Executive Order 9981: Integration of the Armed Forces
The United States military of the present-day is comprised of servicemen and women of diverse social and racial backgrounds; all are dedicated to one common purpose: the defense of their country and its citizens. White, Black, Latin, Asian, and American Indian all serve side-by-side with dedication and distinction. However, the integration of the military is a more recent phenomenon than some may have originally thought. The date 26 July marks an important milestone in United States military history and race relations. On this date in 1948, President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981, which declared “that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.” In short, it was an end to racial segregation in the military, a political
act unmatched since the days of Reconstruction after the Civil War. This act has been described as the pinnacle of the Truman civil rights program and the climax of the struggle for racial equality in the armed forces. But in some ways, the order was simply a practical response to a presidential dilemma.
Since the beginning of the American military, it had been an uphill struggle for African Americans and other minorities to prove their patriotism and devotion to the defense of the nation. During the American Revolution, blacks and whites served together in several units throughout the duration of the war. After the war, however, integration in the military would not be seen until after 1945. Prior to the issuing of Executive Order 9981, blacks and some other minorities were often segregated into separate units from their white counterparts. In many instances, these units were assigned menial tasks in the rear and rarely saw combat. Those African Americans that did see combat displayed great courage and bravery under fire, such as the famed 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the Civil War, the 369th Infantry “Harlem Hellfighters” in World War I and II, the [332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces (known as the Tuskegee Airmen) in World War II], and the 761st Tank Battalion in World War II.
Despite their proven mettle and patriotism of minorities in America’s defense, it took time and circumstance for a significant breakthrough to occur. Before the order was given, President Truman had mixed views on integration and racial relations. There is little evidence in his background to suggest his support for social changes in America. He was raised in the former border state of Missouri in a family dedicated to the Confederate cause and had little interest in the aspirations of black people. However, this all changed in the postwar era when the United States was quickly becoming embroiled in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Although integration of the armed forces seemed a miniscule issue within the larger international scene, the large number of African Americans in the military gave them a new importance in national defense. The black community represented ten percent of the country’s manpower, and this also influenced defense planning. Black threats to boycott the segregated armed forces could not be ignored, and civil rights demands had to be considered in developing laws relating to Selective Service and Universal Military Training.
In December 1946, Truman appointed a panel to serve as the President’s Commission on Civil Rights, which recommended “more adequate means and procedures for the protection of the civil rights of the people of the United States.” When the commission issued its report, To Secure These Rights, in October 1947, among its proposals were anti-lynching and anti-poll tax laws, a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission, and strengthening the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. President Truman removed the recommendations on civil rights in the services when he presented the committee’s recommendations to Congress in the form of a special message in February 1948. Truman argued that the services’ race practices were matters of executive interest and pointed to recent progress toward better race relations in the armed forces. He also told Congress that he had already instructed the Secretary of Defense to take steps to eliminate remaining instances of discrimination in the services as rapidly as possible. Truman also promised that the personnel policies and practices of all the services would be made uniform.
Although politics was only one of several factors that led to Executive Order 9981, the order came into fruition during a presidential election campaign and its content and timing reflect that fact. Having made what could be justified as a military decision in the interest of a more effective use of manpower in the armed forces, the President and his advisers sought to capitalize on the political benefits that might result from it, such as the crucial black vote in the urban centers of the South.
Nevertheless, Executive Order 9981 established an important breakthrough in race relations within the military. In addition to integration of the armed forces, the order also established an advisory committee to examine the rules, practices, and procedures of the armed services and recommend ways to make desegregation a reality. Despite the issuing of the order, there was considerable resistance from the military. The full effects would not be felt until the end of the Korean War. The Army’s last segregated units were finally disbanded in 1954.
In the American Revolution, gaining freedom was the strongest motive for black slaves who joined the Patriot or British armies. The free black may have been drafted or enlisted at his own volition. Noted historian Gary B. Nash says that they enlisted more often than did whites.
Additional motives for those who joined the rebel American forces could have been a desire for adventure, belief in the goals of the Revolution, or the possibility of receiving a bounty. Bounties were both monetary payments and the chance to be given freedom; they were promised to those who joined either side of the war. Free blacks in the North and South fought on both sides of the Revolution; slaves were recruited to weaken those masters who supported the opposing cause.
Most blacks fought on the patriot side; recent research concludes there were about 9000 black Patriot soldiers, counting the Continental Army and Navy, and state militia units, as well as privateers, wagoneers in the Army, servants to officers, and spies. Ray Raphael notes that while thousands joined the Loyalists, many more, free and slave, sided with the Patriots. As between 200,000 and 250,000 soldiers and militia served during the revolution in total, that would mean black soldiers made up approximately four percent of the Patriots' numbers. Of the 9,000 black soldiers, 5,000 were combat troops.  Notably, the average length of time in service for an African American soldier during the war was four and a half years (due to many serving for the whole eight-year duration), which was eight times longer than the average period for white soldiers. Meaning that while they were only four percent of the manpower base, they comprised around a quarter of the Patriots' strength in terms of man-hours.
Gary B. Nash, "The African Americans' Revolution," in Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution (2012), edited by Edward G Gray and Jane Kamensky, pp 250-70
Nash, "The African Americans' Revolution," at p 254
Ray Raphael, A People's History of the American Revolution (2001) p 281
Michael Lee Lanning. "African Americans in the Revolutionary War." Page 177.
Michael Lee Lanning. "African Americans in the Revolutionary War." Page 178.
Lafayette and James Armistead, spy
WAR OF 1812:
During the War of 1812, about one-quarter of the personnel in the American naval squadrons of the Battle of Lake Erie were black, and portrait renderings of the battle on the wall of the nation’s Capitol and the rotunda of Ohio's Capitol show that blacks played a significant role in it. Hannibal Collins, a freed slave and Oliver Hazard Perry's personal servant, is thought to be the oarsman in William Henry Powell's Battle of Lake Erie. Collins earned his freedom as a veteran of the Revolutionary War, having fought in the Battle of Rhode Island. He accompanied Perry for the rest of Perry's naval career, and was with him at Perry's death in Trinidad in 1819.
