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Mystery of Camp Van Dorn

Written by: Darren Dedo
Case Filed: 05/17/01 - Centreville, Mississippi
Executive Producer: Rick Garner
5-part investigation and hours of raw footage!



Theodore Bullock is retired but he has 21 years of public service under his belt, including being President of the Pike County Board of Supervisors. Bullock has heard many tales of what happened at Camp Van Dorn. "What they was saying was the U.S. Army, they decided to kill these people on account of their reputation...things that they had done."

Dr. Lucious Lampton is Editor of the Magnolia Gazette. He grew up with stories shared by his father about the Army base. "There were stories of a shooting out there, in which a number of black soldiers had been shot and killed."

Could something so horrible be true?


"I understand why the army did something," says Paige Cothren, a retired Army Major. "I disagree with their methods."

What happened at Camp Van Dorn in Centreville, Mississippi remains unexplained. In 1943, an uprising by segregated black soldiers of the 364th infantry led to alleged racial violence and possible atrocities.

Carroll Case, author of "The Slaughter" started a firestorm when his book was first published in 1998.

"The story is basically the fact is that the Army could not deal with a group of soldiers - the 364th. All black group. And they had to find a solution and I believe, as I state in my book, the solution was to kill these men and to hide them, hide their bodies and to cover the story up."

Ron Caulfield's father researched the incident before his death. Ron believes payroll documents prove the soldiers weren't massacred. His father collected rosters of the 364th from July to August of 1943 which account for soldiers getting paid.

There are a lot of declassified documents that say the incident never happened at Camp Van Dorn, but some believe those documents have been doctored to cover up the shooting.

"There are actually two Army reports," says Case. "The first Army report was not even accepted by the NAACP or anyone else. It was quickly done and did not answer the questions. In fact, there are still 20 questions that have been unanswered in the second report."

Those who were living back then, remember word of the incident.

"I know there were several hundred," recalls Cothren. "I can just remember the picture in my little mind at the time, in my eight-year-old-mind, there being several hundred. I remember trying to picture that."

Some felt compelled to share their story with Edyth Lensing, a bookstore owner and local tour guide. She recalls one tale of an elderly African-American man. "And he said he was trying to get back into the base, evidently he had snuck out. He was trying to sneak back in into the base. He was kind of crawling through some bushes and was above all of this when it happened and he saw it, and he was absolutely terrified."

Fear of a Japanese attack increased hysteria during war-time. Some believe the Army covered up the incident to avoid public scrutiny.

"And we had nothing to stop Japan from crossing the Mississippi River except a few Nebraska farmers with shotguns...we were fearing four our lives!" says Cothren.

Author Carroll Case paints this picture. "This is not about Mississippi people killing anyone. Unfortunately, this incident took place in Mississippi, but it's a situation where the Army killed their own men."

This is an Army matter," says Lampton. "Questions about this tragedy need to be directed at the Army and the Army needs to answer these questions."

Caulfield shares his belief. "The story of 1,200 of being massacred just from what I've read and seen and common sense tells me...if 1,200 people were missing...1,200 families would be looking."

To this day, the U.S. Army maintains it's position that blood wasn't shed at Camp Van Dorn, but for those who worked and lived near the camp that mysterious day will remain fresh in their minds.

The only documented death involving an African-American soldier from Camp Van Dorn is that of Private William Walker. He was shot by the town's sheriff.

Additional Resources:




"Betty" Full Video Interview


Malcolm LaPlace Full Video Interview


"Mister X" Full Video Interview


Lt. Col. Charles Graul: Full Video Interview


Author Carroll Case: Full Video Interview


Ron Caulfield: Full Video Interview


Paige Cothren: Full Video Interview


Dr. Lucius Lampton: Full Video Interview


Edythe Lensing: Full Video Interview


Theodore Bullock: Full Video Interview


NEW Congressman Bennie Thompson Letter

Comments

  1. Are there any members of the 364th still alive?? All you've noted hear as 'witnesses' are the local whites whose parents and grandparents did not give a rats rear about blacks, and even more so about black soldiers in WWII

    ReplyDelete
  2. In our investigations in 2001, we did not locate any surviving members of the 364th. Theodore Bullock, while not a witness, is African-American and offered details on stories he had heard since age 15.

    ReplyDelete

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