Wednesday, August 29, 2001

Camp Van Dorn: Political Pressure

Written by: Darren Dedo
Case Filed: 08/29/01 - Centreville, Mississippi
Executive Producer: Rick Garner
Part 4 of 4

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From the beginning, the Army has said black soldiers of the 364th Infantry were not gunned down by white MP's at Camp Van Dorn in Centreville Mississippi.

"Not one name, not a place where all of these people are buried, not even a day of when it took place or individuals that were allegedly involved in the taking of these lives," says Fmr. Dep. Asst. Sec. Of Defense William E. Leftwich, III.

It's been two years since the Army did their "Historical Analysis of the 364th Infantry." However, according to Congressman Bennie Thompson, the Army admits there are holes in their original investigation.


"They have expanded the investigation into start looking at all of the people that they can identify who served at Camp Van Dorn."

On June 12, 2001, Congressman Thompson sent a letter to the Armed Services Committee asking for a new investigation of Camp Van Dorn. On September 19, the Army, Justice Department, and General Accounting Office will talk about a new investigation of racial violence at Camp Van Dorn.

"(The Army has) already indicated they would come. Just the method of how the investigation was conducted brought a number of issues to question. I think this is why the Army is new relooking into the issue."

NAACP President & CEO Kweisi Mfume adds, "The book is not closed, you only close it by making sure you've exhausted every avenue and uncovered every fact and reported it publicly."

The NAACP has been skeptical about the Army's original investigation of the alleged incident. The organization smelled a conspiracy after being denied access to some Army files. Army officials downplayed the incident.

"No information was kept back from the NAACP, says Lt. Col. Charles Graul. "The Army's team found those records first simply because we were doing the research and we passed the identity of those records onto the NAACP so they could review them."

Congressman Thompson got the Army to investigate alleged violence at Camp Van Dorn. The Army interviewed 66 former members of the 364th. These men said that violence didn't happen at the camp. However, there were other members of the infantry that weren't contacted and military policemen were not questioned. In this new investigation, the Army will talk with 100 new sources that had knowledge of the camp.

"No matter what they told them, they did it right opposite of what the we're told to do, that was from the very beginning."

"Betty," a former civilian employee at Camp Van Dorn, worked at the camp for three years. She says black soldiers were killed.

"It upset me, I thought, 'My God, they belonged to somebody, they've got parents somewhere!'"

"Betty" says the men of the 364th Infantry had a bad reputation. Some people speculate that black soldiers were brought to segregated Mississippi to teach them a lesson. Remember, the 364th was involved in a deadly riot in Phoenix, Arizona, before being sent to Mississippi.

The Army says a trip to Camp Van Dorn wasn't their punishment. "Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi, was the first infantry training installation that had sufficient barrack capacity for a regiment," says Lt. Col. Graul. "It was simply the only place they could go quickly to be trained for their overseas movement."

Several of our sources say the shooting happened during the Fall. "Betty" says she can't recall an exact date, but knows for sure it was 3:30 p.m. on a Fall, Sunday afternoon. Like our source "Mister X" told us. The bodies were sent on rail cars.

"I said, 'What did you do with them?' (The MP) said we took them over to the railroad station and threw them in boxcars and sent them to New Orleans." You can watch most of the interview with "Betty" at the bottom of this article.

With a new investigation, new witnesses and a fresh look at Camp Van Dorn, this mystery might be close to being solved. 58-years later, maybe now we'll really find out what happened in Centreville, Mississippi.

The 364th was eventually shipped to the Aleutian Islands around Christmas of 1943. Some of them did see action during the war, but there departure from Mississippi remains a mystery to many.

On September 19, 2001, the Army, Justice Department and General Accounting office will meet in Congressman Thompson's office. At first, NEWSCHANNEL 12, author Carroll Case and members of the NAACP were invited to attend. The Army has changed their minds and have told Congressman Thompson's representatives they will not attend the meeting if Darren and the others come to Congressman Thompson's office.

Additional Resources:




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"Betty" Full Video Interview

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Malcolm LaPlace Full Video Interview

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"Mister X" Full Video Interview

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Lt. Col. Charles Graul: Full Video Interview

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Author Carroll Case: Full Video Interview

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Ron Caulfield: Full Video Interview

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Paige Cothren: Full Video Interview

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Dr. Lucius Lampton: Full Video Interview

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Edythe Lensing: Full Video Interview

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Theodore Bullock: Full Video Interview


NEW Congressman Bennie Thompson Letter

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