Australian Historian Uncovers Mutiny on World War II US Base

Posted February 10th, 2012 at 5:35 am (UTC-5)
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An Australian scholar says he has uncovered evidence that African-American soldiers staged a mutiny to protest racial abuse while stationed in Australia during World War II.

Ray Holyoak, a historian at Australia's James Cook University, says 600 black soldiers were deployed to the northern state of Queensland in 1942 to help build an airfield outside the city of Townsville.

After being subjected to “serial abuse” by two white officers, Holyoak says some of the soldiers took machine guns and anti-aircraft weapons and fired into tents where the officers were drinking. At least one person was killed and scores of others severely injured in the siege, which lasted for eight hours.

Australian troops were called in to help put down the mutiny.

Queensland was a significant support base for soldiers serving in the southwest Pacific campaign between 1942 and 1945 — hosting airfields, camps, factories and housing medical facilities.

Holyoak says rumors of the mutiny have persisted in Townsville for 70 years. He says he uncovered the evidence when he began researching why then-U.S. Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson visited Townsville for three days in 1942. He says the future president received a report written by an American journalist embedded with the troops.

The report was never published in the news media at the time.

Holyoak says he is now focusing his research into sentences handed down to those involved in the mutiny.