NY Times: https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/19/the-free-men-of-color-go-to-war/
BATTLE OF LAKE ERIE
The Louisiana Battalion of Free Men of Color
54TH MASSACHUSETTS INFANTRY REGIMENT:
The 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was an infantry regiment that saw extensive service in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The unit was the first African-American regiment organized in the northern states during the Civil War. Authorized by the Emancipation Proclamation, the regiment consisted of African-American enlisted men commanded by white officers.
The unit began recruiting in February 1863 and trained at Camp Meigs outside Boston, Massachusetts. Prominent abolitionists were active in recruitment efforts, including Frederick Douglass, whose two sons were among the first to enlist. Massachusetts Governor John Albion Andrew, who had long pressured the U.S. Department of War to begin recruiting African-Americans, placed a high priority on the formation of the 54th Massachusetts. Andrew appointed Robert Gould Shaw, the son of Boston abolitionists, to command the regiment as Colonel. The free black community in Boston was also instrumental in recruiting efforts, utilizing networks reaching beyond Massachusetts and even into the southern states to attract soldiers and fill out the ranks. After its departure from Massachusetts on May 28, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts was shipped to Beaufort, South Carolina and became part of the X Corps commanded by Major General David Hunter.
During its service with the X Corps, the 54th Massachusetts took part in operations against Charleston, South Carolina, including the Battle of Grimball's Landing on July 16, 1863, and the more famous Second Battle of Fort Wagner on July 18, 1863. During the latter engagement, the 54th Massachusetts, with other Union regiments, executed a frontal assault against Fort Wagner and suffered casualties of 20 killed, 125 wounded, and 102 missing (primarily presumed dead)--roughly 40 percent of the unit's numbers at that time. Col. Robert G. Shaw was killed on the parapet of Fort Wagner. In 1864, as part of the Union Army's Department of Florida, the 54th Massachusetts took part in the Battle of Olustee.
The service of the 54th Massachusetts, particularly their charge at Fort Wagner, soon became one of the most famous episodes of the war, interpreted through artwork, poetry and song. More recently, the 54th Massachusetts gained prominence in popular culture through the award-winning film Glory.
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THE 54th MASSACHUSETTS
THE HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS:
The 369th Infantry Regiment, formerly known as the 15th New York National Guard Regiment, was an infantry regiment of the New York Army National Guard during World War I and World War II. The Regiment consisted mainly of African Americans, though it also included a number of Puerto Rican Americans during World War II. It was known for being the first African American regiment to serve with the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I. Before the 15th New York National Guard Regiment was formed, any African American that wanted to fight in the war had to enlist in the French or Canadian armies. The regiment was nicknamed the Harlem Hellfighters, the Black Rattlers, and the Men of Bronze, which was given to the regiment by the French. The nickname "Hell Fighters" was given to them by the Germans due to their toughness and that they never lost a man through capture, lost a trench or a foot of ground to the enemy.
Barbeau, Arthur E., and Florette Henri. The Unknown Soldiers; Black American Troops in World War I. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1974. ISBN 0-87722-063-8.
Harris, Bill. The Hellfighters of Harlem: African-American Soldiers Who Fought for the Right to Fight for Their Country. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2002. ISBN 0-7867-1050-0, ISBN 0-7867-1307-0.
Harris, Stephen L. Harlem's Hell Fighters: The African-American 369th Infantry in World War I. Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, Inc, 2003. ISBN 1-57488-386-0, ISBN 1-57488-635-5.
Little, Arthur W. From Harlem to the Rhine: The Story of New York's Colored Volunteers. New York: Covici, Friede, Publishers, 1936. (Reprinted: New York: Haskell House, 1974. ISBN 0-8383-2033-3).
Myers, Walter Dean, and Bill Miles. The Harlem Hellfighters: When Pride Met Courage. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006. ISBN 0-06-001136-X, ISBN 0-06-001137-8.
Nelson, Peter. A More Unbending Battle: The Harlem Hellfighters' Struggle for Freedom in WWI and Equality at Home. New York: Basic Civitas, 2009. ISBN 0-465-00317-6.
Sammons, Jeffrey T., and John H. Morrow, Jr. Harlem's Rattlers and the Great War: The Undaunted 369th Regiment and the African American Quest for Equality. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2014. ISBN 978-0700619573.
Wright, Ben, “Victory and Defeat: World War I, the Harlem Hellfighters, and a Lost Battle for Civil Rights,” Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, 38 (Jan. 2014) pp:35–70.
Hellfighters in Action!
THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN:
The Tuskegee Airmen is the popular name of a group of African-American military pilots (fighter and bomber) who fought in World War II. Officially, they formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces. The name also applies to the navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, instructors, crew chiefs, nurses, cooks and other support personnel for the pilots.
All black military pilots who trained in the United States trained at Moton Field, the Tuskegee Army Air Field, and were educated at Tuskegee University, located near Tuskegee, Alabama. The group included five Haitians from the Haitian Air Force, and one pilot from Trinidad.
Although the 477th Bombardment Group trained with North American B-25 Mitchell bombers, they never served in combat. The 99th Pursuit Squadron (later, 99th Fighter Squadron) was the first black flying squadron, and the first to deploy overseas (to North Africa in April 1943, and later to Sicily and Italy). The 332nd Fighter Group, which originally included the 100th, 301st, and 302nd Fighter Squadrons, was the first black flying group. The group deployed to Italy in early 1944. In June 1944, the 332nd Fighter Group began flying heavy bomber escort missions, and in July 1944, the 99th Fighter Squadron was assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group, which then had four fighter squadrons.
The 99th Fighter Squadron was initially equipped with Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter-bomber aircraft. The 332nd Fighter Group and its 100th, 301st and 302nd Fighter Squadrons were equipped for initial combat missions with Bell P-39 Airacobras (March 1944), later with Republic P-47 Thunderbolts (June–July 1944), and finally with the aircraft with which they became most commonly associated, the North American P-51 Mustang (July 1944). When the pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group painted the tails of their P-47s and later, P-51s, red, the nickname "Red Tails" was coined. The red markings that distinguished the Tuskegee Airmen included red bands on the noses of P-51s as well as a red rudder; the P-51B and D Mustangs flew with similar color schemes, with red propeller spinners, yellow wing bands and all-red tail surfaces.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces. During World War II, black Americans in many U.S. states were still subject to the Jim Crow laws and the American military was racially segregated, as was much of the federal government. The Tuskegee Airmen were subjected to discrimination, both within and outside the army.
