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Setting the record straight about Camp Van Dorn

Setting the record straight about Camp Van Dorn

Dear Veterans of the 99th Inf. Division:

     I have been following the developments of "The Mystery of the 364th" as it has been prepared for airing May 20 on The History Channel.

     I take this opportunity to advise you that I am concerned that this "documentary" will provide a less than accurate portrayal of the history of the 364th Infantry and its service at Camp Van Dorn MS, in 1943. In fact, I have reason to believe this documentary will raise again the false allegation that white soldiers at Camp Van Dorn mass-murdered more than 1,200 African-American soldiers on an unspecified date in 1943.

     The Army has refuted the spurious allegation outlined in Case's book and in this "documentary" by Termite Arts, the "documentary" production company.

     We've provided our report, "A Historical Analysis of the 364th Infantry in World War II," and provided on-the-record interviews to Greg DeHart refuting his assertions the Army mass-murdered more than 1,200 African-American soldiers at Camp Van Dorn.

     Since the Checkerboard Division was stationed at Camp Van Dorn during 1943, I thought many of the division veterans should know that this "documentary" will most likely air as listed below. If what is aired on the History Channel is inaccurate, incendiary or misleading, many veterans of the 99th and Camp Van Dorn might want to contact The History Channel and let them know what they think. Likewise, veterans might want to contact Greg DeHart, Termite Arts Productions, and provide him a little feedback on his efforts.

The following is from the Army website:

What Happened at Camp Van Dorn?

     Did you ever hear about a book that said the Army killed more than 1,000 soldiers from the 364th?

     "No, that was a lot of . . . that was a rumor. I don't know. Ain't no such thing. I never heard of that, and I was there. I was attached to the 364th Infantry from the time I went in to the time I got out. If they was such thing as that, you would have heard about it. Soldiers would have heard about it. I think somebody just made that up. Exaggerated, you know."

Magie Shumate, in an interview, August 1999. (He served in the band, 364th Infantry, Technician Grade 5, Tech5, Aug. 8, 1941-Dec. 11, 1945.)

     "We aren't saying the Army is wrong, but we don't have the personnel here to confirm what they found," NAACP spokesman John C. White said today. "We are saying we need a third party to offer an objective look at the matter. If the Justice Department signs off on the Army report, we will be satisfied," White said.

Associated Press, December 1999

     "We now have had the opportunity to review the Army's report, as well as the book "The Slaughter: An American Atrocity," by Carroll Case, and we believe the Army's report adequately demonstrates that the allegations are unfounded. Based on the available evidentiary record, we are satisfied that there is not a sufficient basis for additional investigation of the allegations by the Department of Justice."

Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice in a March 10, 2000, letter to the NAACP

What happened at Camp Van Dorn? Nothing.

     Rumors, myths, and legends surround many military units, bases, or locations. This is true concerning the 364th Infantry Regiment and its service during World War II. Despite the lack of any proof, there has been a persistent rumor of a supposed "slaughter" of many members of the 364th one night in 1943 at Camp Van Dorn MS. This incendiary allegation was so striking it generated stories in the media and prompted concerns from a member of Congress and the NAACP. To address these concerns, the Army reviewed more than a quarter-million records and documents, interviewed 66 veterans of the 364th Infantry, and produced a report refuting these allegations — allegations also termed as "unfounded" by the Department of Justice.

     When this incendiary allegation first emerged in the national media in 1998, the Army conducted an extensive investigation and refuted and disproved the entire allegation in detail oin a report published in December 1999, and provided this information to the NAACP and members of Congress. The Department of Justice concurred with the Army's findings and saw no need for further investigation. Since then, however, the allegation has periodically resurfaced in the media.

     The Army has been responding to these media inquiries and has provided "A Historical Analysis of the 364th Infantry in World War II" to demonstrate that the allegations were completely false. Although we continue to provide this factual information to the media, there are concerns that facts are not being accurately or consistently represented to the American people. The Army is therefore providing the complete report with additional information on this website.

     So why are there still stories, reports, and TV shows alleging the Army murdered its own soldiers? That question is perhaps best asked of those who continue to repeat these rumors and false allegations. In retelling this story, they place in question the honor and credibility of the thousands of veterans — of all races — who served at Camp Van Dorn in 1943. Those who believe the allegations of "a slaughter" is true also are apparently willing to believe that none of these veterans has come forward in 50 years to report the supposed atrocity.

     Regardless, certain parties continue to prey on the fears and emotions, using incomplete research and asking speculative questions. They seek to provide a sensationalized version of the experiences of an African-American Army unit, the 364th Infantry Regiment, while at Camp Van Dorn MS, in 1943.

A few facts to consider

     Since this rumor emerged in 1998, no name or names have been reported to the Army of a soldier killed or missing at Camp Van Dorn. (See paragraph 3.1 of the Army's report for the names of the four members of the 364th who died between May and December 1943 while stationed at Camp Van Dorn.)

     No one has come forward with any physical evidence — graves, remains, forensic evidence — anything that remotely supports any assertion of mass murder at Camp Van Dorn.

     There were thousands of other soldiers at Camp Van Dorn while the 364th was assigned there — not one veteran of any of these units has come forward to confirm these allegations.

     In spite of media coverage in 1998, no credible information of a crime of this magnitude has been reported to any authorities.

     No eyewitness has ever come forward to identify any of the victims or perpetrators, or have been able to provide a consistent location for this alleged "slaughter."

     Even after "extensive" research by those supporting the rumors, they cannot even agree on a date that this alleged event occurred, other than sometime in 1943.