Monday, August 24, 2015


World War II set in motion a movement that eventually led to freedom



*          To absorb the larger numbers of African Americans being admitted, the Army formed several new all-black units, primarily in the service and technical forces. The 47th and 48th Quartermaster Regiments formed in 1939 were followed in 1940 by the first Chemical Decontamination Company, the 41st General Service Engineer Regiment as well as artillery, coastal artillery, and transportation units.

*          President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Selective Training and Service Act, the first peacetime draft in U.S. history. The act contained an anti-discrimination clause and established a 10 percent quota system to ensure integration. Shortly thereafter, Assistant Secretary of War Robert Patterson issued a memo on segregation that seemingly contradicted the new legislation’s racial policy. Segregated troops remained official U.S. Army policy throughout World War II, because it did not consider racial separation discriminatory. The Army did attempt to dispel racist beliefs among its white officers by issuing Army Service Forces Manual M5, Leadership and the Negro Soldier.

*          Black leaders met with the Secretary of the Navy and the Assistant Secretary of War to present a seven-point program for the mobilization of African Americans. Included were demands for flight training, the admission of black women into Red Cross and military nursing units, and desegregation of the armed forces. President Roosevelt issued a statement on 9 October 1940 that argued against the latter demand on the basis that it would adversely affect national defense. Although he promised to ensure that the services enlisted blacks in proportion to their demographic presence, Roosevelt continued policies dating back to WWI. Many African Americans were angered by the White House’s erroneous claim that the black leaders had approved the statement. However, additional political pressure by African Americans and some Republicans convinced Roosevelt to do more. Consequently, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. was promoted to Brigadier General, flight training for blacks was planned, more blacks were drafted, Judge William H. Hastie was made a special aide to the Secretary of War, and a black advisor was appointed for the Selective Service Board.

*          Judge William H. Hastie, dean of the Howard University Law School, assumed the position of Civilian Aid to the Secretary of War in Matters of Black Rights. The position was similar to that held by Emmett J. Scott (highest-ranking African-American in Woodrow Wilson’s Administration) during World War I.

*          The U.S. Army Air Corps sent plans to Tuskegee Institute in Alabama concerning the training of African-American pilots. On 6 January 1941, General Henry H. ("Hap") Arnold informed the Assistant Secretary of War about his decision to restrict the training of black flyers to Tuskegee where the necessary facilities to more quickly implement the program were available. In addition, the school was close enough to Montgomery to be supervised by the Maxwell Field Commander

1941 The U. S. Army activated the 366th Infantry Regiment, the first all-black Regular Army unit commanded by black officers.       

1941 Willa B. Brown becomes a training coordinator for the Civil Aeronautics Administration a teacher in the Civilian Pilot Training Program.

