USS Kitty Hawk riot

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USS Kitty Hawk riot
USS Kitty Hawk 1975.jpg
USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) c. 1975
Date 12/13 October 1972
Location off Vietnam
Participants Kitty Hawk′ crew
Outcome 47–60 crewmembers injured (3 seriously)

The USS Kitty Hawk riot, sometimes called the Kitty Hawk mutiny, was a race riot which took place on the United States Navy aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk on the night of 12/13 October 1972, off the coast of Vietnam during Operation Linebacker. Many crewmen were injured, but Kitty Hawk participated in Linebacker as assigned.

Approximately 100–200 black Kitty Hawk crewmen rioted as a response to perceived grievances against the Navy and the officers of Kitty Hawk, which appeared to represent institutionalized racism on the ship. One such grievance was the belief that black crewmen were routinely assigned to menial or degrading duties. Black crewmen also believed that white crewmen received milder non-judicial punishments than black sailors for the same offenses. In addition, there was lingering resentment from a racially charged brawl involving Kitty Hawk sailors in the Philippines shortly before the ship left port.

During the riot, black sailors assaulted and injured a number of white crewmen. Three had to be evacuated to shore hospitals for further treatment. Forty-five to 60 Kitty Hawk crewmen were injured in total. The carrier's commander—Captain Marland Townsend—and executive officer—Commander Benjamin Cloud (who was black)—dissuaded the rioters from further violence and prevented white sailors from retaliating. This allowed the carrier to launch her Linebacker air missions as scheduled on the morning of 12 October. Nineteen of the rioters were later found guilty by the Navy of at least one charge connected to the riot.

The incident was publicized in The New York Times. Subsequent racial unrest on Kitty Hawk′s sister ship Constellation sparked Congressional hearings to examine race relations in the Navy and policies and programs instituted by Navy leaders to deal with racial issues.

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