BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó

                                                                     AJR 33

                                                                    Page  1


          33 (Bonilla and Thurmond)

          As Introduced  March 7, 2016

          Majority vote

          |Committee       |Votes|Ayes                  |Noes                |
          |                |     |                      |                    |
          |                |     |                      |                    |
          |                |     |                      |                    |
          |Veterans        |9-0  |Irwin, Chávez,        |                    |
          |Affairs         |     |Achadjian, Alejo,     |                    |
          |                |     |Brown, Daly, Frazier, |                    |
          |                |     |Mathis, Salas         |                    |
          |                |     |                      |                    |
          |                |     |                      |                    |

          SUMMARY:  Urges the United States to take certain actions with  
          regard to a disaster at the Chicago Naval Magazine in Port  
          Chicago, California.  Specifically, this resolution would have  
          the Legislature resolve:

          1)To urge recognition that the trial and conviction of the 50  
            African American sailors of the United States Navy for mutiny  
            in connection with their service at the Port Chicago Naval  
            Magazine in Concord, California, during World War II were  
            wrongfully pursued because of racial prejudice


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          2)To urge the Congress to publicly exonerate those 50 African  
            American sailors of the United States Navy in order to further  
            aid in healing the racial divide that continues to exist in  
            the United States.

          3)To urge Congress to take action to retroactively convert the  
            general discharge granted to each of the 50 African American  
            sailors to an honorable discharge; and

          4)To transmit the resolution as specified.  

          FISCAL EFFECT:  This bill is not keyed fiscal.

          COMMENTS:  According to the Author: 

            In 1944 during World War II, the Port Chicago Naval Magazine  
            transported bombs, shells, and mines among other  
            ammunitions.  Loading ammunition and explosives was  
            performed exclusively by African American sailors under the  
            supervision of white officers.  Despite the warnings from  
            the longshoremen's union, the United States Navy failed to  
            adequately provide the African American sailors with the  
            proper tools necessary to operate under safe working  
            conditions.  An explosion [on July 14, 1944] at the port  
            killed over 300 men and wounded even more, most of whom were  
            African American.  Many of the survivors refused to resume  
            loading ammunitions, citing unsafe working conditions, and  
            ultimately 50 African American men were convicted of muting  
            for failing to obey orders.

          The Port Chicago disaster is a tragedy that accounted for more  


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          than 15% of all African American naval casualties during World  
          War II.  After refusing to work without proper training under  
          the same unsafe conditions that resulted in the explosion, 50  
          African Americans were tried and convicted of mutiny for failing  
          to resume loading.  As a result of the appeals process at the  
          end of the war, their sentences were reduced and almost all were  
          released by early 1946.

          The United States Navy concluded that there can be "no doubt  
          that racial prejudice was responsible for the posting of  
          Afro-American enlisted personnel to the loading divisions at  
          Port Chicago" and this same bias was documented in the trial for  
          the African American sailors.  It has been recorded that white  
          officers encouraged African American sailors to compete while  
          loading ammunition and explosives while they placed bets among  
          themselves.  Furthermore, many of the African American survivors  
          expecting to be granted survivors' leave before being reassigned  
          to regular duty were given none, while white officers were  
          permitted to go home for 30-day leaves.

          The definition of mutiny itself has been debated as it relates  
          to this trial.  Mutiny, as legally defined, assumes the intent  
          to seize command while the sailors on trial pursued a passive  
          act of resistance in their refusal to work due to extremely  
          dangerous conditions.  Thurgood Marshall stated he saw no reason  
          why the men should be tried for mutiny rather than on lesser  
          charges of individual subordination and insisted they were being  
          tried for mutiny "solely because of their race and color."

          As California and the United States have sought to increase  
          protections as they relate to race and workers' conditions, it  
          is important that the state and federal government recognize the  
          errors of the past and attempt to make amends.  The officers  
          needlessly and deliberately put African American workers in  
          harm's way and the court's insistence that they be convicted of  
          mutiny for refusing to work under the circumstances is unjust.   


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          Despite being members of the military, these sailors were  
          discriminated against based on their race.  Though action to  
          alter their convictions and characterization of discharges is  
          within the exclusive purview of the Congress and the federal  
          government, this resolution is a statement by California both to  
          the public and to the federal government about the injustice and  
          loss of life that occurred as a result of the Port Chicago  

          Analysis Prepared by:                                             
          Ryan VanZuylen and John Spangler / V.A. / (916) 319-3550  FN: