On American Soil: How Justice Became a Casualty of World War II

During World War II, more than 20,000 soldiers were stationed at, or passed through, Seattle’s Fort Lawton (now Discovery Park). On August 14, 1944, a brief scuffle between a Black enlisted man and an Italian prisoner of war quickly escalated into a bloody riot. Sometime that night, Private Guglielmo Olivotto was murdered, lynched with a rope attached to an obstacle course. After months of investigation, JAG Col. Leon Jaworski (later of Watergate fame) brought charges against 43 African American soldiers, the only time in American history that Black men have stood trial charged with a mob lynching. The largest and longest Army court-martial of the war ended with the conviction of 28 soldiers for rioting, and of 3 of those soldiers for the killing of Private Olivotto.

In 1986, journalist Jack Hamann produced a documentary about the riot, lynching and trial. Years later, Hamann and his wife, Leslie, uncovered previously-classified documents that raised alarming questions about Jaworski’s prosecution. The publication of their 2005 book, On American Soil: How Justice Became a Casualty of World War II, launched investigations by the US Congress and by the US Army. The book’s many disclosures ultimately prompted the Army to set aside all convictions, to overturn the soldiers’ dishonorable discharges, and to issue formal apologies. Congress authorized distribution of back pay to the surviving veterans and to the families of those who were no longer living.  


WHEN: Friday, March 10 | 1:30 – 3:30 PM

WHERE: The U.S. District Courthouse
700 Stewart St., Seattle, WA
& virtually over Zoom.

COST: Attendance is free!

2.0 hours of WA or CA (Elimination of Bias) CLE available at an additional cost. Additional details on the registration page.
CLE Information

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PROFESSOR MARY D. FAN is the Jack R. MacDonald Endowed Chair at the University of Washington School of Law.  Professor Fan specializes in criminal law and procedure, evidence, civil rights and liberties, and violence prevention.  A former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of California, Professor Fan also worked as an Associate Legal Officer at the first international war crimes tribunal since the World War II-era Nuremberg tribunals.  She is speaking in her capacity as a member of the Board of Directors of the ACLU of Washington.

JACK HAMANN and LESLIE HAMANN are journalists, writers, photographers and documentary producers. Since 1980, their assignments around the globe have earned dozens of regional, national and international honors, including Book of the Year from Investigative Reporters and Editors and multiple Emmys Awards and film festival medals. Their book, On American Soil, prompted the US Congress to insist that the United States Army overturn the largest Army court-martial of World War II. They are currently producing oral archives and video documentaries for 13 senior federal judges from the Western District of Washington.

Leslie and Jack are both graduates of UCLA. Leslie earned a post-graduate degree from the University of Washington; Jack has a law degree from the University of Oregon. Married in 1976, they have two adult children and three grandchildren. For more information, please see www.nolittlethings.com.

U.S. ATTORNEY NICHOLAS BROWN has deep roots in the Justice Department having served from 2007 to 2013 as an Assistant United States Attorney in Western Washington, handling a wide variety of criminal cases. From 2013 to 2017, U.S. Attorney Brown served as General Counsel to Governor Jay Inslee. In that role he was involved in critical issues including high-priority litigation, criminal justice policy, tribal gaming and Indian law, and clemency petitions. Most Recently U.S. Attorney Brown was a partner with Pacifica Law Group in Seattle focusing his practice on assisting public and private clients with complex civil and regulatory litigation, public policy, municipal law, and political matters.

An Army veteran, U.S. Attorney Brown served in the Judge Advocate General Corps from 2003 to 2007 at Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM), Fort Bliss, Texas, and Bagdad, Iraq. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal in 2005. U.S. Attorney Brown has volunteered his time for a number of public service and non-profit organizations, including Seattle Ethics and Elections, the Campaign for Equal Justice, the Washington State Bar Association Leadership Institute, Seattle Works and Treehouse. U.S.

U.S. Attorney Brown was nominated by President Joe Biden on July 26, 2021, and was approved by the U.S. Senate on September 30, 2021.

Moderated by HON. ROBERT S. LASNIK, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.


Want to see another great program in this series?

Click below to watch the recording of our recent program
“The Port Chicago 50: Racism & Review.”