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Benton, Jeffrey C. "Noel F. Parrish", They Served Here: Thirty-Three Maxwell Men. Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, Alabama: Air University Press, 1999; ISBN 978-1-58566-074-2.
Berry, Ben. Tuskegee Airmen: to the Moon, Mars and Beyond (Secrets Revealed). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2011; ISBN 1460931076 OCLC 827831542
Broadnax, Samuel L. Blue Skies, Black Wings: African-American Pioneers of Aviation. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 2007; ISBN 0-275-99195-4.
Bucholtz, Chris and Jim Laurier. 332nd Fighter Group – Tuskegee Airmen. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2007; ISBN 1-84603-044-7.
Caver, Joseph, Jerome Ennels, and Daniel Haulman. The Tuskegee Airmen: An Illustrated History, 1939–1949. Montgomery, Alabama: New South Books, 2011; ISBN 1-58838-244-3/ISBN 978-1-58838-244-3.
Cotter, Jarrod. "Red Tail Project", Flypast No. 248, March 2002.
Francis, Charles E. and Adolph Caso. The Tuskegee Airmen: The Men Who Changed a Nation. Boston: Branden Books, 1997; ISBN 0-8283-2029-2.
Gubert, Betty Kaplan, Miriam Sawyer and Caroline M. Fannine. Distinguished African-Americans in Aviation and Space Science. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002; ISBN 978-1-57356-246-1.
Hill, Ezra M. Sr. The Black Red Tail Angels: A Story of the Tuskegee Airmen. Columbus, Ohio: SMF Haven of Hope, 2006.
Holway, John B. Red Tail, Black Wings: The Men of America's Black Air Force. Las Cruces, New Mexico: Yuca Tree Press, 1997; ISBN 1-881325-21-0.
Haulman, Daniel L. Eleven Myths About the Tuskegee Airmen. Montgomery, Alabama: New South Books, 2012. ISBN 978-1-60306-147-6.
Haulman, Daniel L. "The Tuskegee Airmen and the Never Lost a Bomber Myth", The Alabama Review, Vol. 64, No. 1, January 2011.
Haulman, Daniel L. Misconceptions About the Tuskegee Airmen, Air Force Historical Research Agency (USAF), 24 July 2013.
Haulman, Daniel L. Tuskegee Airmen Chronology, afnews.af.mil; retrieved October 31, 2013.
Homan, Lynn M. and Thomas Reilly. Black Knights: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen. Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing, 2001; ISBN 978-1-56554-828-2.
Leuthner, Stuart and Olivier Jensen. High Honor: Recollections by Men and Women of World War II Aviation. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989; ISBN 0-87474-650-7.
Lloyd, Craig. Eugene Bullard, Black Expatriate in Jazz-Age Paris. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 2000; ISBN 978-0-8203-2192-9.
McKissack, Patricia C. and Fredrick L. Red Tail Angels: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. New York: Walker Books for Young Readers, 1996; ISBN 0-8027-8292-2.
Molony, Brigadier C.J.C.; Captain F.C. Flynn (R.N.); Major-General H.L. Davies and Group Captain T.P. Gleave. "The Mediterranean and Middle East, Volume V: The Campaign in Sicily 1943 and The Campaign in Italy 3 September 1943 to 31 March 1944", History of the Second World War (United Kingdom Military Series). Uckfield, UK: Naval & Military Press, 2004, First edition, 1973 (HMSO); ISBN 1-84574-069-6.
Percy, William A. "Jim Crow and Uncle Sam: The Tuskegee Flying Units and the U.S. Army Air Forces in Europe during World War II", The Journal of Military History, 67, July 2003.
Ross, Robert A. Lonely Eagles: The Story of America's Black Air Force in World War II. Los Angeles: Tuskegee Airmen Inc., Los Angeles Chapter, 1980; ISBN 0-917612-00-0.
Sandler, Stanley. Segregated Skies: All-Black Combat Squadrons of WWII. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992; ISBN 1-56098-154-7.
Tillman, Barrett. "Tales of the Red Tails; Inside the Tuskegee Legend: The men, the machines, the missions", Flight Journal, February 2012.
Thole, Lou. "Segregated Skies." Flypast No, 248, March 2002.
Tucker, Phillip Thomas. Father of the Tuskegee airmen, John C. Robinson. Washington, DC: Potomac Books, Inc., 2012; ISBN 1597974870, e-book ISBN 1597976067 OCLC 752678328
LENA HORNE PAYS A VISIT TO THE AIRMEN
THE BLACK PANTHERS:
The 761st Tank Battalion was an independent tank battalion of the United States Army during World War II. The 761st was made up primarily of African-American soldiers, who by federal law were not permitted to serve alongside white troops; the military did not officially desegregate until after World War II. They were known as the "Black Panthers" after their unit's distinctive insignia; their motto was "Come out fighting". The battalion received a Presidential Unit Citation for its actions. In addition, a large number of individual members also received medals, including one Medal of Honor, 11 Silver Stars and about 300 Purple Hearts. They have been called "one of the most effective tank battalions in World War II".
Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem; Walton, Anthony (2004). Brothers In Arms: The Epic Story of the 761St Tank Battalion, WWII's Forgotten Heroes. New York: Broadway. ISBN 0385503385. OCLC 54454803.
Anderson, Trezzvant W. (1945). Come Out Fighting: The Epic Tale of the 761st Tank Battalion. Salzburg, Austria: Salzburger Druckerei. OCLC 5578473.
Sasser, Charles W. (2004). Patton's Panthers: The African-American 761st Tank Battalion In World War II. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 0743485009. OCLC 57655887.
Wilson, Joseph E., Jr. (1998). Black Panthers Go to Combat in World War II. New York: World War II Magazine.
THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON MOVEMENT:
The March on Washington Movement (MOWM) was the most militant and importantforce in African American politics in the early 1940s, formed in order to protest segregation in the armed forces. The hypocrisy behind calls to “defending democracy” from Hitler was clear to African Americans living in a Jim Crow society, of which the segregated quota system and training camps of the United States military were only the most obvious examples.
Early lobbying efforts to desegregate the military had not persuaded President Franklin Roosevelt to take action. On January 25, A. Philip Randolph, the President of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, proposed the idea of a national, black-led march on the capitol in Washington, D.C. to highlight the issue.
