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Black WWII soldier Roy Montgomery exonerated of POW lynching dies at 91

Dec. 9, 2012 at 7:10 PM   |   Comments

SEATTLE, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- The sole known surviving African-American soldier exonerated in the World War II lynching of a prisoner of war died in Chicago at 91, his daughter said.

Lynda Gill said her father, Roy Montgomery, died Thursday with his three grandsons holding his hands, the online Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Saturday.

Besides Gill, he is survived by three grandsons and 14 great-grandchildren, Seattlepi.com reported.

Montgomery and 27 other black soldiers were falsely accused in 1944 of rioting at Fort Lawton in Seattle. The riot led to the lynching of an Italian prisoner of war, Pvt. Guglielmo Olivotto -- and to the longest and largest court-martial of the war.

The defendants received prison terms ranging from six months to 25 years, but after the war ended President Harry Truman reduced the terms of those still incarcerated and by 1949 all had been freed.

Still, the convictions of Montgomery and the other black soldiers held for 64 years until Seattle author Jack Hamann wrote a book, "On American Soil," which included compelling evidence that a white military police officer lynched the Italian prisoner.

U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., read the book and then introduced a House bill demanding the secretary of the Army re-evaluate the Fort Lawton convictions in light of the evidence Hamann and his wife Leslie provided in the book, Seattlepi.com reported.

The convictions were overturned in October 2007 and the prosecution of the black soldiers was declared "fundamentally unfair" by Army officials.

Ronald James, the assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs, apologized to the soldiers' family members on behalf of his comrades, Seattlepi.com reported.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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