Saturday, April 10, 2010

Life has been fraught with activity -- rehearsing for Vagina Monologues plus the usual workload plus driving to Berkeley to visit with Dorian each day ... 

This last sentence in that paragraph from the Golden Gate National Cemetery has continued to haunt my days ...

"...  Additionally, 24 African Americans who perished while loading Liberty Ships in the Port Chicago incident on July 17, 1944, and whose remains were unidentifiable, are buried as unknowns in Section P."
  •  Why are those men not identified as Navy men, only as African Americans, who may well have been civilian stevedores?  We know they were sailors.  Does that mean that the Navy didn't claim them as real servicemen and therefore not entitled to full military protocols in these final rites?
  • ... but that could hardly be true since they were tried for mutiny in trials conducted by the Navy.
  • And, why is the word "ammunition" not used before the words "Liberty Ships" which would have given the sentence more relevance, and
  • in describing the deadly Port Chicago explosion that vaporized two ships and 302 lives as an "incident," did it not dramatically understate both the magnitude of the tragic event and the loss of life? 
  • When there were 302 lives lost in all (220 of whom were black), why was the number reduced to "24 African Americans," though I'm sure the intent was to use the 24 as proxy for the many who died on that day.  The sentence as stated fails to account for 196 young black men as never having lived at all.
  • Of the 302 who perished, 82 were white servicemen (Maritime and Navy). Where are they buried since the graveside rites in the Joseph photo are being held in the Negro Section P.  Were the others given full honors, including flag-draped caskets?
  • Since the memorial has the names of all those who died on that fateful day etched in the marble monument at Port Chicago, one would suppose that there would have been an updating of the information in the annals of the national cemetery that might answer these questions.
  • And, finally, after six lines of description of the burials of German and Italian Prisoners of War, almost as an afterthought, "additionally, 24 African Americans ... "
You can see by my questions that little has been resolved, though I've posed them to a military expert who is a specialist in all things WWII, and -- though I'm not sure when -- I should hear soon and will pass what I learn along to you.  There must be a story here that needs telling.  And in the telling, we are describing circumstances in which a fair trial was impossible.  As the nation's history has continued to evolve toward enlightenment, it is time to support those working to remove the stain of what many sincerely believed to have been unjust convictions.  Finding answers to questions long buried with the victims may be critical. One would hope that exoneration is still possible before any more die in shame.

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