Randolph’s proposal was a radical shift away from the strategies of leading civil rights groups at the time. First, the march would mean a vast grassroots effort mobilizing ordinary people, not political elites. Too, Randolph proposed the march as an independent action organized and led by black people themselves.
Throughout the next few months, March on Washington Committee chapters formed to build for the march which was scheduled for July 1, 1941. It was estimated that the march would draw over 100,000 people to the capitol. Both the press and long-time political activists noted the mass popularity of the march from people who had previously not been involved in protest politics.
A week before the protest, an alarmed President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, establishing the first Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC). In return, Randolph cancelled the march, but established the March on Washington Movement (MOWM) to hold the FEPC to its mission of desegregating the armed forces and to continue agitation for civil rights. Throughout the summer of 1942, the MOWM organized mass popular rallies. Their call for nonviolent civil disobedience, however, began to worry mainstream black organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) who began to withdraw its support for MOWM activities.
MOWM’s hope that FEPC would be an independent investigative body failed in June of 1942 when Roosevelt placed it under Congressional oversight. Though hearings continued after this, neither the FEPC nor the MOWM was able to survive as a real force for challenging the racial status quo. Nonetheless the MOWM continued until 1947.
At its zenith in 1941–1942, the MOWM signified the cohesiveness and power of a more militant, grassroots black politics, and the ability of a black-led mass movement to achieve change that formal lobbying could not and to facilitate a grassroots mobilization for civil rights. The MOWM was the model for the 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream Speech,” and the militant Black-only politics of the MOWM foreshadowed the Black Power movement of the late 1960s.
February 7, 1942, was a day that changed America. Segregation and discrimination had reached a point that was no longer tolerable, and according to the Pittsburgh Courier, it was time for a campaign. The “Double V Campaign,” as it was called, stood for two victories for black Americans: a victory at home and a victory abroad.
This campaign was orchestrated by the Pittsburgh Courier, a weekly black newspaper that helped influence public opinion among black Americans. According to the Courier's February 14th, 1942 headline, “The Courier's Double 'V' for a double victory campaign gets country-wide support.” This support showed that black America was tired of being oppressed and ready for change. The Double V campaign helped tremendously the plight of black Americans. Blacks everywhere were discriminated against based on their color, and the armed forces at this time was no exception. If blacks were allowed entrance into the army, they were only given menial jobs such as cooks or stewards. The Double V campaign called for integration and for the possibility of fighting for freedom everywhere. The Courier went on to say in its’ February 14th article, “We, as colored Americans are determined to protect our country, our form of government and the freedoms which we cherish for ourselves and the rest of the world, therefore we have adopted the Double ‘V’ war cry—victory over our enemies at home and victory over our enemies on the battlefields abroad. Thus in our fight for freedom we wage a two-pronged attack against our enslavers at home and those abroad who will enslave us. WE HAVE A STAKE IN THIS FIGHT...WE ARE AMERICANS, TOO!” Not only did the campaign gather blacks together in support of racial equality, but afforded them the opportunity to feel part of a bigger struggle for freedom everywhere. The shared struggles of black America were also felt by black service men in the armed forces. According to Lawrence P. Scott, a black airman in the 99th, and an eventual Tuskegee Airman, "every man in the 99th was aware that the success of the 99th would impact the status of blacks in the Army Air Force and the army as a whole and that each man performed his job as if the race depended on him."
At war’s end, the campaign would serve as a reminder of why black service men and women fought. Not only was the war fought to free enslaved people abroad, but was also fought for the equality of black Americans at home who were willing to fight and die for their country. This campaign would later help to serve as an impetus for the future civil rights movement of the 1960s that would eventually grant black Americans the equality for which they lived, fought, and died.
Wynn, Neil A. (2010). The African American Experience during World War II. Plymouth, United Kingdom: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. p. 40. ISBN 978-1-4422-0016-6.
Washburn, Patrick S. (August 1981). The Pittsburgh Courier's Double V Campaign in 1942 (PDF). Annual Meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism. East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University.
James, Rawn, Jr. (2014). "The Double V". The Double V: How Wars, Protest, and Harry Truman Desegregated America's Military. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. pp. 137–143. ISBN 9781608196227.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 8802:
Executive Order 8802 was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 25, 1941, to prohibit racial discrimination in the national defense industry. It was the first federal action, though not a law, to promote equal opportunity and prohibit employment discrimination in the United States. The President's statement that accompanied the Order cited the war effort, saying that "the democratic way of life within the nation can be defended successfully only with the help and support of all groups," and cited reports of discrimination: “There is evidence available that needed workers have been barred from industries engaged in defense production solely because of considerations of race, creed, color or national origin, to the detriment of workers' morale and of national unity.”
The executive order was issued in response to pressure from civil rights activists A. Philip Randolph, Walter White, and others involved in the March on Washington Movement who had planned a march on Washington, D.C. in 1941 to protest racial discrimination in industry and the military. They suspended the march after Executive Order 8802 was issued.
The order required federal agencies and departments involved with defense production to ensure that vocational and training programs were administered without discrimination as to "race, creed, color, or national origin." All defense contracts were to include provisions that barred private contractors from discrimination as well.
The Order established the President's Committee on Fair Employment Practice within the Office of Production Management, which was to centralize government contracting in the defense buildup before the United States entered the war. The FEPC was to educate industry as to requirements, investigate alleged violations and "to take appropriate steps to redress grievances which it finds to be valid." The Committee was also supposed to make recommendations to federal agencies and to the President on how Executive Order 8802 could be made most effective.
The Order read: "Whereas it is the policy of the United States to encourage full participation in the national defense program by all citizens of the United States, regardless of race, creed, color, or national origin, in the firm belief that the democratic way of life within the Nation can be defended successfully only with the help and support of all groups within its borders...Now, Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the statutes, and as a prerequisite to the successful conduct of our national defense production effort, I do hereby reaffirm the policy of the United States that there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, color, or national origin, and I do hereby declare that it is the duty of employers and of labor organizations, in furtherance of said policy and of this Order, to provide for the full and equitable participation of all workers in defense industries, without discrimination because of race, creed, color, or national origin..."
These statements were directed at abolishing discrimination in employment within the defense industry and government. The government did not end segregation in the armed forces until 1948, when President Harry S. Truman issued an Executive Order to do so.
