The Freeman Field Mutiny;
Cliff’s Notes Version
By Larry Bothe, 8/23/2020
During the spring of 1945, as WWII was winding down, 2 squadrons of the all-black 477th Bombardment Group were sent to Freeman Field to continue their training in B-25 bombers. In spite of the fact that the armed services were supposed to be integrated, segregation was still widespread in the military. And so it was that at Freeman Field there were separate officers’ clubs for white and black personnel. And as you might imagine, the white officers club was considerably nicer than the one for black officers.
It came to pass that during the first week of April, on several successive days, black officers went to the white club, and attempted to gain entrance. They were turned away, and subsequently arrested for violating the arbitrary rule that said all temporary personnel (all of whom were black) would use one set of facilities, and permanent base personnel (all of whom were white), would use other facilities.
In all, just over 100 black officers were arrested. There was no internet back then, but it didn’t take long for word of the incident to get around. This was pretty bad press for the US Army Air Corp, so in short order 101 black officers were released. Three of them (the leaders) were bound over for Courts Martial. Two were found not guilty and released. One, Bill Terry, was found guilty of assaulting a superior officer, based on some pushing and shoving at the door to the white club, and Terry was kicked out of the Air Corp. Many years later, he was exonerated.
The Freeman Field Mutiny was not a proud moment in the history of Freeman Field. We tell the story, and preserve the history, because it was one of the incidents leading up to President Harry Truman issuing an executive order in 1948, declaring the end of segregation in the US armed forces. That same executive order established a commission to make sure the order was carried out.
Our Tuskegee Airmen exhibit has a lot more detail and documents about the 5-week period when the T/A were here. Please come and visit our museum to learn about “the rest of the story”. We look forward to seeing you.