Mass Grave of World War I Ammo Plant Disaster Victims
Parlin, New Jersey
On the evening of October 4, 1918, in what was then Morgan, New Jersey, a huge World War I ammunition plant blew up. It started as a simple fire, and then it spread to a warehouse and freight trains packed with hundreds of thousands of artillery shells and millions of pounds of explosives. You can imagine what happened next.
The blasts continued for three whole days. Even in 1918 New Jersey was a crowded place, so putting an ammunition plant there turned out to be a bad idea. Over a hundred people were killed as high-explosive shells rained down on the surrounding towns. Hundreds more, left homeless and weakened by exposure and trauma, died soon afterward of the Spanish flu.
Bodies and body parts were buried under a single large stone in the nearest cemetery. Best guesses at the number of unidentified dead ranged between 14 and 18, although no one knows for sure. By the early 2000s the cemetery had been abandoned, but it's since been revived as a burial ground for the local Asian community, and the grave near the entrance has been cleaned up.
The explosion has left one other legacy: unexploded shells that are still unearthed from time to time in local yards. Watch your step!