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This day in history: The USS Kitty Hawk mutiny occurs

October 11, 2016

This day in history, October 12, 1972, the USS Kittyhawk riot, also known as the Kitty Hawk mutiny occurred.

The Kitty Hawk mutiny was a race riot that took place on the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk while it was stationed off the coast of Vietnam during Operation Linebacker of the Vietnam War.

Approximately 100–200 black Kitty Hawk crewmen rioted as a response to perceived grievances against the Navy and the officers of Kitty Hawk, which appeared to represent institutionalized racism on the ship. One grievance was the belief that black crewmen were routinely assigned to menial or degrading duties. Black crewmen also believed that white crewmen received milder non-judicial punishments than black sailors for the same offenses.

Additionally, there was lingering resentment from a racially charged brawl involving Kitty Hawk sailors in the Philippines shortly before the ship left port. During the riot, black sailors assaulted and injured a number of white crewmen. Three had to be evacuated to shore hospitals for further treatment. Forty-five to 60 Kitty Hawk crewmen were injured in total.

The carrier’s commander, Captain Marland Townsend, and executive officer, Commander Benjamin Cloud (who was black), dissuaded the rioters from further violence and prevented white sailors from retaliating. This allowed the carrier to launch her Linebacker air missions as scheduled on the morning of October 12.

Nineteen of the rioters were later found guilty by the Navy of at least one charge connected to the riot.