World War II Massacre

By Higgins, Chester A., Sr. | The New Crisis, May/June 1999 | Go to article overview

World War II Massacre


Higgins, Chester A., Sr., The New Crisis


NAACP Digging to Find Truth of Rumored Amy Murder of 1,227 'Bad Assed:' Black GIs

The NAACP has a long history of involvement in racial tragedy in Mississippi. It state director, Medgar Evers, was gunned down by th cowardly murderer Byron De La Beckwith, NAACP State President Aaron Henry's drug store, a center of voter registration activity, was bombed a number of times. Vernon Dahmer, a stubborn activist who was determined to help blacks gain the franchise, was murdered at the direction of Klansman Samuel Bowers, who brazenly operated a business that depended on the support of a predominantly black neighborhoodin which was located. When officials dragged the river where 15-year-old Emmit Till's gruesome remains were found near the town of Money, they discovered a number of other nameless skeletal remains of undocumented or unreported-reported black lynch victims.

Now the NAACP is probing reports of a gruesome mass killing of black soldiers in Mississippi during World War II. The NAACP is ting to further document the facts of a book written bv a white, former banker from McComb, Miss., novelist/artist Carroll Case, who charges that in 1943 at Camp Van Dorn-a military base outside the town of Centreville, some 45 miles due north of Baton Rouge, La. - 1,227 black soldiers of the 364th Infantry were systematically murdered.

Case's book, The Slaughter: An American Atrocity, was published in the fall of 1998 by First Biltmore Corp. of Asheville, N.C., a company headed by Case's friend Rusty Denman, a white investment banker and Mississippi native who believes the story needs to be told. The startling book charges that the U.S. Army ordered the killing of the roughly 1,227 black soldiers because they were malcontents who were mutinous and antagonistic toward military discipline. Their bodies were then allegedly hauled off by train and buried in trenches on former camp land. Evidence has recently surfaced indicating to Case that the mass graves became part of an earthen dam and man-made lake which were constructed by the Army shortly after the alleged slayings. The lake in question lies on what is now private land.

A preposterous tale? Maybe not, and the NAACP is asking questions. A skeptical but interested John J. Johnson, the NAACP's programs director, tempers his skepticism with hard-headed realism: "You don't have to have an IQ higher than room temperature to know what the racial climate was like back then."

Case said a white guard at the bank he headed, William Martzall, who claimed he was an MP and took part in the mass murders, re.called the incident: "It was like shooting fish in a barrel." Case says Martzall and others who did the killing were ordered to seal off the area where the 364th was billeted and "let them have it." Case also quotes Martzall as saying: "We shot every nigger we could find... the screaming, hollering and begging was horrible!" Case said Martzall told him the story after he had been working at the bank for some time, when Case asked Martzall, who had worked as an Army MP and a civilian policeman, if he had ever killed anyone. Case said it was like Martzall was "unburdening himself of this horrible crime before he died." Martzall died about a decade ago.

Case said he has investigated the story for 13 years, but it has received little coverage from U.S. media. Reporters routinely drop their questioning when the Army simply denies the reports. Some blackmedia outlets -- America's Black Forum, hosted by Juan Williams, and Black Entertainment TVs Tavis Smiley -- have aired shows dealing with the story. Newsweek magazine is reportedly working on a story.

Case says his pursuit of the rumors has caused him to lose his bank presidency position, his home when loans were summarily called in, and threats made on his life made by whites incensed over his airing this black story: "But I won't back off. I tell them to kiss my ass... This is Army personnel killing Army personnel and perhaps using the scarred racial history of Mississippi as a scapegoat cover. …

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