Executive Order 8802 was amended several times during the war years. After the US entered the war, the FEPC was placed under the War Production Board, established under E.O. 9040.
In May 1943, Executive Order 9346 was issued, expanding the coverage of the FEPC to federal agencies carrying out regular government programs and returning it to independent status. Following the end of World War II, the Committee was terminated by statute on July 17, 1945.
This EO was superseded by Executive Order 9981 in 1948. Years later congressional passage of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Executive Order 11246 in 1965 prohibited discrimination in employment and public facilities.
New York Times: "President Orders and Even Break for Minorities in Defense Jobs," June 26, 1941, accessed February 4, 2012
Catherine M. Lewis and J. Richard Lewis, Jim Crow America: A Documentary History (University of Arkansas Press, 2009), 169
Roosevelt, Franklin. "Executive Order 8802 - Prohibition of Discrimination in the Defense Industry". Retrieved 5 May 2014.
National Archives: "Franklin D. Roosevelt - 1941", accessed February 4, 2012
National Archives: "Executive Orders (8000-8999)", accessed February 4, 2012
African-Americans served in all combat and combat service elements during the Korean War and were involved in all major combat operations, including the advance of United Nations Forces to the Chinese border. In June 1950, almost 100,000 African-Americans were on active duty in the U.S. armed forces, equaling about 8 percent of total manpower. By the end of the war, probably more than 600,000 African-Americans had served in the military.
Changes in the United States, the growth of black political power and the U.S. Defense Department's realization that African-Americans were being underutilized because of racial prejudice led to new opportunities for African-Americans serving in the Korean War. In October 1951, the all-black 24th Infantry Regiment, a unit established in 1869, which had served during the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and the beginning of the Korean War, was disbanded, essentially ending segregation in the U.S. Army. In the last two years of the Korean War throughout the services, hundreds of blacks held command positions, were posted to elite units such as combat aviation and served in a variety of technical military specialties. Additionally, more blacks than may have done so in a segregated military, chose to stay in the armed forces after the war because of the improved social environment, financial benefits, educational opportunities and promotion potential.
African-American servicemen distinguished themselves in combat during the ground battles with the North Korean Army and in the air war over Korea. On July 21, 1950, a battalion combat team commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Pierce Jr., composed of three infantry companies and an engineer company, recaptured Yech'on. The action, which received national attention in the United States, was considered the first significant successful offensive operation by the U.S. Army in the war. Captain Charles Bussey, commander of the engineer company, was awarded the Silver Star for having prevented a flanking operation by a North Korean battalion during the battle. Bussey's platoon-size unit killed more than 250 enemy soldiers. Captain Bussey's bravery inspired his regiment and exemplified the preparedness and leadership capabilities of African-American soldiers.
In 1950, the Air Force had 25 black pilots in integrated fighter squadrons led by Captain Daniel "Chappie" James Jr., who was assigned to the 36th Squadron, 5th Air Force. Captain James was an exceptional fighter pilot who often flew his F-86 Sabre jet on dangerous, unarmed reconnaissance missions behind enemy lines -- a task reserved for a select group of the most able and trusted flyers. James flew 101 combat missions in Korea and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross before being reassigned stateside. In July 1951, he became the first African-American in the Air Force to command a fighter squadron. Second Lieutenant Frank E. Peterson Jr., was the first black Marine Corps pilot. Peterson flew 64 combat missions before the war ended. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and six Air Medals in the final months of the Korean War. Ensign Jesse L. Brown, the Navy's first African-American fighter pilot to die in combat, was shot down while providing close-air support for units of the 7th Marines during the Chosin Reservoir breakout in December 1950. Brown was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for performing dangerous combat actions that resulted in his fatal crash. In March 1972, Brown's widow christened a Knox-class ocean escort ship the USS Jesse Brown.
Of the more than 600,000 African-Americans who served in the armed forces during the Korean War, it is estimated that more than 5,000 died in combat. Because casualty records compiled by the services in the 1950s did not differentiate by race, the exact number of blacks killed in action cannot be determined.
Numerous African-Americans were awarded medals including the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and Bronze Star for service during the Korean War. Two African-Americans, Private First Class William Thompson and Sergeant Cornelius Charlton were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Thompson was killed in action on Aug. 2, 1951, at a critical juncture in the 8th Army's attempt to stop the North Korean Army's southward movement. Charlton displayed extraordinary heroism in rallying his platoon to continue its assault on a hill near Chipo-ri, just north of the 38th parallel.
The Korean War changed the face of the American military. African-Americans served side by side in the same units with service members of all races and were afforded the opportunity to lead in combat.
In 1967, the NBC journalist Frank McGee spent nearly a month living with soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. Though the troops were often engaged in heavy combat, McGee had a different interest: the experiences of African-American soldiers.
McGee’s reporting, which resulted in the NBC documentary “Same Mud, Same Blood,” focused on Platoon Sgt. Lewis B. Larry, an African-American from Mississippi, and the 40 men, black and white, under his command. “Our history books have taken little notice of the Negro soldier,” McGee said in the documentary. “How do the troops of this war, black and white, want its history written?” The answer isn’t easy.
Black soldiers were nothing new in the American military, but Vietnam was the first major conflict in which they were fully integrated, and the first conflict after the civil rights revolution of the 1950s and early ’60s. Executive Order 9981 officially desegregated the armed forces in 1948, but many units remained segregated until late 1954. Other changes were afoot: The few years before McGee’s report saw passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
And yet, like changes back home, integration on paper did not translate into full equality and substantive integration. As in the United States, white soldiers — particularly from the South — resisted. And troops in Vietnam couldn’t help being aware of rising racial tensions, marked by the nearly simultaneous riots in Newark and Detroit during the summer of 1967.
But McGee, who was white, found surprising differences, too, between the home front and the battlefield. He observed black and white soldiers in the 101st Airborne sharing supplies, telling stories and jokes, and generally empathizing with one another, whatever their race. Asked about race relations in his unit, Sergeant Larry stated emphatically, “There’s no racial barrier of any sort here,” an assessment echoed by the men in his command. These comments led McGee to conclude, “Nowhere in America have I seen Negroes and whites as free, open and uninhibited with their associations. I saw no eyes clouded with resentment.”
