My father told me he was certain that there were incidents like this during World War II, but that the military covered them up.
The Army Board for Correction of Military Records has changed the death record of African-American WWII Private Albert H. King to list him as having died “in the line of duty.” King, a 20-year-old black soldier with the Quartermaster Corps, was in fact murdered on March 23, 1941, by a white member of the military police, Sgt. Robert Lummus, who shot King five times as he walked on the main road at Fort Benning toward his barracks. King had tried to escape a mob of whites intent on beating him on a bus. Sergeant Lummus claimed self-defense and just 13 hours after shooting King, was found not guilty by a military court.
A thorough investigation had taken place, clearly.
King was listed as having died “not in line of duty.”
In November, more than 80 years after Private King’s death, Army officials corrected the record after a real investigation instigated by Helen Russell, a first cousin to Private King and his last known living relative, In a Nov. 28 letter, the Army notified Ms. Russell that her 2021 petition had been reviewed by the board and that Private King’s status would be updated to “reflect this new finding.”
Russell’s petition alleged that in the early hours of March 24, 1941, the white driver of a segregated, chartered civilian bus objected to Private King and his friends, sitting in the back of the bus, “hollering and laughing and cutting up.” The driver told them to be quiet, and asked for help from Sergeant Lummus, who was patrolling the road on a motorcycle. Lummus ordered Private King and his friend Private Lawrence J. Hoover off the bus. Sergeant Lummus hit Private Hoover in the back of the head with a blackjack and King fled, while a dozen of the white soldiers from the bus beat Private Hoover until he was semiconscious.
Sergeant Lummus testified that he had found Private King and ordered him to stop. Sergeant Lummus said the private had begun running toward him and had “kept coming” while the sergeant fired five shots.
Ms. Russell’s petition stated that three gunshots struck King on the side of his head and neck, and there was one each in his lower back and his torso. After the initial ruling that that the shooting was justified, a second, independent investigation by a board of officers determined that Private King had died “in the line of duty.” But the commanding general of Fort Benning, Maj. Gen. Lloyd Fredendall, ordered the board to “reconsider” its findings, and the decision was reversed. Researchers at the Northeastern University School of Law’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project explored Private King’s story decades later and published their conclusions in The Washington Post, giving Russell the basis for her appeal.
King is one of dozens of active-duty black military personnel who are believed to have been murdered on or near U.S. bases during the World War II. One such victim of racism was Felix Hall, who was lynched at Fort Benning a few weeks before Private King was killed there. In 2021, the Army installed a plaque in Private Hall’s memory.
Source: New York Times.