‘Zoot Suit’ and History – Part 12

To recap briefly, I have been digging into the historical basis of the movie “Zoot Suit,” which I saw this summer in the Last Remaining Seats series.  The Times ignored the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots for several days, in what must be one of the worst news decisions the editors ever made, so I was forced to dig  into the government records at the National Archives in Riverside for further information.

1943_0608_report_pix146
June 8, 1943: Memo dictated by senior patrol officer, downtown Los Angeles.


“Zoot Suit” and History, Part 1| Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11

So far, we have looked at all the background in Navy records on Southern California in the early 1940s pertaining to intelligence on subversive groups, racial incidents involving sailors and civilians, placing bars and restaurants out of bounds, and the discipline of those who got in trouble. All of this has been necessary to provide a context for what occurred between zoot-suiters  and members of the armed forces in June 1943.

What follows is the first portion of Navy documents on the Zoot Suit Riots. A report ordered June 5 was submitted on June 10 and will appear in the next post.

June 4, 1943, Zoot Suit Riots

June 4, 1943: Lt. Charles L. Bacon reports on the Zoot Suit Riots.

1943_0604_report_pix188

1943_0604_report_pix189

June 4, 1943: Report by Lt. G.A. Litten on the Zoot Suit Riots.

1943_0604_report_pix190

1943_0604_holley_letter_pix130
June 4, 1943: Letter from Mrs. Fred Holley to Rep. Ed Gossett (D-Texas) regarding the Zoot Suit Riots.

1943_0607_holley_pix129
June 7, 1943: Gossett forwards Holley’s letter on the Zoot Suit Riots to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox.

1943_0605_memo_pix185

June 5, 1943: Commanding Officer Martin Dickinson orders Lts. Litten, Bacon and Glasson to compile a report on the Zoot Suit Riots.

1943_0605_report_pix191

June 5, 1943: Lt. Carl Cobbs’ report on the Zoot Suit Riots.

1943_0605_report_pix192

1943_0608_memo_liberty

June 8, 1943: Liberty in Los Angeles is restricted.

1943_0608_report_pix146

1943_0609_action_memo_page01_pix102

June 9, 1943:

The Navy is a disciplined organization composed of loyal and intelligent men and partaking in any activities that are of the nature of mob violence is a direct reflection on the Navy itself and on the individual who wears the uniform. Irrespective of what may have been the original cause of these disorders, the enforcement of law rests in the hands of the civilian police and is not a matter which should be undertaken by any unauthorized groups of Navy personnel.

1943_0609_action_memo_page02_pix103
1943_0609_telegram_pix106

June 9, 1943: Mexican envoy Alfredo Elias Calles cables Rear Adm. D.W. Bagley in San Diego about fights between servicemen and civilians “which have caused a great number of injured among the Mexican colony.”

1943_0609_aide_mexican_consul_pix111

June 9, 1943: Rear Adm. D.W. Bagley replies to a cable from the Mexican Consulate regarding treatment of zoot-suiters.

I deeply regret that individual incidents of hoodlumism in Los Angeles have been interpreted as acts specifically involving nationals of either Mexico or the United States.

1943_0609_memo

June 9, 1943: A memo discloses rioting in Long Beach. Are the riots inspired by the Axis and being financed by subversives?

1943_0609_memo_draft_pix145

June 9, 1943: Another draft of Bagley’s order.

1943_0609_sentinel_pix141
June 9, 1943: A telegram from the Los Angeles Sentinel (an African American weekly) to the secretary of the Navy.

Soldiers, sailors, Marines attacking Negroes and Mexican residents without interference by local law enforcement authority strongly urge you intervene with local military authorities to avert serious race riots.

1943_0610_announcement_pix153

June 10, 1943: The final version of the Bagley’s memo.

About these ads

About lmharnisch

I work at the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1943, Film, Hollywood, LAPD, Latinos, World War II, Zoot Suit and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s