A thorough examination of contemporary newspaper and magazine articles, memoirs and oral interviews reveals that many African-American soldiers agreed with McGee. In an interview with People magazine in 1987, Wallace Terry, a black journalist with Time magazine, recalled the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “In his famous 1963 speech at the Lincoln Memorial he said he had a dream that one day the sons of former slaves and sons of slave owners would sit at the same table. That dream came true in only one place, the front lines of Vietnam.”
These positive depictions of race relations are all the more remarkable when compared with the domestic racial situation, in which urban riots had come to be expected every summer.
At the height of the Vietnam war in 1969, John Lee Hooker recorded I Don't Want To Go To Vietnam. In the song, he moaned grimly, "We've got so much trouble at home," before adding simply, "We don't need to go to Vietnam." But the black American soldiers already in Vietnam, trudging tirelessly across that country's saturated rice fields or creeping through its elephant grass and sticky, airless jungles, were understandably more explicit in expressing themselves. Wallace Terry, the Vietnam correspondent for Time magazine between 1967 and 1969, taped black soldiers airing their anger in the summer of 1969. Throughout the recording, their rage is tangible. Speaking about his team-mates, one black soldier declares, "What they been through in the bush, plus what they have to go through back in the world [America], they can't face it. They're ready to just get down and start another civil war." Another adds, "Why should I fight for prejudice?" When Terry inquires, "Tell me what you think the white man should be called?" a chorus of "devil... beast" erupts from the group.
Although President Johnson predicted that the Vietnam war would create a political nightmare, he neglected to foresee the racial one. The ongoing domestic conflicts between black and white Americans were reflected and exacerbated over in Vietnam, principally because the very apex of this increasingly unpopular war, between 1968 and 1969, coincided explosively with the rise of the Black Power era in America. In these years, there was a surge of inter-racial violence within the US forces in Vietnam. Discrimination thrived and, as in America, a racial polarisation arose out of this tension. Black soldiers embraced their culture as well as the emerging Black Power politics and its external symbols.
In fact, the war in Vietnam was America's first racially integrated conflict. Black soldiers had fought in all of America's preceding military engagements, but in segregated units. Although President Truman put pressure on the US armed forces to integrate in 1948, some units in the Korean war were still divided by race.
Prior to 1967, racial animosity had been negligible within the US armed forces in Vietnam because the black men stationed there were professional soldiers seeking a permanent career. Generally, if there were racial slights, they were quietly ignored by these men. On his first exploratory trip to Vietnam in the spring of 1967, Terry today concedes that he sensed "democracy in the foxhole - 'same mud, same blood'." Within a year, however, his feelings had been transformed.
At the beginning of 1965, there were about 23,300 US servicemen in Vietnam. By the end of 1967, this number had jumped to a phenomenal 465,600, the result of Project 100,000, initiated by Johnson in 1966. This dramatically increased the number of US troops in Vietnam by dropping the qualification standards of the draft. Many black Americans who had received an inferior education and, consequently, had evaded the draft, discovered, like Muhammad Ali, that they were now eligible. Of the 246,000 men recruited under Project 100,000 between October 1966 and June 1969, 41% were black, although black Americans represented only 11% of the US population. With a bitter irony, the other group that Project 100,000 condemned was the poor, racially intolerant white man from the southern states of America.
In a country riddled with institutional racism, the draft boards were naturally infected. In 1967, there were no black Americans on the boards in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. In fact, Jack Helms, a member of the Louisiana draft board, was a Grand Wizard in the Ku Klux Klan. In one fatuous outburst, he described the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), the highly respected and conservative black civil rights group, as "a communist-inspired, anti-Christ, sex-perverted group of tennis-short beatniks". Although a poll in 1966 established that three out of four black Americans supported the draft, by 1969 56% of the black American population opposed the Vietnam war.
In 1967 and 1968, indignation against the war accelerated among both black and white Americans. Some thought the draft was simply a covert mode of genocide instigated by the US government, while others watched aghast as monstrous sums of money that could ease the impoverished black communities such as Watts in Los Angeles, were pumped into the war machine. The Black Panther, Eldridge Cleaver, denounced these repellent contradictions, stating that black Americans "are asked to die for the system in Vietnam, in Watts they are killed by it".
The perception that the Vietnamese were parallel sufferers of white colonial racist aggression also flourished in the late 1960s and was reflected in a comment made by Muhammad Ali on the TV programme Soul! "They want me to go to Vietnam to shoot some black folks that never lynched me, never called me nigger, never assassinated my leaders." Before his murder in 1968, Martin Luther King also damned America's foreign policy. He charged the US government with being "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today", and urged those against the draft to seek the status of conscientious objectors.
During the late evening of July 20, 1969, a series of racially motivated assaults took place at Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, N.C., in which 15 Caucasian marines were injured at the hands of a group variously estimated to be 30 to 50 black members of the 2d Marine Division. One victim, Cpl. Edward E. Bankston, a thrice-wounded veteran of Vietnam, died 7 days later of massive head injuries sustained in an unprovoked assault as he and a marine companion, also injured, were returning to barracks from the area movie.
This event, coming on the heels of some reports of other disturbances on military bases, prompted Hon. L. Mendel Rivers, chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services, to appoint this Special Subcommittee To Probe Disturbance on Military Bases. In his letter of instruction dated August 1, 1969, Mr. Rivers directed the subcommittee to "determine the root causes of such conduct, the extent to which such acts have occurred on military installations, and what measures are being taken to stop such behavior."
This report is confined to Camp Lejeune, and is based upon extensive hearings at Camp Lejeune and in Washington, D.C., covering some 1,250 pages of verbatim testimony and attendant documents.
1. The racial problem existing at Camp Lejeune is a reflection of the Nation's racial problem.
2. The average young black marine has racial pride, drive for identity, and sensitivity to discrimination that is characteristic of the young black in the United States.
3. The Marine Corps and the other services have led the way and made substantial progress in integration of the races since 1948.
4. Racial differences and misunderstandings at Camp Lejeune can be attributed in large measure to a lack of effective communication at the junior levels of command as well as vertically between the young marine and his commander.
5. A shortage of mature leadership attributed in large measure to rapid buildup and turnover at the NCO and junior officer levels at Camp Lejeune has aggravated the racial problem.
6. There was a deterioration in discipline at Camp Lejeune.
7. The instances of permissiveness appearing at the junior levels of command are damaging to discipline but unfortunately mirror the society in which these young men live.
