American Officer’s Club
Queens Hotel/Telecasters North Queensland Ltd Building
The Strand (cnr Wickham Street), Townsville 4810
The Queens Hotel was both a billet and club for US Officers and visiting dignitaries. It was also popular with the press.
Acclaimed Time-Life magazine War Correspondent and Investigative Journalist Robert Sherrod based himself here during April-May 1942. Sherrod wrote several articles at the Queens Hotel on the war situation and US presence in Townsville. These included the mention of an armed 'mutiny' by the US 96th Engineers at Upper Ross River whilst they were constructing an airfield during May. This unit consisted of over 1000 African American serviceman.
Sherrod recalled that he stayed up all night typing this report at the Queens Hotel to hand to Senator (later President) Lyndon B Johnson who was due to leave Townsville the following morning. Senator Johnson was that night staying at Buchanan’s Hotel in Sturt Street. In a discussion with Sherrod, Johnson had stated he would pass the report on to Sherrod’s editors at Time thus bypassing the wartime censors. Somewhat naively, Sherrod hoped the investigative report would inform his editors of the true situation in Australia, as opposed to the overly optimistic material he was required to write during this critical period for the Allies. He did not intend for it to be published though, stating that the 96th Engineers mutiny was:
One of the biggest stories of the war which can’t be written-and which shouldn’t be written, of course.
After reading Sherrod’s report on the journey home to the US, Johnson spoke with Sherrod and stated that he had destroyed it as it was so 'hot'. However the report was not destroyed, and a copy remains today in the LBJ Presidential Library.
This full story of little know event in Townsville’s history will be presented as an article in the Queensland Historical Society Journal in 2011.
Townsville records - Lyndon B Johnson Presidential Library in Texas, United States.
The North Queensland Line: The Defence of Townsville in 1942". Ray Holyoak unpublished Honours Thesis, James Cook University, Townsville 1998.
Potts, E Daniel & Potts, Annette. Yanks Down Under, 1941 - 1945: the American impact on Australia, Melbourne Oxford University Press, 1985.
HQS Base Section Two Telephone Directory, May 1944, Restricted. Author collection.