Saturday, November 8, 2008

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Black soldiers get apology for WWII convictions
Posted by The Associated Press July 26, 2008 21:55PM
Categories: Breaking News
SEATTLE -- More than six decades after 28 black soldiers were wrongly
convicted after a riot and lynching of an Italian in Seattle, the Army has
issued a formal apology.

"We had not done right by these soldiers," Ronald James, assistant secretary
of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs, said Saturday. "The Army is
genuinely sorry. I am genuinely sorry."

Relatives of the soldiers joined elected officials, military officers and
one of the defense lawyers to hear James give the apology before hundreds of
people in a meadow near the old Fort Lawton parade grounds and chapel in
Discovery Park.

All but two of the soldiers are dead. One, Samuel Snow of Lees burg, Fla.,
planned to attend the ceremony but wound up in the hospital instead because
of a problem with his pacemaker.

The convictions were overturned in October at the prodding of Rep. Jim
McDermott, D-Seattle, largely based on the book "On American Soil" published
in 2005 by Jack Haman, a CNN and PBS journalist, and his wife Leslie about
the riot on the night of Aug. 14, 1944, and subsequent events at Fort
Lawton.

Dozens were injured in the me lee that started with a scuffle between an
Italian prisoner of war and a black soldier from the segregated barracks
near the POW housing. A POW, Guglielmo Oliveotto, was found hanged at the
bottom of a bluff the next day,.

The Army prosecutor was Leon Sikorsky, who went on to become special
prosecutor in the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s.

Forty-three black soldiers were charged with rioting and three also were
charged with murder. Two defense lawyers were assigned to the case and given
two weeks to prepare without ever being shown an Army investigation
criticizing the way the riot was handled.

In the ensuing trial 28 men were convicted.

One of those attending the ceremony Saturday, Arthur Provost of Houston,
said his father Willie, one of the convicted soldiers, never talked about
what had happened.

"I think he was embarrassed," Provost said. "I wished he had told us."

Snow's son, Ray Snow, told the gathering his father felt no animosity for
the long-ago injustice.

"He was so honored" by the tribute, Ray Snow said. "We salute you for
remembering a travesty that took place."

-- The Associated Press

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