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African Americans and WWII African Americans in the Armed Forces.

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Presentation on theme: "African Americans and WWII African Americans in the Armed Forces."— Presentation transcript:

1 African Americans and WWII African Americans in the Armed Forces

2 “There was a Navy Messman (worked in the mess hall or kitchen located in the lower quarters of the ship) named Dorie Miller. He should have been one of the first to receive this honor (Congressional Medal of Honor). This happened at Pearl Harbor. The gunners on deck had been killed. He ran up from below when all hands were needed on deck. He was never trained on that artillery piece, but he got right to work on that big gun and did whatever he could to save the rest of the men. Wouldn’t you know they were going to court martial him for using that gun because he hadn’t been trained on it? We couldn’t believe that.” – From an interview with William H. Thompson, an African American ‘buffalo soldier’ in WWII

3 African Americans in the Armed Forces War highlighted racism and discrimination Unequal treatment, support, facilities, jobs/tasks, etc. – Discrimination in training and in war All African American units – “Experimental units” – Partial reason for segregation: lower rank whites would not have to salute black officers Some progress made – Integration slowly possible in branches – 1948: segregation officially ended in all of the armed forces

4 “We could not purchase a cup of coffee at a Texas railroad depot but the lunchroom manager said we black GIs could go on around the back to the kitchen for a sandwich and coffee. As we did, about two dozen German prisoners of war, with two American guards, came to the station. They entered the lunchroom, sat at the tables, had their meals served, talked and smoked. I stood on the outside looking on, and I could not help but ask myself why are they treated better than we are? Why are we pushed round like cattle? If we are fighting for the same thing, if we are to die for our country, then why does the Government allow such things to go on?” – Corporal Rupert Timmingham to Yank magazine, April 1944

5 Army ‘Jim Crow’ army: segregated units Menial, non combat tasks – cooking, guarding, delivering supplies, building camps FDR 1940 election promise: army to have same make up as society – 90/10 white/black – 1942: African Americans less than 3% combat duty 1944: 750,000 African Americans in army and hundreds of officers, BUT never reached 1940 goal of 10%

6 Marines June 1942: started enlisting African Americans Not allowed in combat until 1944 Menial jobs like in army

7 “On days off, white soldiers could go to town. The black soldiers were confined to base. We did manual labor; we were like stevedores. Even when we liberated a beautiful resort town in Tuscany called Virregio. In a few months, when we had time off, white soldiers could go into the town, but the order came down that the American General in charge didn’t want blacks in there. And we were the ones that liberated it!” – William H. Thompson, African American Soldier



10 “He said the Negro press demanded combat duty for Negro troops so now they were going to get it. They were given frontline duty as a punishment because of the Negro press!” – William H. Thompson, African American soldier

11 Black Panthers 761 st tank battalion First black tank unit to fight in army Won acclaim for part in Battle of the Bulge – First and only time Army desegregated units during WWII But the only reason General Eisenhower supported integrated units was because there was a shortage of white replacements

12 Black Panthers Trained for nearly 2 years before deployment; whites sometimes as little as 2-3 months Most trained in bases in southern states of KY, LA, and TX  southern racism, discrimination March 1943 Alexandria, LA: several members beaten, and one killed, by white soldiers from nearby bases Jackie Robinson was member of unit; refused to give up seat on army bus, transferred out of unit and charged with various offenses

13 “We’re being transported to another camp – Fort Meade, Maryland – and we’re waiting around to go. And we’re supposed to have lunch. Now we’re still in Philadelphia. We see the white soldiers go into Linton’s at 32 nd and Market Streets, right across from the armory. But the black soldiers weren’t allowed to go in. We just got drafted but we couldn’t go in the restaurant. They gave us a boxed lunch and we ate it outside.” – William H. Thompson, African American soldier

14 Air Force 1940: FDR ordered recruitment of all African American unit 1945: 600+ pilots trained, but not allowed to fly in same groups as white pilots Tuskegee Airmen was result – Segregated training facility at Tuskegee Institute – 332 nd fighter group won acclaim for work as fighter escorts for US bombers – Had to be Lieutenant to fly as pilot; remember, segregation kept lower rank whites from saluting black officers Prior to Tuskegee Airmen, no African American had served as a pilot in the US armed forces

15 “Negro pilots cannot be used in our present Air Corps units since this would result in Negro officers serving over white enlisted men creating an impossible social situation.” – General Henry Arnold, commanding officer of the Army Air Forces

16 Tuskegee Airmen Pilots trained for years before ever being deployed for combat (partially b/c of pressure from activists) For every black pilot, had other black civilian, officers, and enlisted men and women for support Separate (black) flight surgeons and aviation medical examiners for the training and operation of Tuskegee Airmen Black pilots trained as officers, but often left idle: white officers continued to hold command, and once promoted, new white officers took over In preparation for deployment, 332 nd group sent to various bases where they often faced discrimination and were barred from restaurants, theaters, etc.



19 Navy Discrimination worst out of all branches African Americans given most dangerous job of loading ammo on ships Desegregated in 1946, partly because of Port Chicago Mutiny Port Chicago Mutiny – Port Chicago, California 1944: ammo detonated, killing 323 people, mostly African Americans – Black sailors strike; 50 arrested and convicted Only case of full military trial for mutiny in Navy history

20 Port Chicago Explosion NU NU ca/pt-chgo.htm ca/pt-chgo.htm

21 Tension African American soldiers resented unequal treatment in branches  riots at 9 African American training camps in 1943-44 – Many camps in south – increase of the already present racial tension Often treated better by nations abroad War raised awareness of inequalities in US – July 1948: President Truman signs Executive Order 9981, officially ending segregation in military – Committee on Civil Rights established after war

22 “Dear Lord, today I go to war: To fight, to die. Tell me what for. Dear Lord, I’ll fight, I do not fear Germans or Japs, my fears are here. America!” – “Draftee’s prayer” published in the Baltimore Afro-American, January 1943

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