Black People : 63 years later, Army exonerates black troops


Well-Known Member
Jun 24, 2007
"For more than a half-century, the convictions of 28 African-American soldiers for a riot that ended in the lynching of an Italian prisoner of war at Seattle's Fort Lawton during World War II has held an uneasy place in history.

It was the Army's largest court-martial of the war, and it was one of the region's worst conflicts between blacks and whites.

On Friday, the incident gained a new place in history. In what is believed to be an unprecedented ruling after a yearlong review, an Army review board tossed out the convictions after finding the trial was "fundamentally unfair."

.."The night of the riot, some of the black soldiers and some of the Italians exchanged drunken insults and fought, Hamann said. Then a white military policeman "fanned the tensions" of the black soldiers and whipped their anger into a riot, probably because he resented the Italians for courting local women.

The next morning, an Italian private, Guglielmo Olivotto, was found hanged in the woods...

Although only two Italians could identify their attackers, 43 black soldiers were tried in a combined trial."
Originally published Monday, February 4, 2008
Law on back pay proposed in Fort Lawton case

By Alicia Mundy
Seattle Times Washington bureau

Samuel Snow was wrongly accused of rioting at Seattle's Fort Lawton in 1944.

WASHINGTON — Samuel Snow got a check from the Pentagon after the Army announced last October it would overturn convictions of Snow and 27 other African-American soldiers wrongly tried for rioting at Seattle's Fort Lawton in 1944.

The check was for $725 — the amount of pay that Snow, now 82, lost while serving a year in an Army lockup.....
US Army Board for Correction of Military Records
On October 26, 200
7, the ABCMR ruled unanimously that Leon Jaworski had committed “egregious error” in his prosecution of the Fort Lawton case, particularly by refusing to make the Cooke Report available to the defense. The court, calling the trial “fundamentally unfair,” overturned the convictions and ordered that defendants be issued retroactive honorable discharges. In addition, the surviving defendants—or the estates of those who have since died—were deemed entitled to “all rights, privileges and property lost as a result of the convictions,” including “all due pay and allowances.” By all accounts, it was an extraordinary, unprecedented remedy.

$725 check
On November 29, 2007, Samuel Snow received a check … for a mere $725. An Army spokesman explained that the Board’s order was so unusual and sweeping that Army regulations contained no provision for payment of interest in such cases. The small checks received by Snow and by the families of other Fort Lawton veterans spurred a flurry of stories in the national media about the unfairness and inadequacy of the regulations.
On January 23, 2008, Rep. Jim McDermott introduced HR 5130 in the House, authorizing the US Army to pay interest on the Fort Lawton awards. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced companion bill S 2548 in the Senate. The bills sailed through the Armed Services Committees of both houses, and included testimony from Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, who called Snow’s small check “a travesty of justice.”

By the summer of 2008, the Army had only been able to locate two living defendants (Samuel Snow of Florida and Roy Montgomery of Illinois), plus the families of just ten others who had since passed. King County Executive Ron Sims and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels organized a tribute to the Fort Lawton defendants and surviving families, featuring a dinner, a parade, a formal military ceremony and a Catholic mass honoring the memory of Guglielmo Olivotto. At the military ceremony, Assistant Army Secretary Ronald James offered a moving tribute, including an apology and the presentation of belated honorable discharges.

Death of Samuel Snow
On the morning of the Seattle military ceremony, Samuel Snow took ill. Hours later, his family brought his honorable discharge to his hospital bedside, where he held it to his chest and smiled broadly. That same evening, he died of heart failure, with his wife and son at his side.

Snow’s death was worldwide news. The consensus of his family, his doctors and outside observers was that Snow had willed himself to stay alive long enough to see justice served. His funeral in Leesburg, Florida, drew hundreds of mourners; he received a full military burial.

Bill becomes law
On October 14, 2008, President George W. Bush signed the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2009. The bill included the legislation authorizing the Army to add tens of thousands of dollars in interest to the Fort Lawton veterans’ awards.


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