NAACP upset about Camp Van Dorn bill

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 16, 2004

GLOSTER &045; Allegations that the Army slaughtered over 1,200 black soldiers at Camp Van Dorn in 1943 have prompted members of the Amite County chapter of the NAACP to oppose legislation to rename two state highways to honor Army divisions that trained at the base.

Seven NAACP members expressed their concerns to representatives of the Centreville-Camp Van Dorn Museum committee at a meeting in Gloster Thursday night.

Camp Van Dorn was a training base just south of Centreville where 40,000 soldiers were stationed during World War II.

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&uot;We believe an injustice occurred at Camp Van Dorn. We’re deeply offended by this,&uot; Hugh McGhee said.

House Bill 1023, introduced by District 96 Rep. David Green, would rename Mississippi 33 from Fayette to Centreville the 99th Division Highway and from Centreville to the Louisiana state line the 63rd Division Highway.

Mississippi 24 from Fort Adams to Liberty would be renamed the Camp Van Dorn Highway.

Green introduced the bill at the request of museum committee member James Causey.

&uot;This is a blessing that we’ve come to this point,&uot; Causey told the small gathering Thursday. &uot;We haven’t had the level of black representation that we need on the committee.&uot;

Causey invited the group to attend the next meeting of the museum committee and share any information they had regarding the rumored shooting of black troops.

Harry Jackson said the legislation regarding the highways should be dropped until questions regarding the soldiers are answered.

The fate of a black unit, the 364th Infantry Regiment, has been the center of controversy since Brookhaven author Carroll Case released his book, The Slaughter: An American Atrocity in 1998.

The book alleges that the Army murdered over 1,200 black soldiers at Camp Van Dorn and destroyed records in a cover-up attempt.

Responding to calls for an investigation from U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Army issued a letter stating it researched records of the 364th and found nothing to support Case’s allegations.

Other historians have documented that shortly after the 364th’s arrival at Camp Van Dorn in May of 1943, a private from the regiment was shot and killed in an altercation with a local sheriff off the base.

Dr. R.J. &uot;Dick&uot; Field Jr. told the group he was a 15-year-old in Centreville when that incident occurred.

&uot;I remember hearing rumors at school that the black troops were outraged, and they going to march on Centreville. But I never saw that happen,&uot; Field said.

Field said he believed &uot;two or three&uot; black soldiers may have been shot to dispel a mutiny at the base, but not 1,200.

&uot;The Army located death certificates on some of those soldiers to prove they died years later in other states. I believe Carrol Case’s book did a great disservice to all of us,&uot; Field said.

Odell Anderson asked if the museum committee planned to include information about the allegations in the museum.

Causey said a documentary about Camp Van Dorn was being produced at Southern University and the museum intended to address the issue with an exhibit.

&uot;Right, wrong or indifferent, we’re all part of the legacy,&uot; Causey said.

NAACP chapter vice-president Robert Jackson &045; a veteran with five sons currently in the military &045; said the museum project should go forward.

&uot;Something probably happened at Camp Van Dorn &045; to what extent we don’t know. But we shouldn’t scrap the project on accusations,&uot; Jackson said.