8. The security procedures at Camp Lejeune on the evening of July 20 were insufficient, despite some warning of impending trouble.
9. Improved security measures are necessary at the ammunition storage areas and armories, as well as improved lighting in populated areas throughout the Camp Lejeune complex.
10. The fatality which occurred did not result from any misconduct on the part of the victim.
The African-American response to the United States’ involvement in the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War was generally critical of the conflict. Despite the historical symbolism associated with African-American participation and disproportionate representation in the military, African Americans composed the most consistently identifiable strata either opposed to or suspicious of the deployment of U.S. troops and military equipment in the Gulf. The pattern of African-American response to the Gulf War is remarkably similar to its underlying reactions to military conflicts taking place in the recent past, including the Vietnam War and Laos invasion of the 1960s and 1970s. The weight of the evidence suggests African-American public opinion during the Gulf War was not simply part and parcel of a growing national isolationism. Rather, it reflected African America's level of political dissent, calls for equality and racial tolerance, and anti-imperialism.
Together with the invasion of Afghanistan two years earlier, Operation Iraqi Freedom was the first prolonged modern U.S. conflict prosecuted by an all-volunteer force; and working and middle-class communities took the brunt of the impact. Nearly 4,500 Americans died in the war, and another 30,000 were wounded. Up until the very last casualty, people of color paid an especially high price.
On November 14, 2011, just weeks before the troop pullout, Army Specialist David Hickman became the last official U.S. casualty of the war when his convoy rolled over an improvised explosive device and he bled to death. Hickman, an African-American soldier from North Carolina, was just 23 when he died.
As journalist Cord Jefferson pointed out in commentary published shortly after U.S. troops began leaving Iraq: “People of all colors died unnecessarily in Iraq, but Hickman’s death is a reminder of the high costs African-Americans pay in war.”
According to an analysis by the U.S. Army – the service branch with the highest proportion of Black enlistees – the number of African-American soldiers has declined since the 1980s, when nearly a quarter were Black. But African Americans continue to serve in disproportionately high numbers. In 2009, 18 percent of the total Army population was Black, and African Americans comprised 21 percent of active-duty enlisted soldiers, the Army reported.
“Because many Blacks don’t have traditional advancement opportunities – good schools, family college funds, etc. – it makes sense that so many would turn to the military for a leg up,” Jefferson observed. “It’s a choice, but it’s a choice fraught with lots of racist historical baggage.”
In Iraq, Blacks made up an average of 15 percent of combat troops in-country at any given time, and in the earliest weeks of the conflict accounted for a startlingly high percentage of casualties. However, due largely to their concentration in non-combat positions of the military, by the end of the war African Americans accounted for just 9 percent of fatalities – which is actually lower than other ethnicities.
There is anecdotal evidence, however, that African-American soldiers were purposely targeted because of their race. A Sunni insurgent interviewed in Baghdad in 2004 by Guardian reporter Jason Burke echoed the ethnocentrism that permeates much of the Middle East when he admitted: “To have Negroes occupying us is a particular humiliation. Sometimes we aborted a mission because there were no Negroes [to target].”
The war in Iraq had a well-documented negative effect on overall Black enlistment in the armed services, but the opposite was true for Latinos. In 2001, Latinos comprised 9.5 percent of the armed forces, but by the end of the Iraq War that total had risen to 12 percent. Like their counterparts in the African-American community, many Latinos joined up to take advantage of opportunities for education and employment; but recruiters had access to another, even more enticing carrot designed to encourage Latino enlistment.
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Buckley, Gail (2001). American Patriots:The Story of Blacks in the Military From the Revolution to Desert Storm. Random House. ISBN 978-0-375-76009-9.
Dalessandro, Robert J.; Gerald Torrence (2009). Willing Patriots: Men of Color in the First World War. Schiffer. ISBN 978-0-7643-3233-3.
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Fletcher, Marvin E. (1974). The Black Soldier and Officer in the United States Army 1891–1917. University of Missouri. ISBN 978-0-8262-0161-4.
Foner, Jack D. (1974). Blacks and the Military in American History. Praeger.
Gibson, Truman K., Jr.; Steve Huntley (2005). Knocking Down Barriers: My Fight for Black America. Northwestern University Press. ISBN 0-8101-2292-8.
Höhn, Maria; Martin Klimke (2010). A Breath of Freedom: The Civil Rights Struggle, African American GIs, and Germany. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-10473-0.
Knauer, Christine (2014). Let Us Fight as Free Men: Black Soldiers and Civil Rights. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
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[Seventy] years ago, civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph celebrated as President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981 to desegregate the military. It had been a long journey for Randolph and civil rights advocates on this front. Initially, Truman questioned Randolph’s patriotism and loyalty to the nation when, as founder of the League for Non-Violent Civil Disobedience Against Military Segregation, Randolph pressured him to issue this order. But Randolph’s refusal to yield, and Truman’s calculated look at the political landscape, ultimately convinced the president to take what would be one of the most momentous steps toward achieving a more equal society.
Randolph’s efforts have continued to pay off. Unlike other more acclaimed civil rights achievements, which have faced setbacks and successful resistance, E.O. 9981 has proven durable and difficult to scuttle. It directly ended segregation in the armed forces, and the U.S. military slowly began to deploy integrated combat regiments during the Korean War two years later.
In fact, both the speed of military compliance with Truman’s directive and the overall intransigence of Jim Crow in every other aspect American society makes the order all the more remarkable. Its fundamental transformation of the U.S. military makes clear that, when racist rationalizations of discrimination, injustice and inequality are stripped away, American institutions can be strengthened by enacting basic principles of inclusion.
In 1947, with tensions ratcheting up between the United States and the Soviet Union, Randolph intensified his demands to dismantle racial segregation in the armed forces. U.S. military leaders, as well as Truman, initially resisted, fearing the ramifications of Randolph’s advice to young men, both black and white, to resist the draft in the midst of the evolving Cold War.
But Randolph understood how much of a difference presidential action could make. His 1941 March On Washington Movement had successfully pressured President Franklin D. Roosevelt into issuing an executive order banning racial discrimination in war industry employment. But it failed to achieve its second goal of desegregating military service and training. As the Fair Employment Practice Committee created by Roosevelt’s executive order collapsed under pressure from Southern Democrats in Congress, Randolph and other African Americans were determined to see the problem of military segregation addressed.
