Exonerating Dead Black Soldiers


Over the weekend, the Army apologized to the families of black soldiers wrongly court-martialed during World War II for rioting at a Seattle fort. On an August night in 1944, about 30 black soldiers had gone to the part of the fort housing Italian POWs who were considered support personnel once Italy was no longer fighting the Allies. A brawl ensued, and the black soldiers severely beat several of the Italians and some white MPs. Almost immediately, however, it was unclear which black soldiers had taken part in the riot out of hundreds who were stationed at the fort.

Now, the military is finally recognizing that its wartime prosecutor, Leon Jaworski (yes, that Leon Jaworski), hid exculpatory evidence and used questionable snitches in order to convict about two dozen soldiers, who were then given dishonorable discharges.

It wasn’t until Seattle area journalist Jack Hamann went back and examined previously secret documents showing how Jaworski had railroaded the men that the Army began to consider re-opening the case. Hamann’s book, On American Soil, provided a blueprint for that re-examination, and the Army has now reversed the convictions and honorably discharged the men, all but one of whom is now dead. The Seattle Times has a touching slide show of this weekend’s ceremony.

But not everyone is celebrating. As we pointed out in April, one man who was actually at Fr. Lawton the day of the riot today lives on Staten Island, and he’s not happy that the convictions have been reversed. Check out why Anthony DeCesare — an Italian-American man — isn’t in a mood to celebrate.