Battle of Bamber Bridge

Battle of Bamber Bridge

White soldiers declared war on their Black counterparts in an ugly incident from WWII

An unfortunate incident in which American troops stationed in the Lancashire village of Bamber Bridge during World War II fired not on the Germans, but on their fellow American soldiers. Racial tensions boiled over in a logistics unit of the still-segregated Air Force, escalating into a gun battle that resulted in one death and 32 court martials. As with other incidents of racial violence against Black Americans that are only now becoming more widely known, like the Tulsa Massacre of 1921, the Battle of Bamber Bridge was largely censured in the media at the time. The whole incident started over a jacket. A military police (MP) unit was also stationed in the town, and two white MPs entered a local pub and spotted Private Eugene Nunn, who was African American, wearing a field jacket rather than his full uniform. The MPs attempted to arrest Nunn for this minor offense, despite outcry from the locals in the pub. Nunn’s staff sergeant defused the situation, but someone threw a beer at the MPs’ jeep as they were driving away, and they returned with reinforcements. The larger group of MPs intercepted the soldiers on their way back to base from the pub. A fight broke out, shots were fired, and Private William Crossland was shot in the back, killing him. The unit’s acting colonel and a lieutenant, who was the unit’s only Black officer, were able to reassure their enlisted men that the MPs would be brought to justice in the morning. Except at midnight, the MPs returned, in still greater numbers. One of their jeeps was turned into an improvised armored vehicle complete with machine gun. The soldiers armed themselves and warned the townspeople to stay inside. The resulting firefight lasted four hours and resulted in seven wounded.

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