Agana race riot

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The location of Agana on Guam.

The Agana race riot took place at Agana, Guam over the two nights of 24–25 December 1944 during the War in the Pacific.

It was one of the most serious incidents between African American military personnel and White enlisted men during the Second World War.[1][dead link]

Background[edit]

Troops of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, enter the wreckage of Agana in the face of retreating Japanese forces in July 1944.

In July 1944, the 3rd Marine Division took two weeks to recapture Guam from the Japanese Army in a campaign that cost 1,600 American lives.[citation needed]

After the battle, Guam was turned into a base for Allied operations. Five large airfields were built by Seabees, and B-29 bombers flew from the island to attack targets in the Western Pacific and on mainland Japan. Guam continued to station enlisted men from the 3rd Marine Division. But racial tensions began in late August when the all-black Marine 25th Depot Company started loading operations at the newly created naval supply depot.

A black marine stationed on the island compared the island to "a city deep down in the South" because of the bigotry he encountered. He said:

Where there are women and white and Negro men, you will find discrimination in large quantities. On Guam, discrimination against blacks involved attempted intimidation by whites who shouted racial slurs, threw rocks, and occasionally hurled smoke grenades from passing trucks into the cantonment area for black sailors of the Naval Supply Depot.[2][dead link]

Over the next three months, these racially-motivated incidents caused tensions to rise between the two groups until they erupted into a race riot on Christmas Eve, 1944.

Incidents[edit]

First confrontation[edit]

On December 24, a group of nine African American marines from the 25th Depot Company had been given 24-hour holiday passes (for exemplary service) to go into Agana, Guam.

However, while in the city white marines opened fire on the black marines while they[who?] talked to Asian women, forcing them to run for their lives. Eight marines returned to their depot safely; however, a ninth man was missing.[3][unreliable source?]

In response, forty African American enlisted men loaded into two trucks and drove back to Agana to find the missing man. At the same time, an African American marine - who remained at the base - called the Military Police in Agana warning them that the marines were on their way. The MPs proceeded to erect barricades across all the roads leading into Agana.

When the trucks arrived at a roadblock a standoff began. Eventually tensions were calmed after a MP officer informed the marines that the missing man was found safe and returned to the 25th's camp. Satisfied, they turned their trucks around and returned to base.[3]

But around midnight on Christmas morning, a truck filled with armed marines drove into the segregated African American camp. They claimed that one of their marines had been hit with a piece of coral thrown by one of the African Americans. The stand off ended after the depot's white commanding officer told the all white marines to leave.[3]

Escalation[edit]

Racial tensions continued on Christmas Day, when an African-American enlisted man walking back to camp from Agana was shot dead by two drunk white marines. Within hours, another black enlisted man was shot and killed by another drunken white enlisted man in Agana.[3]

After the reports of the shootings reached the African-American company, after midnight on the morning of 26 December, a jeep with white service members opened fire on the African-American depot. Camp guards returned fire injuring a white MP officer. The whites in the jeep took cover and fled toward Agana being chased by a group of armed blacks.[3]

They[who?] were stopped at a roadblock outside Agana by white MPs. They were arrested and charged with unlawful assembly, rioting, theft of government property and attempted murder.[3]

Aftermath[edit]

Marine Major General Henry Louis Larsen convened a court of inquiry to investigate the riot. Many black marines were court-martialed and received prison terms. No white marines were charged in connection with the events. The NAACP later successfully campaigned to have the black marines released.[4][dead link]

See also[edit]

  • Port Chicago disaster—1944 court-martial of 50 African-American Navy men for refusing unsafe munitions loading work following a deadly explosion.
  • Fort Lawton Riot—43 African-American defendants in the largest World War II Army courts-martial.


References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Right to Fight African American Marines in WWII". Retrieved 2010-04-28. 
  2. ^ Bernard C. Nalty. The Right to Fight: African-American Marines in World War II. United States Marine Corps Historical Center
  3. ^ a b c d e f "WORLD WAR II AND AFRICAN AMERICANS (1941-1945)". Retrieved 2009-07-18. 
  4. ^ Agana, Guam, December 24, 1944: Riot