TULSA GUARD JOINED THE RUTHLESS MOB ASSAULT ON GREENWOOD
The Oklahoma National Guard arrived in Tulsa eleven hours after the race war had begun. It took over marshalling duties from Tulsa police and the local guard unit. By then, a majority of blacks had fled the massive burning and killing field, or were being held -- allegedly for their own protection -- against their will, in concentration camps, including Convention Hall, the Fairgrounds, and McNulty Park.
Before the guard arrived, attempts by blacks to defend their property were undercut by the actions of the police and the Tulsa unit of the National Guard, which, rather than focus on disarming and arresting the white rioters, imprisoned blacks.
The Tulsa police, the local guard, and the vigilantes had become indistinguishable. Unarmed black prisoners were summarily shot and in the words of a white eyewitness, "It was sheer cruelty coming out." In one of several such incidents, the Tulsa guard unit came upon a group of blacks barricaded inside a building surrounded by a white mob. Rather than attempt to disengage the warring groups, the guard unit joined the mob and killed and captured the defending blacks.
"Clearly," according to a year 2000 state study of the incident, "the guard had now joined in on the assault on black Tulsa." Upon their arrival from Oklahoma City, the National Guard did not proceed immediately to the fighting still in progress. One published account said valuable time was wasted as they prepared and ate breakfast. As the state troops began to move into the Greenwood area, they disarmed whites, sending them from the war-torn district. National Guard Adjutant General Charles F. Barrett had 109 soldiers and officers under his command. He reported whites loading dead bodies of blacks and removing them from the area. The general noted: "In the midst of 15,000 to 20,000 blood-maddened rioters, all the colored section appeared to be on fire and desultory firing kept on between both sides, while the guard marched through the crowded streets. Trucks loaded with scared and partially clothed Negro men and women were parading the streets under heavily armed guards. In all my experience, I have never witnessed such scenes that prevailed in this city when I arrived at the height of the rioting 25,000 whites, armed to the teeth were raiding the city in utter and ruthless defiance of every concept of law and righteousness. Motorcars bristling with guns swept through your city, their occupants firing at will."
Stories of atrocities were widespread. The Tulsa World reported on June 1, "One Negro was dragged behind an automobile with a rope around his neck." Decades later, former Mayor L.C. Clark confirmed this report. Months later, retired Tulsa policeman Van B. Hurley, according to The Chicago Defender, declared in a sworn affidavit that several prominent city officials carefully planned the attack on the segregated district by airplanes. Hurley said the airplanes hovered over the area dropping nitroglycerin on the buildings, setting them afire.
After the riot, a number of blacks strongly condemned the actions of the Tulsa Police Department and the Tulsa branch of the National Guard during the conflict. The State Troopers dispatched from Oklahoma City were largely praised for using no partiality in quieting the disorder. "If they had reached the scene sooner, many lives and valuable property would have been saved," chronicled Mary Jones Parrish, whose extensive reporting was written shortly after the race war.