 were injured, and the area was leveled. The blast destroyed ships, planes and cars for miles around. More than 100 buildings were destroyed and hundreds more were damaged enough to be condemned.
“This black cloud of tar, debris, oil and soot descended on Galveston,” Urbanic said. “The sun was suspended like yellow ball. I had on a white shirt that day … it’s no longer white.”
The explosion blew out windows in Houston and registered in Louisiana, and the call for help went out. The first Boy Scouts arrived on the scene within two hours. They delivered telegrams and alerted citizens about what had happened. As they went, they looked for victims of shrapnel or those pinned under debris knocked down by the explosion. Some houses were entirely reduced to rubble, and the Scouts sifted through it, looking for survivors. Others reported to the hospital.
“I carried bedpan, blankets and dead bodies as a Scout,” Urbanic said. “When you’re a Scout, and you see an accident … you’re gonna react because you’ve been trained.”
About his book We Were Prepared
Never before told stories of how Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts were mobilized for emergency services during the Texas City Disaster of 1947; the deadliest industrial accident in American history. After a ship loaded with 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded, officials immediately requested the assistance of Scouts because they were trained to follow the Scout Motto, "Be Prepared." Scouts as young as twelve years old were involved in rescue efforts while braving choking fumes and dodging hot shrapnel from exploding fuel storage tanks.
Frank A. Urbanic, Jr. personally interviewed most of the Scouts involved in the Texas City Disaster featured in this book to produce this dramatic and authentic story, which includes his personal experiences. He is an Eagle Scout, Brotherhood member of the Order of the Arrow, and a former assistant Scoutmaster. Frank graduated Texas A&M with a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering. He is a retired U.S. Air Force officer, served as a base commander, a research and development program manager, a disaster preparedness officer and as a combat fighter pilot, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Frank Urbanic is recognized as a pioneer in the development of laser weapons systems of which he authored numerous technical papers. He lives in Friendswood, Texas.