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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Department of Book Reports: On American Soil

Jackson Street Books was proud to be an early fan of On American Soil: How Justice Became a Casualty of World War II (University of Washington Press, $19.95). Jack Hamann came and spoke at our store on August 12, 2005. At that time, he was going to be speaking at Fort Lawton next. The book was just starting to get some attention, and it was exciting to be in on this from the beginning. Jack was telling us about getting a copy to Rep. Jim McDermott. In 2005, after reading On American Soil, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) introduced HR 3174.

Seattle P.I.

On the evening of August 14, 1944, a riot occurred at Seattle’s Fort Lawton. Black troops from segregated units beat up Italian Prisoners Of War along with the four American officers guarding them. Later that night, one of the Italians was lynched – hanged from a wire at the foot of Magnolia Bluff. The story told at the time and passed into history – until now – was that the American black soldiers resented the Italian Prisoners of War for their seemingly greater privileges and amenities. The incident had international repercussions, and the Army charged forty-three black soldiers with rioting and three with murder (despite no evidence linking these men to the hanging). At the time all records of the case, including the Army’s internal investigation, were classified. Jack Hamann’s riveting book, based on recently declassified documents, questions every supposed fact in the case.

Jack Hamann spoke with Tavis Smiley in September of that year. On American Soil was a top ten Booksense History pick.

The Hamanns' research into this case would pay off in ways they could never have seen. McDermott's bill would pass, and bring about talk of restitution for the families. This weekend, a public Tribute will be held at Fort Lawton and the Army is expected to formally apologize to the 2 surviving soldiers and the other's family members. On Saturday, one of the soldiers, Samuel Snow will ride in the Seafair Torchlight Parade.

Congratulations Jack & Leslie! Your good work has really brought some justice. I don't know when I've ever seen a book change the world as much as yours has.

On American Soil is available at Fine Independent Bookstores Everywhere!

UPDATE Monday July 28 Honored by his country at last, man accused in WWII lynching dies in peace

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