Extra security concerns

Even before the war, the refineries and the Texas City Terminal Railway Company (TCTRC) had begun putting new security procedures in place. The attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 compelled them to lock down their facilities even further as production of essential wartime materials made the town a potential candidate for sabotage.

Five days after Pearl Harbor, an Army battalion of 750 soldiers, the 135th Infantry, arrived to guard the waterfront, the port industrial area and the Galveston causeway.1

The refineries acquired additional security equipment and trained guards, who patrolled around the clock. Workers had to wear badges at all times and visitors were never left alone. Texas City Terminal Railway Company installed alarm systems in buildings and fencing around its docks, and added a security gate and guard house.

Taking fingerprints at Pan American in January 1941 (Photo from Moore Memorial Public Library)

Blackouts were directed to make it difficult for Axis bombers to target the defense plants and other vital parts of the community.

Poster reminding citizens of complete blackouts as a civil defense procedure (Photo from the Library of Congress)

Blackout regulations notice from the Texas City Civilian Defense
(Photo from Moore Memorial Public Library)

Ships and sailors in port for industry-related operations faced new restrictions from the government and heightened scrutiny from the Coast Guard. Everyone who worked at the docks had to be able to show identification and a license to work there. All ships had to acquire permission from the Coast Guard to enter and leave the port.2

Prior to the war, more than 90 percent of the town's oil-related traffic moved by water in tankers and barges. During the war years, much of the transport of goods shifted to land due to wartime restrictions and danger in shipping lanes.3

During the early years of the war, ships traveling alone off the Florida, Atlantic and Gulf coasts were at risk from German U-boats. Although the presence of German U-boats in the Gulf was kept secret from American civilians, shipping patterns and procedures were greatly affected. At first, Navy commanders were unwilling to assign Navy ships for convoy protection due to war needs in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. Instead they sent destroyers and Coast Guard vessels to hunt U-boats in heavily-traveled sea lanes. This proved ineffective and U-boats continued to sink a large number of cargo vessels. Finally, in April of 1942 Admiral Adolphus "Dolly" Andrews, commander of the Eastern Sea Frontier of the United States, took over command and began phasing in armed convoys of all shipments. Ships from Houston and Texas City would sail to Galveston, where convoys were formed and escorted.4


1Wheaton, Elizabeth. (1959). Texas City, Texas: Is beginning its destruction its revitalization. Texas City, TX: Texas City Chamber of Commerce, unpaginated.

2Benham, Priscilla. (1987). Texas City: Port of industrial opportunity. Houston, TX: University of Houston, 285-286.

3Price, Mamie. (1945). The history of Texas City. Texas City, TX: City of Texas City, 23.

4Wiggins, Melanie. (1995). Torpedoes in the Gulf: Galveston and the U-boats, 1942-1943. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 144.