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“Sailor Wounds Spectator Disrespectful of Flag”: The Red Scare, 1919–1921

The climate of repression established in the name of wartime security during World War I continued after the war as the U.S. government focused on communists, Bolsheviks, and “reds.” The Red Scare reached its height in the years between 1919 and 1921. Encouraged by Congress, which had refused to seat the duly elected Wisconsin trade unionist and socialist Victor Berger, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer began a series of showy and well-publicized raids against radicals and leftists. Striking without warning and without warrants, Palmer’s men smashed union offices and the headquarters of Communist and Socialist organizations. The Washington Post of May 7, 1919, noted approvingly that a sailor shot a Chicago man merely for failing to rise during the national anthem.

Chicagoans Cheer Tar Who Shot Man

Sailor Wounds Pageant Spectator Disrespectful to Flag.

Chicago, May 6—Disrespect for the American flag and a show of resentment toward the thousands who participated in a victory loan pageant here tonight may cost George Goddard his life. He was shot down by a sailor of the United States navy when he did not stand and remove his hat while the band was playing the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Goddard had a seat of vantage in the open amphitheater. When he failed to stand he was the most conspicuous figure among the throng. When he fell at the report of the “sailor’s” gun the crowd burst into cheers and hand-clapping. When Goddard failed to respond to the first strains of the national anthem Samuel Hagerman, sailor in the guard of honor, asked him to get up.

“What for?” demanded Goddard.

"Hagerman touched him with his bayonet.

“Get up. Off with your hat.”

Goddard muttered and drew a pistol.

With military precision Hagerman stepped back a pace and slipped a shell into his gun.

Goddard started away. As the last notes of the anthem sounded the sailor commanded him to halt. Then he fired into the air.


Goddard paid no attention.

The sailor aimed and fired three times. Goddard fell wounded. Each shot found its mark.

When he [Goddard] was searched, an automatic pistol, in addition to the one he had drawn, was found. Another pistol and fifty cartridges were found in a bag he carried. He said he was a tinsmith, out of work. Papers showed he had been at Vancouver and Seattle and it was believed by the authorities he had come here for the I.W.W. convention.

Source: Washington Post, 7 May 1919, 2.

See Also:"The Most Brainiest Man?" The Red Scare and Free Speech in Connecticut
"An Eminently Safe Citizen": Robert Benchley on "The Making of a Red"
Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer Makes "The Case against the Reds"