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Black History Month


Equality escaped black soldiers while fighting World War II

Black American soldiers faced much racial discrimination in the armed forces during World War II. Many civil rights activists began demanding what they called a "Double-V": victory abroad against Nazism and fascism, as well as victory against racism and discrimination at home and in the armed forces.

Black soldiers assigned to stateside duty were often treated as second-class citizens, especially at bases in the South. They were often housed in inferior barracks and assigned lowly jobs.

Overseas it was no different. Black soldiers had their own units, mess halls, barracks, even bars. There were no black infantry units in Europe. There were nine black field artillery battalions, a few anti-aircraft battalions and six tank and tank destroyer battalions.

Many of these units excelled in battle. The 969th Field Artillery Battalion, comprised entirely of African-American soldiers, joined Allied forces to help win the battle at Bastogne, Belgium. Gen. Maxwell Taylor wrote to the battalion’s commander that his "Division is proud to have shared the Battlefield with your command."

Taylor recommended all members of the 969th for a Distinguished Citation, the first black combat unit to ever receive that honor.

The 761st Tank Battalion, another black unit, joined Gen. George Patton at the 26th Division. The soldiers spent 183 days in action. Every commander they fought under sent his commendations. Many members received Distinguished Service Crosses.

By the middle of World War II, integration of officer training began. Integration of military units began in 1945. When the war ended, President Harry Truman appointed a committee to study desegregation of the military. Within 10 years, the Army had changed from being one of the most segregated organizations in America to one of the most successfully integrated.

— By Laurie Hansen


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