An aggressive mutiny of black GIs in WWII

White Australian troops had to rein them in. It may be part of the reason why the U.S. army to this day rarely deploys black troops in frontline infantry positions

BLACK US troops mutinied in Townsville [Australia] in 1942 and turned machineguns on their officers, in a secret chapter of the war in the Pacific that has come to light through the papers of the late US president Lyndon B. Johnson.

The scandal was hushed up for nearly 70 years after being described in a report given to and apparently kept by Johnson as "one of the biggest stories of the war which can't be written, shouldn't be written".

The subject of rumour and speculation for decades in the north Queensland city, it has now emerged that the mutiny was probably reported at the time to the White House by Johnson, then a young and ambitious US congressman, after he visited Australia in June 1942 on a fact-finding mission for president Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The report Johnson took back to Washington, written for him by US journalist Robert Sherrod, tells how 600 African-American GIs seized their base and went on the rampage, trying to kill their white officers. Some terrorised local civilians.

Armed Australian troops were sent in at the height of the emergency on the US base. George Gnezdiloff, then a 20-year-old private in the north Queensland-raised 51st battalion, was told to block Ross River Road with his bren gun carrier. Other soldiers were issued with a password, Bucks, as they deployed to bottle up the Americans.

Gnezdiloff and his crew were ordered to shoot the mutineers on sight. "We had ammo, the lot," the now 90-year-old recalled yesterday from his home in Proserpine, 300km south of Townsville. "We weren't mucking around, I can tell you."


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