Friday, July 17, 2015

Is it Mutiny or Riot or both that are both military crimes

H/tip History Channel
I was reminded of this because today is the anniversary of the Port Chicago disaster and we have recently posted about U.S. presidential pardons--here and here.
On the evening of July 17, the SS Quinault Victory and SS E.A. Bryan, two merchant ships, were being loaded. The holds were being packed with 4,600 tons of explosives–bombs, depth charges and ammunition. Another 400 tons of explosives were nearby on rail cars. Approximately 320 workers were on or near the pier when, at 10:18 p.m., a series of massive explosions over several seconds destroyed everything and everyone in the vicinity. The blasts were felt as far away as Nevada and the resulting damage extended as far as San Francisco. Every building in Port Chicago was damaged and people were literally knocked off their feet. Smoke and fire extended nearly two miles into the air. The pilot of a plane flying at 9,000 feet in the area claimed that metal chunks from the explosion flew past him.
Nearly two-thirds of the people killed at Port Chicago were African-American enlisted men in the Navy–15 percent of all African-Americans killed during World War II.
And here's the point.
The surviving men in these units, who helped put out the fires and saw the horrors firsthand, were quickly reassigned to Mare Island. Less than a month later, when ordered to load more munitions, but still having received no training, 258 African-American sailors refused to carry out the orders. Two hundred and eight of them were then sentenced to bad conduct discharges and pay forfeiture. The remaining 50 men were put on trial for general court martial. They were sentenced to between eight and 15 years of hard labor, though two years later all were given clemency. A 1994 review of the trials revealed race played a large factor in the harsh sentences. In December 1999, President Clinton pardoned Freddie Meeks, one of only three of the 50 convicted sailors known to be alive at the time (emphasis added).
I do believe this was the largest number of courts-martial in U.S. history arising from a single incident.  I thought the K-Hawk "mutiny" might have had more, but I am wrong.
The USS KITTY HAWK riot, sometimes called the Kitty Hawk mutiny, was part of widespread antiwar protests within the US armed forces which took place as part of a movement called SOS (Stop Our Ships/Support Our Sailors) on the Kitty Hawk on the night of 12/13 October 1972, off the coast of Vietnam during Operation Linebacker. A report by the House Armed Services Committee concluded that the rebellion had been precipitated by orders received to return to Vietnam from Subic Bay. These orders were given after incidents of sabotage by American sailors had disabled the USS RANGER and USS FORRESTAL.
The rebellion (sic) was led by African American crew members who responded violently when marines attempted to disrupt their protest meetings. Three had to be evacuated to shore hospitals for further treatment. Forty-five to sixty KITTY HAWK crewmen were injured in total. The carrier's commander—Captain Marland Townsend—and executive officer—Commander Benjamin Cloud (who was black)—dissuaded the rioters from further violence. This allowed the carrier to launch her Linebacker air missions as scheduled on the morning of 12 October. Nineteen of the rioters were later found guilty by the Navy of at least one charge connected to the riot.
Or was it the Connie, the USS CONSTELLATION.
CONSTELLATION was the focus of media attention when black members of her crew protested what they saw as disparate treatment by the Navy, leading to what some saw as an aborted mutiny in late 1972. CONSTELLATION returned to the United States on 1 July and prepared to return to the western Pacific in early 1973. Replacement personnel reported aboard while CONSTELLATIONwas in the United States until the ship had 250 more men than the ship's berthing could accommodate. CONSTELLATION's commanding officer ordered administrative (less than honorable) discharges for five black sailors he considered troublemakers. He planned to give early discharges to another 250 men whose enlistments would expire while CONSTELLATION was overseas. While CONSTELLATION was conducting exercises off the California coast, a rumor started that the captain was going to give 250 less than honorable discharges to black sailors. On 1 November, black sailors waylaid a white mess cook in a passageway and broke his jaw. The captain scheduled an open meeting for 2100 3 November to clarify the 250 planned discharges. At noon 3 November a group of 50 black sailors began a sit-in on a portion of the mess deck. On the night of 3–4 November 60 black sailors took control of the scheduled meeting, refused to leave the mess deck, and threatened to "tear up the ship."CONSTELLATION returned to San Diego on 4 November to offload 130 men, including 12 white sailors, before returning to sea. CONSTELLATION returned to San Diego on 7 November and the offloaded sailors were transported back to the dock on 9 November, but only 8 boarded their ship. The remaining sailors sat down on the dock to be filmed by television crews and were ultimately transferred to shore stations for mast. Twelve received general discharges, 35 were honorably discharged but not recommended for re-enlistment, and 73 received punishments ranging from loss of pay and reduction in rate to warnings prior to being reassigned to sea duty.
The Army has had its share of problems as well, as noted through a cursory review of reported UCMJ cases.

1 comment:

  1. At this same time the Air Force experienced much the same thing. There was a series of incidents at Travis AFB in California which began as a complaint about load music and ended with 135 arrests, 10 people injured and the death of a civilian firefighter. The effects reverberated through the command. Over night the dining hall's top three area disappeared, second lines offering alternative foods, mostly hamburgers, hot dogs, chili, fries, etc, even folks to clear tables. The first Social Actions offices were formed. Three-days of classes to raise awareness began; everyone wore civilian clothes "to facilitate equal and truthful participation".The first day they administered two tests: first, a standard ASVAB-style test. Then a test based on experiences living in the inner-city. Black guys loved it when we white troops spectacularly failed. A couple white guys stormed out of the class. Turn-about was apparently not "fair play".


Comments are subject to moderation and must be submitted under your real name. Anonymous comments will not be posted (even though the form seems to permit them).