BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó

          |SENATE RULES COMMITTEE            |                        AJR 33|
          |Office of Senate Floor Analyses   |                              |
          |(916) 651-1520    Fax: (916)      |                              |
          |327-4478                          |                              |


          Bill No:  AJR 33
          Author:   Bonilla (D) and Thurmond (D), et al.
          Amended:  5/5/16 in Assembly
          Vote:     21 

           AYES:  Nielsen, Hueso, Allen, Nguyen, Roth

           ASSEMBLY FLOOR:  78-0, 5/5/16 - See last page for vote

           SUBJECT:   Port Chicago disaster:  African American Sailors of  
                     the United States Navy

          SOURCE:    Author

          DIGEST:   This resolution urges the Congress of the United  
          States to publicly exonerate the 50 African American sailors of  
          the United States Navy, who were inappropriately tried for and  
          convicted of mutiny in connection with the Port Chicago Naval  
          Magazine incident (July 1944), and to retroactively convert the  
          general discharge granted to each of those sailors to an  
          honorable discharge.

          ANALYSIS:  This resolution makes the following legislative  

           1) The deadliest home-front disaster of World War II occurred  
             at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine in Concord, California, on  
             July 17, 1944, when an explosion at the naval facility killed  
             or wounded 710 people, 435 of whom were African American.


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           2) This single disaster accounted for more than 15 percent of  
             all African American naval casualties during World War II.

           3) After the disaster, 258 African American survivors of the  
             explosion refused to resume the loading and unloading of  
             ammunition at the naval facility, citing inadequate training  
             and the use of unsafe practices.

           4) According to a United States Navy report, "the actual work  
             of loading ammunition and explosives aboard the ships was  
             performed exclusively by Afro-Americans under the supervision  
             of white officers and Afro-American petty officers" and "the  
             routine assignment of Afro-American enlisted personnel to  
             manual labor was clearly motivated by race and premised upon  
             the mistaken notion that they were intellectually inferior  
             and thus incapable of meeting the same standards as their  
             white counterparts."

           5) One of the ships was loaded with around 4,600 tons of  
             ammunition and high explosives, some of which weighed 650  
             pounds with activating mechanisms or fuses installed.

           6) At that time there was no formal training in safe methods of  
             ammunition handling given to enlisted men, and the United  
             States Navy failed to adequately provide these men with the  
             tools necessary to operate under safe working conditions,  
             even after the explosion occurred.

           7) Weeks before the explosion, the longshoremen's union warned  
             the United States Navy that there would be a disaster if the  
             Navy continued to use untrained seamen to load ammunition and  
             offered to send experienced longshoremen to train Navy  
             recruits in safe handling of ammunition, but this offer from  
             the union was ignored by the United States Navy.


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           8) Subsequent research has confirmed the use of unsafe  
             ammunition loading methods at the naval facility at the time  
             and has recognized the existence of pervasive racial  
             prejudice in the United States Navy during World War II.

           9) As documented in the book "The Port Chicago Mutiny" by Dr.  
             Robert L. Allen, a worker described Port Chicago as a "slave  
             outfit," adding that "we were considered a cheap labor force  
             from the beginning."

           10)White officers would encourage African American sailors to  
             compete while loading ammunition and explosives while those  
             officers placed bets among themselves.

           11)Following the explosion, many of the African American  
             survivors expected to be granted survivors' leave before  
             being reassigned to regular duty, but that leave was not  
             granted, even for those who had been hospitalized, and all  
             African American men were sent back to work loading  
             ammunition under the same officers as before.

           12)White officers were permitted to go home for 30-day leaves.

           13)Fifty sailors of the United States Navy, all African  
             American men, ultimately were tried and convicted of mutiny  
             for failing to obey orders to resume loading activities.

           14)A mutiny is active revolt with the intent of taking charge,  
             but a refusal to work is a passive act of resistance without  
             intent to seize power.

           15)Thurgood Marshall, then a chief counsel for the NAACP, was  
             reported to state he saw no reason why the men should be  
             tried for mutiny, which implies a mass conspiracy, rather  


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             than on lesser charges of individual subordination and  
             blasted the trial by stating that the defendants were being  
             tried for mutiny "solely because of their race and color."

