Secret documents lift lid on WWII mutiny by [black] US troops in north Queensland

2 posts

Bob Dylan Roof
Secret documents lift lid on WWII mutiny by US troops in north Queensland

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.
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.

A few items from this story ring untrue.

No U.S. journalists were "embedded" during WWII--that was a Gulf War II term and concept.

Australia was under regular air attack from's not likely that the anti-aircraft guns would have been left untended for the Negroes to seize. And, even if so, it would take more than casual, untrained adjustments to lower the firing elevation of those guns down to ground level.

The real story here would have been the immediate retribution from Whites. Any wartime mutineers would have been executed on the spot...and we'd be hearing about the massacre of downtrodden Negroes rather than their "heroic" fragging spree.

And, even if they had escaped to the Aussie hinterlands there wasn't much likelihood of blending in with the natives...