Kennedys approved
segregation of Army

Black troops separated from whites before '62 deployment at university

By Jon Dougherty
© 2001 President John F. Kennedy ordered nearly 4,000 black soldiers to be segregated from a federal force of 20,000 troops deployed to quell a race riot at the University of Mississippi in 1962, according to the author of a new book who says the revelation is confirmed by Pentagon documents he discovered during his research. According to William Doyle, author of "An American Insurrection: The Battle of Oxford, Mississippi, 1962," JFK and his brother, then-U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, secretly approved the forced segregation plan before sending the combat force into one of the most heavily segregated states in the union at the time. The troops had been ordered in to support U.S. marshals who had already deployed to the university to enforce a federal court's desegregation ruling. A federal court had ordered the school to admit its first black student, James Meredith. Shortly after the ruling was issued, thousands of armed whites began assembling at the university to block the marshals from carrying out the order. JFK, in turn, eventually ordered the troops to face down – or do battle with – the civilian force. In the days before the troops were sent in, however, Army documents discovered by Doyle say Robert Kennedy approved a "pre-segregation" plan offered up by Army officials during a meeting in his Justice Department office on Sept. 27, 1962. The "Battle of Oxford" spanned 14 hours from Sept. 30-Oct.1, 1962, resulted in 375 civilian and military casualties and over 300 civilian arrests. The incident included one of the largest federal confiscations of privately held firearms, and two civilian gunshot deaths that occurred during the rioting remain a mystery. Doyle said Army documents also say JFK discussed an across-the-board segregation plan with Pentagon officials after the incident occurred – during an Oct. 3, 1962, meeting – before formally revoking the Oxford order Oct. 5. The author said he found details of the segregation plan were outlined in a written Army account of the incident dated 1965 – after JFK's death but before Robert Kennedy was shot and killed June 5, 1968. He added that he suspects the plan may have been hatched by Army officials – as well as the Kennedys and some powerful white Southern politicians – over concern that the specter of armed black troops would incite further violence in an already racially volatile situation. "The Kennedys approved the segregation to avoid the political embarrassment of having black troops with high-powered rifles patrolling the streets of America's most segregated state," Doyle said. He called the incident "a disgraceful episode in American history." Doyle said the segregation order was confirmed in scores of separate interviews he conducted between 1998 and earlier this year with officers and men – both black and white – who participated in the Oxford operation. They relayed stories of disbelief, written protests and a near-riot by soldiers over the order. One black sergeant of the 101st Airborne, Doyle said, "relayed the order to his men with tears in his eyes." At Fort Bragg, N.C., the white officers of the 503rd Military Police Battalion tore up the order and threw it in a trash can. "The order violated nearly 14 years of Army practice since President Truman's 1948 executive order desegregating the U.S. military," Doyle said, adding that in 1962, the 1-million man U.S. Army was "on the whole, functioning extremely well as a racially integrated American institution, with a great many black leaders in the front ranks." The order affected thousands of black troops and officers of the elite Army Military Police, elite paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, and foot soldiers of the Second Infantry Indianhead Division. The 11,000-strong Mississippi National Guard, which was also mobilized for the operation, was not affected by the order because it was an all-white force at the time. "In a supreme humiliation," Doyle said, "squads of proud black paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division were stripped of their helmets and guns and forced to perform garbage duties on the campus of the University of Mississippi while white students laughed at them." However, because of the use of a large number of federal troops, the incident marked the last time there was "massive resistance" to forced desegregation, Doyle said. Other evidence related to the incident uncovered by Doyle include:
FBI and Pentagon documents reveal details of a surprise raid by members of 716th Military Police Battalion on the Sigma Nu house, the fraternity presided over by chapter president Trent Lott, currently a Republican senator from Mississippi who serves as the Senate minority leader. Inside the frat house, MPs found and removed 24 weapons – 21 shotguns, a .22 rifle, a .30 caliber rifle and a .22 Colt pistol. Lott, Doyle said, refused to be interviewed for the book;

Though the government denied any culpability at the time, FBI documents and author interviews confirmed that "beleaguered" U.S. marshals were forced to open fire with a minimum of 14 shots toward a hijacked fire engine, which raised the possibility that a bystander was killed by one of their stray shots;

ence was also discovered suggesting that JFK, on the day of the crisis, "summoned quack New York doctor Max ('Dr. Feelgood') Jacobson to the White House by private plane to inject him with amphetamine, a highly dangerous psychoactive drug," said a press release.In what he calls a "final disgrace," Doyle found a document written by the adjutant general's office, U.S. Continental Army Command, Fort Monroe, Va., denying the Army Commendation Medal for heroism for scores of soldiers nominated by commanders. "Recommend disapproval of award of the Army Commendation Medal in each of the 40 attached recommendations," said the document. ... The focus of additional attention on the incident would not be in the best interest of the U.S. Army or the nation. ... Decorations should not be awarded for actions involving conflict between U.S. Army units and other Americans." During his interview with WorldNetDaily, Doyle said the entire episode dispels the belief that the Kennedy brothers were "willing civil-rights heroes." "I think this demonstrates clearly one of the fundamental realities of that amazing period in our history, which is that John and Robert Kennedy may have had nice feelings toward the concept of civil rights as a theoretical goal in the distant future," Doyle said, "but they did not see it as an immediate policy objective." He added that "they had to be forced to deal with this by the real heroes of that era – the James Merediths and [Martin Luther] Kings and the people in the streets." "The way they dealt with this crisis is proof of that," he said. Noting that "it may be easy to look at 1962 in 2001 terms and say, 'Well, that was a different era – the whole country was different,'" Doyle said. "But in point of fact, the Army was functioning as – in most cases – a very well-running, fully integrated American institution in the front ranks." The Kennedy's "did this to avoid political embarrassment," he said. "John Stennis, a very powerful Democratic senator from Mississippi of the time, called up the Kennedys and basically said, 'You damn well better not send us any black troops down here.' They essentially replied, 'Yes, sir, Mr. Stennis.'" "The two Kennedy brothers were 'segregationist collaborators,' like most white Americans were then," he said. "To understand the period, I believe we have to understand this crisis and the unknown drama of this crisis." Calling Meredith "a personal hero of mine," Doyle said it was a "joy" to talk to him about the incident that occurred so many years ago and that "he's still in action."

Jon E. Dougherty is a staff reporter and columnist for WorldNetDaily, and author of the special report, "Election 2000: How the Military Vote Was Suppressed."