Black Tom explosion

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The Black Tom explosion (July 30, 1916) was an act of sabotage against the United States by German agents during World War I. It was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history.[1]

Prior to 1915, American industries were free to sell supplies to either major bloc of World War I, the Central powers and the Allies. However, a 1915 blockade of the Central powers meant that Americans could only sell materiel to the Allies. Black Tom island, in New Jersey, was a major ammunition dump, and an attractive target to the Central powers.[2]

Right after midnight on July 30, several small fires were found on a pier of Black Tom island. The Jersey City Fire Department began to fight the fires, and at 2:08 AM, the first (and biggest) explosion took place; the blast measured between 5.0 and 5.5 on the Richter Scale, and could be felt as far away as Philadelphia. Windows broke in Times Square, and shrapnel damaged the Statue of Liberty.[3]


  1. NJCU - Black Tom
  2. FBI Website - Black Tom
  3. Department of Environmental Protection - Black Tom explosion