Weegee, This is the scene as Weegee shot it before the blast; he said his psychic bone told him something would happen. Then…, July 5, 1944 (negative 25)
Weegee, …something happened, all right – the street fell in. Note the fallen street post and the flames bursting from the main., July 5, 1944 (negative 26)
PM, July 6, 1944, pp. 12-13
Weegee Knew Something Was Brewing – and It Was!
A water main burst at Mott and Pell Sts. Chinatown, at 2:30 a.m yesterday routing 500 people from their homes. Weegee, out psychic photographer, not only made the scene after the explosion, but BEFORE as well.
This is the scene as Weegee shot it before the blast; he said his psychic bone told him something would happen. Then…
…something happened, all right – the street fell in. Note the fallen street post and the flames bursting from the main.
An emergency worker, equipped with a gas mask, descended into the break and shut off the gas thereby stopping the flames.
Chinatown residents flee the scene in a hurry. There were no injuries.
Two invalids, one of them a paralytic, were carried to safety when the break threatened to spread. This is one of them. Refugees took temporary haven in nearby stores.
Chinatown took the explosion philosophically. Two police emergency squads and 19 extra patrolmen were assigned to maintain order. Two companies also were on hand. PM, July 6, 1944, pp. 12-13
Weegee (1899-1968), Naked City, 1945, pp. 206-207
Peaceful scene in the heart of Chinatown. The cops who always patrol the beat in pairs there think I am crazy… because I am taking their picture…
Right after I took the photo above… the street blew up… the water main pipes broke… the gas main caught fire… followed by
an explosion… five hundred tenement dwellers in the block were driven from their homes. Naked City, 1945, p. 207
The Brooklyn Eagle reported that a 38 inch water main broke and caused a hole that was 20 by 25 feet wide and 20 feet deep.
In May 1945 fireman William Groening received the Walter Scott Medal medal for his heroic actions during the water and gas main breaks at Mott and Pell Streets:
While attempting to plug the break, the plug fell into the excavation and a fireman climbed into the excavation pit to retrieve it. While he was in the pit, the accumulated gasses exploded and enveloped him in flames. The explosion undermined the sinking sub-surface, making the trapped man’s position more precarious as he started to climb out.
Knowing that another explosion would throw him into the inferno that was raging in the hole, Groening threw himself flat on the ground and grasped the arms of the man in the pit. By Herculean effort he dragged his comrade to the street, saving his life… Long Island Star-Journal, May 21, 1945, p.7
These two photos from July 1944 (75 years ago this week) provide the best evidence of Weegee’s psychic abilities.