Author Topic: Mutiny of black American troops during WW2  (Read 3792 times)

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Offline Martok

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Mutiny of black American troops during WW2
« on: February 10, 2012, 10:11:31 AM »
I'd never even heard about this incident before.  Anyone here have at least an inkling? 



Quote


An Australian historian has uncovered hidden documents which reveal that African American troops used machine guns to attack their white officers in a siege on a US base in north Queensland in 1942.

Information about the Townsville mutiny has never been released to the public.

But the story began to come to light when James Cook University's Ray Holyoak first began researching why US congressman Lyndon B Johnson visited Townsville for three days back in 1942.

What he discovered was evidence detailing one of the biggest uprisings within the US military.

"For 70 years there's been a rumour in Townsville that there was a mutiny among African-American servicemen. In the last year and a half I've found the primary documentation evidence that that did occur in 1942," Mr Holyoak told AM.
Audio: WWII mutiny uncovered by Qld historian (AM)

During World War II, Townsville was a crucial base for campaigns into the Pacific, including the Battle of the Coral Sea.

About 600 African-American troops were brought to the city to help build airfields.

Mr Holyoak says these troops, from the 96th Battalion, US Army Corps of Engineers, were stationed at a base on the city's western outskirts known as Kelso.

This was the site for a large-scale siege lasting eight hours, which was sparked by racial taunts and violence.

"After some serial abuse by two white US officers, there was several ringleaders and they decided to machine gun the tents of the white officers," Mr Holyoak said.

He has uncovered several documents hidden in the archives of the Queensland Police and Townsville Brigade detailing what happened that night.

According to the findings, the soldiers took to the machine guns and anti-aircraft weapons and fired into tents where their white counterparts were drinking.

More than 700 rounds were fired.

At least one person was killed and dozens severely injured, and Australian troops were called in to roadblock the rioters.

Mr Holyoak also discovered a report written by Robert Sherrod, a US journalist who was embedded with the troops.

It never made it to the press, but was handed to Lyndon B Johnson at a Townsville hotel and eventually filed away into the National Archives and Records Administration.

"I think at the time, it was certainly suppressed. Both the Australian and the US government would not have wanted the details of this coming out. The racial policies at the time really discluded [sic] people of colour," Mr Holyoak says.

Both the Australian Defence Department and the Australian War Memorial say it could take months to research the incident, and say they have no details readily available for public release.

But Townsville historian Dr Dorothy Gibson-Wilde says the findings validate 70-year-old rumours.

"Anytime it was raised, people usually sort of said, 'Oh you know, no that can't be true. Nobody's heard about that', and in fact it must have been kept pretty quiet from the rest of the town," she said.

Mr Holyoak will spend the next two years researching the sentences handed out to both the officers and the mutineers involved, and why the information has been kept secret for so long.


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Offline Gusington

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Re: Mutiny of black American troops during WW2
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2012, 10:13:08 AM »
Holy crap. I know that there was heavy racial rioting in American cities during WWII, but this was the first mutiny I have read about.
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Offline Greybriar

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Re: Mutiny of black American troops during WW2
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2012, 11:18:48 AM »
I would like to know what happened to those involved; instigators, mutineers, and casualties.
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Offline LongBlade

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Re: Mutiny of black American troops during WW2
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2012, 02:44:26 PM »
Thanks for posting this. I just forwarded the link to my friend at the WWII Museum. Maybe he can help shed some light.

Offline LongBlade

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Re: Mutiny of black American troops during WW2
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2012, 05:50:28 PM »
I just got word back from a friend at the museum.

There have been reports of an incident like this that they're aware of, but details are hard to come by, as is verifying them.

The link apparently doesn't reference a specific date, which corroborates the difficulty in determining the if/when/why/who.

It's definitely worth looking into further and hopefully more info will emerge to help clarify the facts of the case.

This website seems to have some detail, but again we have to be careful about what is published on the web: http://www.ozatwar.com/ozatwar/96theng.htm

Offline Martok

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Re: Mutiny of black American troops during WW2
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2012, 09:27:06 AM »
Thanks for posting this. I just forwarded the link to my friend at the WWII Museum. Maybe he can help shed some light.

You're welcome, although, primary credit goes to destraex for posting this over at the WG.  I just figured others here would find this an interesting topic as well. 




I just got word back from a friend at the museum.

There have been reports of an incident like this that they're aware of, but details are hard to come by, as is verifying them.

The link apparently doesn't reference a specific date, which corroborates the difficulty in determining the if/when/why/who.

It's definitely worth looking into further and hopefully more info will emerge to help clarify the facts of the case.

This website seems to have some detail, but again we have to be careful about what is published on the web: http://www.ozatwar.com/ozatwar/96theng.htm


Thanks LB!  Ironically enough, that info almost murks up the water even further, but it's still more than we knew before. 


"Like we need an excuse to drink to anything..." - Banzai_Cat
"I like to think of it not as an excuse but more like Pavlovian Response." - Sir Slash

"At our ages, they all look like jailbait." - mirth

"If we had lines here that would have crossed all of them. For the 1,077,986th time." - Gusington

"Government is so expensive that it should at least be entertaining." - airboy

"As long as there's bacon, everything will be all right." - Toonces

Offline MIGMaster

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Re: Mutiny of black American troops during WW2
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2012, 09:31:48 AM »
Interesting... but what is this Wargamer thing of which you speak ?  ;D

Offline LongBlade

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Re: Mutiny of black American troops during WW2
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2012, 09:37:10 AM »
You're welcome, although, primary credit goes to destraex for posting this over at the WG.  I just figured others here would find this an interesting topic as well. 

It is interesting. Thanks. Somebody ought to let Destreaux know we've moved. He may be one of the last guys not to be in the loop.

Quote
Thanks LB!  Ironically enough, that info almost murks up the water even further, but it's still more than we knew before.

That seems to be about where the museum is, too. They've heard of the incident but don't have a lot of facts to clarify/verify if/when it happened.

I can certainly understand (if it happened) why it would have been hushed up and highly classified. And today no one is really interested in digging up a lot of that history - if you read Osprey's book on the Red Tails it is stomach churning the kind of discrimination black units faced.

Offline LongBlade

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Re: Mutiny of black American troops during WW2
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2012, 09:38:46 AM »
And I should hasten to add, it does appear *something* happened. It's the details which remain sketchy.

Interestingly there is a book referenced on that website which may be the only chronicle of the incident. Anyone interested in digging further should probably try to track down a copy of it.

Offline LongBlade

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Re: Mutiny of black American troops during WW2
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2012, 09:20:40 PM »
Hey guys. The book referenced on that website, Love, War and the 96th Engineers (Colored), is available as a Kindle ebook for $2.99. I just bought it so I could have a first-hand reference.

Remember, you don't have to have a Kindle to read this. There are Kindle apps for iOS devices like the iPad, and you can also download a free ereader for your PC.