In 1941, the 367th Negro Infantry Regiment (later renamed the 364th) was one of the earliest African-American combat units. On March 1941 it was activated at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana located in central Louisiana outside of the city of Alexandria. The United States Army wanted to keep close tabs on the regiment so they placed white officers over them as their superiors. Instead of a peaceful transition the soldiers were subjected to demeaning and racist behavior from their superiors and virtually treated as slaves. After several regiment members wrote letters to complain, their superiors intercepted the information and politely used it against them. Upon learning of the complaints, the Army intelligence began to label the 364th as "troublemakers". The situation grew worse after they were found to be advocates for the grass roots civil rights movement known as the Victory at Home and Victory Abroad (Double V) campaign.
On January 10, 1942, in Alexandria, Louisiana, during World War II, Lee Street was the city�s hotspot lined with bars and nightclubs. Although there were some entrances for black and white only, hundreds of soldiers from all races were strolling through the district. Sometime during this one particular evening a bar fight broke out after a soldier was accused of assaulting a white woman. The fight quickly ensued into a riot. Many were killed or wounded. Afterwards, the event would be known as the "Lee Street Riots".
In March 1942, a group of 1,000 soldiers were shipped off for overseas deployment and the remaining men were re-designated as the 364th Negro
Infantry Regiment and moved to Camp Papago Park Arizona.
On November 27, 1942, a soldier of the 364th became involved in a dispute with a woman at a restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona. The African-American 733rd Military Police Battalion and local civilian police responded and arrested the soldier. When another group of soldiers protested the arrest shots were fired by the MPs to disperse the crowd. In the ensuing melee at least 14 soldiers, police, and civilians were killed or wounded. Fifteen soldiers were court-martialed for "disobeying orders, mutiny, and inciting a riot." One man, Private Joseph Sipp, was sentenced to death, however, President Roosevelt intervened in his case and had his sentence commuted. The other participants received prison sentences of up to fifty years. This event became the "Phoenix Thanksgiving Massacre". By 1943, the United States Army's African American 364th Infantry Division had been labeled a "problem unit".
On May 26, 1943, the 364th was transferred to Camp Van Dorn, in Centreville, Mississippi to teach them a lesson. When the unit arrived they demanded equal treatment as other soldiers who were serving in the United States Army and pledged to "clean up" the challenge of Jim Crow at every opportunity.
On May 30, 1943, Private William Walker got into a fight with a posse of heavily armed men who attempted to arrest him because of a missing button on his uniform. At the conclusion of the fight, the white MP near the entrance of the base was ordered by the local sheriff: To "shoot this N-word." And he did.
The Army tried to cover this up by claiming Walker had gone AWOL on May 15th but he hadn't. After learning of the incident, members of the 364th broke into base storerooms, took rifles and ammunition, and sought revenge. Between May 30th and June 25th, over 3,000 people participated in race riots and at least 25 African American soldiers were killed.
What exactly happened that summer is still a mystery. The regiment participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers.
According to most 364th regimental documents, those troops not transferred to other units left Camp Van Dorn by train Dec. 26, 1943. After waiting a month or so at Ft. Lawton, near Seattle, Wash., they embarked on three ships for the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska; largely because of the incidents at Phoenix and Camp Van Dorn. Military records show that between 800 and 1,000 (one per day) of the 3,000 men "left" the personnel rosters before the war's end. In other words, from June 1943 until Japan's surrender, about one soldier's name per day disappeared from the 364th's roster.
However, according to some local witnesses, the NAACP and various authors, they have alleged that the Army panicked and decided on a more violent end to the race riots. It has been suggested that the Military Police and a local "riot squad" aka the Ku Klux Klan were called in to take matters into their own hands. They lined up over 1200 members of the 364th and opened fire with automatic weapons. Their bodies were buried in trenches that are now covered by a lake and their relatives notified that they had been "killed in combat". In addition, another scenario has stated that the soldiers� bodies were loaded into railroad cars and shipped off to Chicago, Illinois and other cities up North and quickly disposed.
Today, despite denials by Army investigators, rumors persist that between twenty and one thousand two hundred members of the 364th may have been killed in a conflict at Camp Van Dorn in Centreville, Mississippi. The payroll records for these soldiers are incomplete and suggest that more information is needed to confirm or deny the inevitable.
364th INFANTRY REGIMENT, 1945
100 pages (approximate) - Box 1493
The 364th Infantry Regiment spent the latter part of World War II on security duty in the Aleutian Islands. During 1945 it was based on Amchitka Island where it repulsed several enemy attacks. However, it took part in no large-scale military operations, and was not attached to an infantry division as were most other regiments.
The records of the 364th Regiment consist of several journals and reports which provide detailed information on the operations of the regiment. However, the records cover only scattered dates during March, May, June and July 1945 and do not form a coherent whole. There are also a few maps and map overlays which show the location of the regiment's activities on Amchitka. Several photographs showing the construction of the regiment's base were found with the records. These remaining records have been transferred to the Audio-visual collection of the Eisenhower Library.