Podcast Shines New Light On The History Of White Supremacy In The Military

Jan 24, 2019

In 1976, 13 Marines were jailed after they burst into a room at Camp Pendleton and attacked the men inside. The attackers thought they were confronting Ku Klux Klan members. But they had mistakenly entered the wrong room.

In 1976 at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, a group of 14 black Marines burst into a room where they believed a meeting of active duty Ku Klux Klan members was being held.

At the time, KKK members operated in the open at Pendleton, wearing KKK logos and posting flyers about chapter meetings around the base.

The black Marines attacked the men they found inside the room, only to later discover that they'd barged into the wrong room.  The KKK members they'd intended to confront actually were next door.

13 of the black Marines involved ended up in jail. One ended up testifying against the others.

Today, the Marine Corps bans membership in extremist or supremacist groups. However, the issue of white supremacy among active duty members of the military is still visible. An active duty Marine took part in the white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017. He was eventually court martialed after ProPublica reported he attacked a transgender counter-protester during the rally and then bragged about it on social media.

Just how big a problem does white supremacy remain on military bases and within the ranks of America's military today? What's contributing to the renewed urgency surrounding the issue? And what are the branches of the military doing to address it?

American Homefront reporter Steve Walsh of KPBS in San Diego has produced a podcast called "Free the Pendleton 14" that examines these issues. 

Steve joins his American Homefront colleague Libby Denkmann of KPCC in Los Angeles to talk about the podcast. This discussion was broadcast on KPCC's "Air Talk."