The Department of the Navy (DON) announced the correction to records of 15 Sailors formerly assigned to USS Philadelphia (CL-41) (commonly referred to as the ‘Philadelphia 15’) in a ceremony at the Pentagon on June 16. The announcement was made by Franklin Parker, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, (ASN M&RA), with descendants of John and Larry Ponder, two members of the Philadelphia 15, in attendance to receive the letters of correction.
“This simply was the right decision,” said Parker. “I believe acknowledging and addressing past injustice only makes us stronger, because it brings us ever closer to the ideals upon which our nation was founded.”
The ‘Philadelphia 15’ were fifteen African-American Sailors assigned to USS Philadelphia who, in October 1940, authored a letter published in the Pittsburgh Courier describing the racial discrimination, abuse, and inability to advance into other, higher-ranking positions. They urged African-American mothers not to let their sons join the Navy and were subsequently discharged because of the letter with “bad conduct discharges,” or “undesirable” charges.
After thorough review of the case by leadership within the DON, it was deemed appropriate and necessary to correct the record and upgrade the discharges of these Sailors.
“The record contained evidence that suggested the race of these sailors may have been a factor that impermissibly motivated some of the decisions made by the Navy regarding these sailors,” said Bobby Hogue, Principal Deputy ASN M&RA. “That was enough for me to initiate the case.”
If any family members of the Philadelphia 15 would like to reach out to the DON for future notifications on the topic or more information, please reach out to PTGN_CHINFOnewsdesk@navy.mil or 703-697-5342.
Members of the Philadelphia 15:
Ernest Bosley, Arval Perry Cooper, Shannon Goodwin, Theodore Hansbrough, Byron Johnson, Floyd Owens, John Ponder, James Ponder, James Porter, George Rice, Otto Robinson, Floyd St. Clair, Fred Tucker, Robert Turner, Jesse Watford