In 1942, U.S. Congressman Lyndon Baines Johnson conducted a secret visit of a U.S. military base in Australia. For seventy years, the reason for his visit has remained a mystery. But new evidence suggests a horrific event that led to the death of one soldier and serious injuries to many others. Did members of the 96th Battalion, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commit mutiny?
The Townsville Mutiny?
According to historian Ray Holyoak, the answer is yes. It turns out that African-American members of the unit were subjected to ongoing discrimination and violence from their white counterparts. In retaliation, some of them seized control of machine guns and anti-aircraft guns and proceeded to rake their aggressors with more than 700 rounds. Here’s more from the Australian Broadcasting Company on the Townsville Mutiny:
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…
“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…This was the site for a large-scale siege lasting eight hours, which was sparked by racial taunts and violence…
(See Secret documents lift lid on WWII mutiny by US troops in north Queensland for more on the Townsville Mutiny)
There were pitched battles between Australians and Americans on the rail lines where bayonets were used. So this is hardly surprising.
My father was a corpsman in the Navy stationed in the Philippines at the end of WW2 and talked about the black mutineers that were incarcerated there – this is the first time I have seen a reference to it – only in his version the mutiny took place during a landing.
It’s not easy to find information on U.S. mutinies during that war. Many of the documents are still classified. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there were multiple occurrences. Did your father know where those particular mutineers had been stationed?