On American Soil

How Justice Became a Casualty of World War II

Jack Hamann

  • Published: 2007
  • Subject Listing: History / Western History; African American Studies; Pacific Northwest / History
  • Bibliographic information: 384 pp., 11 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Series: V Ethel Willis White Books
  • Contents

During the night of August 14, 1944, an Italian prisoner of war was lynched on the Fort Lawton army base in Seattle - a murder that shocked the nation and the international community. It was a time of deep segregation in the army, and the War Department was quick to charge three African American soldiers with first-degree murder, although there was no evidence linking them to the crime. Forty other black soldiers faced lesser charges over the incident, launching one of the largest and longest army trials of World War II.

In this harrowing story of race, privilege, and power, Jack Hamann explores the most overlooked civil rights event in American history. On American Soil raises important questions about how justice is carried out when a country is at war, offering vital lessons on the tensions between national security and individual rights.

For more about the author visit his website:
Jack Hamann has been a news reporter, network correspondent, and documentary producer for more than two decades and has served most recently as Seattle bureau chief for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He has won ten Emmy Awards for his work. On American Soil won the 2005 Investigative Reporters and Editors Book Award; previous winners include Bob Woodward, Seymour Hersh, and Neil Sheehan, among others.

"Not only riveting, On American Soil is also essential reading for anyone concerned about the delicate balance between national security and individual rights. Jack Hamann proves that a true tale well told can be as gripping as fiction."
-James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers and Flyboys

"Rarely has a book inspired legislation in the U.S. Congress, but that is exactly what happened with Jack Hamann's On American Soil. I had barely finished reading it before I instructed my staff to introduce legislation directing the Secretary of the Army to re-open the cases of the African American soldiers, find the truth, and correct any injustice found. This is an important book, and I hope many more people have the opportunity to read it."
-Congressman Jim McDermott

Preface to the 2007 Edition
Author's Note
U.S. Army Ranks during World War II

Prologue: August 15, 1944
1. Camp Florence: June 1944
2. Fort Lawton: June 1944
3. Mollycoddling: July 1944
4. The Life of Reilly: Early August 1944
5. Riot: August, 14, 1944
6. Bad Press: Late August 1944
7. Cookie: September 1944
8. Jaworski: October 1944
9. Beeks: Early November 1944
10. Prosecution: Late November 1944
11. Defense: Early December 1944
12. Verdict: Late December 1944

Notes of Sources

"This is an excellent book and it is highly recommended. It is meticulously researched, well presented, and beautifully written. And given the details and complexities of the events surrounding the riot and court martial, the story is easy to follow. Hamann provides short, but colorful narrative descriptions of many of the key protagonists. . . . Historians should take note."
-Journal of African American History

"An interesting and revealing book."
-Blue Ridge Business Journal

"A welcome piece of military history, adroitly balancing racism and legal questions in one story."
-Kirkus Reviews

"Jack Hamann has crafted an impressive debut book that is painstakingly researched and documented but also manages to be an enthralling read."
-Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"This book reads like an outstanding piece of literary fiction, but it is investigative reporting of the highest order. Hamann uncovered a web of lies in a book that holds lessons for today on the tensions between national security and individual rights."
-Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc.

"A surprisingly relevant work about prejudice, scapegoats, and cover-ups in a time of war."
-Daily Nebraskan

"The storyline that Hamann uncovers is compelling enough. But it is the crime's historical context - wartime racial dynamics, colossal Army incompetence, international political implications, and the (humane) treatment of POWs, for example - that makes this book so relevant now."