January 1942 Black labor organizer and civil rights leader (and later politician, writer, and
Ernest Calloway was the first black to refuse to be inducted because he objected to the
Army's racist segregation policy. He was a member of the Conscientious Objectors Against Jim
Crow; a group that claimed African American should be exempt from military service because of
discrimination. Calloway's protest and subsequent imprisonment generated a lot of national
publicity.  Although this particular group disbanded after Calloway was incarcerated, over 400
other black men also became conscientious objectors during WWII. Some were members of the
Nation of Islam who refused induction on religious grounds, while others like William Lynn refused
to serve because the quota system established by the armed forces contradicted the anti-discrimination
clauses of the September 1940 Selective Service and Training Act.
January 1941 Labor and civil rights leader, A. Philip Randolph, president of the Brotherhood of
Sleeping Car Porters, proposed a massive March on Washington in July 1941 to protest unfair labor
practices in the defense industry and the military’s discrimination against African Americans. During
WWI, Randolph had not endorsed other black leaders’ calls to put aside their own grievances and
unite behind the war effort, stating, "that rather than volunteer to make the world safe for democracy,
he would fight to make Georgia safe for the Negro." His demands for full black participation
continued in WWII.
9 January 1941 Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson formally approved the establishment of the
flight-training program at Tuskegee Institute.
13 January 1941 The U.S. Army established the 78th Tank Battalion, the first black armor unit.
The first African-American tankers reported to Fort Knox, Kentucky, to begin armored warfare
training in March 1941. The Seventy-eighth was re-designated on May 8, 1941 as the 758th Tank
Battalion (Light). It was the first of three tank battalions comprising the 5th Tank Group, which was
made up of black enlisted men and white officers. The other two tank battalions were the 761st and
784th. Initially inactivated on 22 September 1945 at Viareggio, Italy, the 758th was reactivated in
1946 and later fought in the Korean War as the 64th Tank Battalion.
February 1941 The 1st Battalion, 351st Field Artillery Regiment was activated at Camp Livingston,
Louisiana, as part of the 46th Field Artillery Brigade. Re-designated the 351st Field Artillery
Battalion in 1943, the unit arrived in Europe in December 1944. The African-American enlisted
personnel were officered by 16 blacks and 15 whites. While stationed in England from December
1944 to February 1945, the 351st Field Artillery Group-Colored’s 50-man Caisson Choir sang for the
British public in such notable places as Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral. After being
transferred to France in March 1945, the unit was attached to the 9th U.S. Army. While engaged in
fighting with the Germans, the 361st fired over 6200 rounds of 155mm Howitzer artillery ammunition
into enemy territory.
25 June 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, which reiterated the
federal government’s previously stated policy of nondiscrimination in war industry employment. It
also created a Committee on Fair Employment Practice to oversee the application of the president’s
directive and to expand new job opportunities for black workers. This action was in keeping with a
promise made to A. Philip Randolph if he would call off his planned "March on Washington" to
protest discrimination and segregation.
29 June 1941-16 November 1944 While on assignment with the Army’s Inspector General,
Brigadier General Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., completed several notable inspections involving black
troops stationed at northern and southern posts. In a memorandum of 9 November 43, Davis
pointed out the nearly impossible task required of African-American soldiers in developing "a
high morale in a community that offers him nothing but humiliation and mistreatment." He
reported that instead of working to eliminate "Jim Crow" laws in the military, "the Army, by its
directives and by actions of commanding officers, has introduced the attitudes of the ‘Governors
of the six Southern states,’ in many of the other 42 states of the continental United States." He
also conducted several important inquiries into racial clashes between white soldiers or civilians
and black soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Alexandria, Louisiana; Fort Dix, New
Jersey; Selfridge Field (now Air Force Base), Michigan; and Camp Stewart, Georgia. In his reports,
Davis recommended that African-American soldiers gradually be removed from southern posts and
that black officers be assigned to command black troops. General Davis also represented the War
Department at numerous functions involving black civilians, such as war bond rallies or speeches
given to war industry workers.
July 1941 The Army opened its integrated officer's candidate schools. For the first 6 months,
however, only 21 of the more than 2000 men admitted were black. Whites protested the policy and
some black leaders demanded a quota be established to ensure parity, but the Army justified its
policy of ignoring race in regard to officer training on the grounds of efficiency and economy.
Unfortunately, race continued to determine assignments after newly commissioned officers
graduated. Too often, more qualified African-American officers were put in charge of service units,
while less qualified white officers continued to be assigned to black combat units. The degree of
authority and respect given to black officers also remained a serious problem, since black officers
were unable to command even the lowest ranking white soldiers.
19 July 1941 The U.S. Army Air Corps began training African-American pilots at the Tuskegee
Institute in Alabama. Actual flight instruction began on 25 August. The Tuskegee Institute, which
prepared the 926 members of the famed "Tuskegee Airmen" for combat in WWII, remained the
only official military flight training school for black pilots until its program closed with the
graduation of the last class on 26 June 1946.
4 August 1941 The first commanding officer of Huntsville Arsenal (Alabama), Colonel Rollo C. Ditto,
arrived and broke ground for the initial construction of the installation. Huntsville Arsenal, which was
part of the Chemical Warfare Service, was the sole manufacturer of colored smoke munitions. It also
produced gel-type incendiaries and toxic agents such as mustard gas, phosgene, lewisite, and tear gas.
The Army broke ground on neighboring Redstone Arsenal on 25 October 1941. This Ordnance Corps
installation manufactured chemical artillery ammunition, burster charges, rifle grenades, and various
types of bombs. African-American men and women worked at both arsenals during WWII. By May
1944, when civilian employment reached its wartime peak of 6,707 men and women, blacks
represented 22 percent of the work force at Huntsville Arsenal.
Notable Black units in WWII
Some of the most notable African American Army units which served in World War II were:
92nd Infantry Division
366th Infantry Regiment
93rd Infantry Division
369th Infantry Regiment
371st Infantry Regiment
2nd Cavalry Division
4th Cavalry Brigade
9th Cavalry Regiment
10th Cavalry Regiment
5th Cavalry Brigade
27th Cavalry Regiment
28th Cavalry Regiment
 Air Corps Units
332d Fighter Group (Tuskegee Airmen)
 Non Divisional Units
Infantry Units
555th Parachute Infantry Battalion
 Cavalry/Armor Units
US Military Academy Cavalry Squadron
 5th Reconnaissance Squadron
 758th Tank Battalion
 761st Tank Battalion
 784th Tank Battalion
 Field Artillery Units
46th Field Artillery Brigade [15] .
 184th Field Artillery Regiment, Illinois National Guard.
 333rd Field Artillery Regiment [16] .
 349th Field Artillery Regiment [17]
 350th Field Artillery Regiment [18]
 351st Field Artillery Regiment [19]
 353rd Field Artillery Regiment [20]
 578th Field Artillery Regiment [21]
 333rd Field Artillery Battalion
 349th Field Artillery Battalion
 350th Field Artillery Battalion
 351st Field Artillery Battalion
 353rd Field Artillery Battalion
 578th Field Artillery Battalion
 593rd Field Artillery Battalion
 594th Field Artillery Battalion
 595th Field Artillery Battalion
 596th Field Artillery Battalion
 597th Field Artillery Battalion
 598th Field Artillery Battalion
 599th Field Artillery Battalion
 600th Field Artillery Battalion
 686th Field Artillery Battalion
 777th Field Artillery Battalion
 795th Field Artillery Battalion
 930th Field Artillery Battalion, Illinois National Guard
 931st Field Artillery Battalion, Illinois National Guard
 969th Field Artillery Battalion
 971st Field Artillery Battalion
 973rd Field Artillery Battalion
 993rd Field Artillery Battalion
 999th Field Artillery Battalion
Tank Destroyer Units
614th Tank Destroyer Battalion
646th Tank Destroyer Battalion
649th Tank Destroyer Battalion
659th Tank Destroyer Battalion
669th Tank Destroyer Battalion
679th Tank Destroyer Battalion
795th Tank Destroyer Battalion
827th Tank Destroyer Battalion
828th Tank Destroyer Battalion
829th Tank Destroyer Battalion
846th Tank Destroyer Battalion
 Two segregated units were organized by the United States Marine Corps:
 51st Defense Battalion. (Composite)
 52nd Defense Battalion. (Composite

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