           16)The United States Navy has 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 similar racial prejudicial bias has  
             been documented in the conduct of the trial that resulted in  
             the court-martial of the sailors at Port Chicago.

           17)Virtually all of the convicted sailors were released from  
             prison early in 1946 and were given a general discharge from  
             the Navy "under honorable conditions," and the United States  
             Navy announced at the time that race would no longer be a  
             factor in filling its jobs.

           18)In 1999, Freddie Meeks was pardoned by President Bill  
             Clinton in recognition of the injustice he suffered as one of  
             the convicted sailors, and at the time of his pardon, Mr.  
             Meeks said, "After all these years, the world should know  
             what happened at Port Chicago. It should be cleared up that  
             we did not commit mutiny, and we were charged with that  
             because of our race."

           19)In 2003, the National Park Service dedicated the Port  
             Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial at the disaster  
             site, which serves not only as a tribute to the 320 men who  
             died in that World War II explosion, but also as an  
             acknowledgment of that event as the touchstone for  
             desegregation in the military and the beginning of civil  
             rights for all Americans.

           20)In a July 17, 2014, letter recognizing the 70th anniversary  
             of the tragedy, President Barack Obama acknowledged the  
             African American sailors at Port Chicago, stating, "Faced  
             with tremendous obstacles, they fought on two fronts - for  


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             freedom abroad and equality at home."

           21)All of the sailors involved in the Port Chicago cases have  
             passed away, but their family members and friends continue to  
             request that the sailors be cleared of all charges.  

           Related/Prior Legislation

          SR 69 (Glazer, 2016) urges the President and Congress of the  
          United States to exonerate, clear the records of restore honor  
          to, and rectify federal military mistreatment of,  
          African-American sailors unjustly convicted of mutiny regarding  
          the 1944 Port Chicago disaster. This resolution is pending on  
          Senate Third Reading.
           SJR 21 (Wright, Resolution Chapter 47, Statutes of 2010)  
          memorialized Congress and the President to vindicate the sailors  
          unjustly blamed for and convicted of mutiny following the Port  
          Chicago disaster, and to rectify any related mistreatment.  

           FISCAL EFFECT:   Appropriation:    No          Fiscal  
          Com.:NoLocal:    No

          SUPPORT:   (Verified6/15/16)

          American G.I. Forum of California
          American Legion - Department of California
          AMVETS - Department of California
          California Association of County Veterans Service Officers 
          California State Commanders Veteran Council
          Military Officers Association of America - California Council of  
          Veterans of Foreign Wars - Department of California
          Vietnam Veterans of American - California State Council
          One individual


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          OPPOSITION:   (Verified6/15/16)

          None received
          ASSEMBLY FLOOR:  78-0, 5/5/16
          AYES:  Achadjian, Alejo, Travis Allen, Arambula, Atkins, Baker,  
            Bigelow, Bloom, Bonilla, Bonta, Brough, Brown, Burke,  
            Calderon, Campos, Chang, Chau, Chávez, Chiu, Chu, Cooley,  
            Cooper, Dababneh, Dahle, Daly, Dodd, Eggman, Frazier,  
            Gallagher, Cristina Garcia, Eduardo Garcia, Gatto, Gipson,  
            Gomez, Gonzalez, Gordon, Gray, Grove, Hadley, Harper, Roger  
            Hernández, Holden, Irwin, Jones, Kim, Lackey, Levine, Linder,  
            Lopez, Low, Maienschein, Mathis, Mayes, McCarty, Medina,  
            Melendez, Mullin, Nazarian, Obernolte, O'Donnell, Olsen,  
            Patterson, Quirk, Ridley-Thomas, Rodriguez, Salas, Santiago,  
            Steinorth, Mark Stone, Thurmond, Ting, Wagner, Waldron, Weber,  
            Wilk, Williams, Wood, Rendon
          NO VOTE RECORDED:  Beth Gaines, Jones-Sawyer

          Prepared by:Wade Cooper Teasdale / V.A. / (916) 651-1503
          6/15/16 17:24:43

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