NEW YORK TIMES, JUNE 11, 1943
SEEK BASIC CAUSES OF ZOOT SUIT FRAY
By Lawrence E Davies
LOS ANGELES, June I0 – Service men and young zoot suit wearers engaged in new outbreaks today as State investigators, under orders from Governor Earl Warren, began probing for the basic causes of a week-long series of disorders which have placed Los Angeles “out of bounds” for most Navy personnel.
Community leaders held meetings in an effort to get the city “back to normal” and to present evidence that the street battles represented a symptom not of racial discrimination but of an increasingly serious State-wide juvenile delinquency problem.
A legislative committee sought evidence that might link subversive agents with the gang activities.
Robert Kenny, State Attorney General, with the aid of a dozen State investigators and a citizens’ committee appointed by Governor Warren, began the task assigned by the Governor of “ascertaining all of the facts and then applying the appropriate remedy.” Meanwhile, there was no indication that Rear Admiral D. W. Bagley, commandant of the Eleventh Naval District, would countermand his order restricting liberty in this city for Navy personnel. He took this action on Tuesday afternoon as a result of dozens of retaliatory dashes between “zoos suit” hoodlums and Navy enlisted men.
C. B. Horrall, chief of police, declared that the situation was well in hand but about that time two “zoot suit” wearers at the Plaza had their pants stripped off by a group of sailors “just traveling through.” Several other minor incidents marked the day.
Rise of Disorders Traced
The series of disorders actually began in December in San Pedro, according to Navy sources, when lone sailors were waylaid in dim-out areas, beaten and robbed. According to police records, there have been twenty-six attacks on service men since March; Navy officers believe that the number has exceeded fifty since Jan. 1.
The retaliatory action began about a week ago. According to one version, a small group of sailors was chatting with a group of young women of Mexican descent when zootsuited friends of the girls intervened, brought reinforcements and routed the sailors. The sailors went after reinforcements and beat up the zooters. A series of retaliations followed. In some versions women did not figure.
By Monday night taxicab fleets of sailors were hunting for zoot-suit wearers.
Navy men emphasize, and police agree, that in most instances the sailors, aided in a few cases by soldiers, and sometimes by taxicab drivers, showed a spirit as of a college fraternity initiation. Petty officers were almost wholly missing. The uniformed participants were seamen who, for the most part, had been in the Navy from one to six months.
As for the zoot suit wearers, according to some observers, hundreds had in recent years roved in organized bands. These gangs engaged in thievery, petty crimes and now and then knifings. For the most part bands were content to war with one another. Members ranged in age from 16 to 20 years….
A perusal of juvenile arrests and juvenile court cases for last year showed that 928 court cases involving Mexican boys was one fewer than the figure for 1941, but that the number of cases involving Mexican girls was 25.8 per cent higher in 1942. For white boys the increase for 1942 was 1.4 per cent higher than the 1941 total of 2,408. The increase for white girls was 21.3 per cent. The largest increase, 37.6 per cent, was for Negro boys in the metropolitan area. Relatively few Negroes, however, have figured in the zoot-suit fracas….