Truman also recognized the need to take some sort of action in response to this growing grass roots pressure. In 1946, he authorized the first presidential committee on civil rights. This body, which included civil rights activists and labor and religious leaders among others, developed a blueprint for dismantling the nation’s racial caste system that specifically called for measures like federal anti-lynching legislation, abolishing poll taxes, ending ballot box discrimination and desegregating the military.
For Truman, though, E.O. 9981 was as much political calculation as it was a display of personal principle. He recognized the difficult electoral landscape he faced in the 1948 presidential election. He had challengers across the political and partisan spectrum. Henry Wallace, the former Secretary of Commerce and Roosevelt’s Vice President from 1941-45, was on his left. The popular and well-financed governor of New York, Thomas Dewey, ran as the Republican candidate. And Southern Democrats bolted the party to support their own candidate, Strom Thurmond.
Convinced by Randolph and others that African Americans would no longer accept Jim Crow in the military and desperate to shore up political support among urban African Americans, Truman issued a directive mandating “equality of treatment and opportunity for all people in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.” Though the pace of full-scale change was slow, the executive order was one of the most significant steps toward equal justice since the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that abolished slavery in 1865.
Indeed, when considered alongside other milestone civil rights achievements, E.O. 9981 is remarkable for its effectiveness and durability. The 14th Amendment intended to confer citizenship on freed men. It ultimately faltered, prompting enactment of the 15th Amendment banning racial exclusions from voting. However, grandfather clauses and other methods of disenfranchising African Americans largely nullified it in some parts of the South well into the 1960s.
Even the momentous civil rights actions that we collectively recognize as modern landmarks of racial progress fail to match the fundamental and lasting institutional change wrought by E.O. 9981. The Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawed racial discrimination in public education, but the nation’s public schools have never fully met the Court’s mandate to desegregate. Even today in schools, neighborhoods, churches and restaurants, there is still a disconnect between the Warren court’s assertion and the lived reality of racially-divided social spaces.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 that intended to prevent voter suppression and disenfranchisement in places that had historically denied African Americans the right to vote has been under a steady assault almost from the day Lyndon Johnson signed it into law. Modern voter suppression efforts across the country and in parts of the South, in particular, are only the recent examples of the long-standing effort to blunt the impact of this milestone legislation from the civil rights era.
In this context, E.O. 9981 stands as a profound and lasting achievement. Regardless of Truman’s motivations for issuing this directive and the military’s initial resistance to it, no other institution in American life has been as successful or effective in making systemic racial integration work. The military, with its clear hierarchy and commitment to discipline, made racial inclusion a direct order, and it then became a reality for troops. This success revealed how inclusion could become an organizational strength, ultimately establishing an institutional blueprint for other branches of government, organizations and corporations. Though there are still serious racial problems that the nation’s armed forces need to address, it is undeniable that E. O. 9981 effected the kind of broad and sustained change rivaled by few other civil rights actions.
As the nation continues to struggle with problems of racial justice and equality — problems starkly illustrated by police shootings of unarmed black citizens and deliberate efforts to purge African Americans from voter rolls, for example — reflecting back on E.O. 9981 seems more than timely. Its wholesale transformation of the U.S. military illustrates the potential for institutions to usher in social change. E.O. 9981 should serve as a bright beacon for making equally important improvements with regard to race, justice and equality in other facets of American life. The benefits of basic inclusion are evident, if only those lessons are heeded today.
Much decorated for their valor and often cited as being part of the most decorated unit in World War II for its size and length of service, Japanese Americans served in the U.S. armed forces in disproportionate numbers, despite having their loyalties questioned after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Though they mostly served in the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team with white officers, others served as translators and interpreters in the Military Intelligence Service. Because of the unique role they played during and after the war, Japanese American war veterans continue to play an influential role in the community.
Chinese Americans distinguished themselves from Japanese Americans, and suffered less discrimination. A quarter of those would serve in the U.S. Army Air Forces, some of were sent to the Chinese-Burma-India theater for service with the 14th Air Service Group and the Chinese-American Composite Wing. Another 70 percent would go on to serve in the U.S. Army in various units, including the 3rd, 4th, 6th, 32nd and 77th Infantry Divisions. Prior to the war, the U.S. Navy had recruited Chinese Americans but they had been restricted to serve only as stewards; this continued until May 1942, when restrictions ceased and they were allowed to serve in other ratings. In 1943, Chinese American women were accepted into the Women's Army Corps in the Military Intelligence Service. They were also recruited for service in the Army Air Force, with a few later becoming civilian Women Airforce Service Pilots.
After a treaty was signed in 1882, Koreans had begun migrating to the U.S. This came to an end when Japan annexed Korea in 1910. When the war began, Korean Americans were treated as enemy aliens, although this changed in 1943, when they were exempted from enemy alien status. About 100 enlisted in the U.S. Army over the course of the war, some of whom served as translators.
In April 1917, the U.S. entered World War I on the side of the Allies. The U.S. Insular Government of the Philippine Islands created its own national guard units to join the effort, but did not see combat. The units were demobilized at Camp Thomas Claudio in 1918. Within the United States, a draft was started, and alongside Hispanic and Native Americans, Asian Americans (including Filipinos) were drafted as "non-whites" filling out the "white quota" in the National Army. The majority of Asian Americans did not see combat. In the U.S., Filipinos were initially blocked from enlisting, until the laws were revised a day before Japan had begun its invasion back in the Philippines. Of the Filipinos who lived in California, two-fifths, or sixteen thousand Filipinos, attempted to enlist into the U.S. Army. Some would serve in non-segregated units, yet a segregated infantry battalion was established, which continued to grow and at its peak was split into two units known as the 1st and 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiments. These soldiers were subjected to discrimination during their time training at Camp Beale and Fort Ord, sometimes being mistaken for Japanese Americans when off base. Nevertheless, these units would serve with distinction similar to that of the 442d Infantry Regiment, although their deeds were not as well documented or widely known. By the end of the war, a total of 50,000 decorations, awards, medals, ribbons, certificates, commendations and citations had been awarded to personnel assigned to these two regiments for their service in the New Guinea and Philippines campaigns. (c) Wikipedia. Retrieved 23 January, 2018.