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

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Sun Feb 12 14:37:52 EST 2012



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

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-02-10/historian-reveals-details-on-townsville-mutiny/3821906
by <http://www.abc.net.au/news/josh-bavas/167078>Josh Bavas

Updated February 10, 2012 13:24:4

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.
<http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-02-10/townsville-ww2-mutiny-uncovered-by-queensland/3822380>Audio:<http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-02-10/townsville-ww2-mutiny-uncovered-by-queensland/3822380> 
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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