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Blacks in World War II

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This project is about Blacks that lived during and participated in World War II. The struggles and hardships that they had to enduring during the war--fighting for their own freedom against racism and discrimination on the homefront and on the battlefield.

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Real African American History - World War II (1939 - 1945)

A Short Timeline

1939-45 - "The treatment accorded the Negro during the Second World War marks, for me, a turning point in the Negro's relation to America. To put it briefly, and somewhat too simply, a certain hope died, a certain respect for white Americans faded." (James Baldwin, p. 68).

1940, June 10 - Death of Marcus Garvey, London, England.

1941 - A. Philip Randolph emerged as one of the most visible spokesmen for African-American civil rights. He, Bayard Rustin, and A. J. Muste proposed a march on Washington to protest racial discrimination in war industries and to propose the desegregation of the American Armed forces. The march was cancelled after President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, or the Fair Employment Act. Some militants felt betrayed because Roosevelt's order applied only to banning discrimination within war industries and not the armed forces. But, the Fair Employment Act is generally perceived as a success for African-American labor rights.

1942 - An estimated 18,000 blacks gathered at Madison Square Garden to hear A. Philip Randolph kick off a campaign against discrimination in the military, in war industries, in government agencies, and in labor unions.

1942-45 - Rebellions on U.S. bases worldwide by Blacks. [see Port Chicago Explosion and Mutiny website below].

1943 - Racial disorders had broken out sporadically in Mobile, Los Angeles, Beaumont, Tex., and elsewhere. In Harlem, NY, a riot erupted. Six persons died, over 500 were injured, more than 100 were jailed. (1968 Riot Commission, p. 224).

1943, June 20 (Sunday) - The Detroit Riot. By the time federal troops arrived to halt the racial conflict, 25 Blacks and 9 whites were dead, property damage exceeded $2 million, and a legacy of fear and hate became part of the city. (1968 Riot Commission, p. 224).

1945, Apr. - Two unarmed U.S. Black soldiers killed by military police at French army camp for allegedly talking to French women employed there.

Source: Black Liberation History

MUTINY AT FREEMAN FIELD

A disturbance which originated at Freeman Field, near Seymour, Ind., in April 5, 1944, the day the 99th Pursuit Fighter Squadron and the rest of the 332nd Fighter Group arrived, had wide ramifications and repercussions. These were the Tuskegee Airmen of the U.S. Army Air Corps!!

Some background information and history of these airmen is needed.

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Some Mutinies, Riots, and Other Disturbances (Large Groups of Black Servicemen and Servicewomen

THE CAMP VAN DORN RIOT, Late Fall, 1943 -

More than 1,200 black soldiers from the 364th Infantry Division were murdered in cold blood by the U.S. Army at camp Van Dorn in the southwestern Mississippi.

THE HAWAIIAN MUTINY, July 31, 1944

MUTINY AT MABRY FIELD, March 23, 1944

THE BROOKLEY FIELD MUTINY, May 24, 1944

THE FORT DEVENS CASE, March 10, 1944

THE CAMP CLAIBORNE RIOT, August 16, 1944

THE FORT LAWTON ANTI-ITALIAN RIOT, August 14, 1944

THE GUAM DISORDERS, Summer-Christmas nite, 1944

SEABEES' HUNGER STRIKE, March 3 and 4, 1945

SEABEES DISCHARGE CASE, April 5, 1945

Sources: Aptheker, Herbert, editor. A Documentary History of the Negro in the United States, Vol. 4, 1974, 1992, pp. 525, 529-37.

Muhammad, Simeon Booker. "New Book Claims Army Murdered More than 1,000 Black Soldiers During WWII." Los Angeles Sentinel, Vol. LXIV, No. 33, Mavember 12-November 18, 1998, p. A-1.

Murray, Florence, editor. Negro Handbook, 1946-47, pp. 347-56.

  • See also: Battle, LeRoy. Easier Said. 1998. (Autobiography)
  • See also: Case, Carroll. The Slaughter--An American Tragedy. 1998.

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Violence Against Individual or Small Groups of Black Soldiers

THE BOHANNON CASE, July 3, 1943

TUSKEGEE CASE, December 1942 or January 1943

THE DURHAM, N.C., MURDER, July 8, 1944

W.A.C.S' BEATING CASE, July 9, 1945

Sources: Aptheker, Herbert, editor. A Documentary History of the Negro in the United States, Vol. 4, 1974, 1992, pp. 538-40.

McKissack, Patricia and Fredrick. Red-Tail Angels: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, 1995.

Murray, Florence, editor. Negro Handbook, 1946-47, pp. 347-56.

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RACE RIOTS IN CITIES: racial battles were fought in many places to which black families were moving in those days of renewed migration: places like these below. During the conflicts in these cities scores of persons were killed, hundreds more (over 1,200) were wounded, and millions of dollars worth of property was destroyed. In most of these instances, youth gangs were at the forefront of the fighting. (see also Vampires, Dragons, and Egyptian Kings, by Eric Schneider).

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Zoot Suit Riots, were the first!

MOBILE, ALABAMA

DETROIT, MICHIGAN, June 20, 1943 It started on Belle Isle. It lasted over 30 hours. When it was over 25 Blacks and 9 whites were dead. It caused over $2 million damage.

BEAUMONT, TEXAS,

HARLEM, NEW YORK CITY, Aug. 1, 1943 6 died, and over 500 were injured, more than 100 were jailed.

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY

MARIANNA, FLORIDA

Source: Port Chicago Explosion and Mutiny

Baker, Vernon J.

Citation: For extraordinary heroism in action on 5 and 6 April 1945, near Viareggio, Italy.

Then Second Lieutenant Baker demonstrated outstanding courage and leadership in destroying enemy installations, personnel and equipment during his company's attack against a strongly entrenched enemy in mountainous terrain. When his company was stopped by the concentration of fire from several machine gun emplacements, he crawled to one position and destroyed it, killing three Germans.

Continuing forward, he attacked and enemy observation post and killed two occupants. With the aid of one of his men, Lieutenant Baker attacked two more machine gun nests, killing or wounding the four enemy soldiers occupying these positions. He then covered the evacuation of the wounded personnel of his company by occupying an exposed position and drawing the enemy's fire.

On the following night Lieutenant Baker voluntarily led a battalion advance through enemy mine fields and heavy fire toward the division objective. Second Lieutenant Baker's fighting spirit and daring leadership were an inspiration to his men and exemplify the highest traditions of the Armed Forces.


Carter, Edward A., Jr.

Citation: For extraordinary heroism in action on 23 March 1945, near Speyer, Germany.

When the tank on which he was riding received heavy bazooka and small arms fire, Sergeant Carter voluntarily attempted to lead a three-man group across an open field. Within a short time, two of his men were killed and the third seriously wounded. Continuing on alone, he was wounded five times and finally forced to take cover. As eight enemy riflemen attempted to capture him, Sergeant Carter killed six of them and captured the remaining two. He then crossed the field using as a shield his two prisoners from which he obtained valuable information concerning the disposition of enemy troops. Staff Sergeant Carter's extraordinary heroism was an inspiration to the officers and men of the Seventh Army Infantry Company Number 1 (Provisional) and exemplify the highest traditions of the Armed Forces.


Fox, John R.

Citation: For extraordinary heroism against an armed enemy in the vicinity of Sommocolonia, Italy on 26 December 1944, while serving as a member of Cannon Company, 366th Infantry Regiment, 92d Infantry Division.

During the preceding few weeks, Lieutenant Fox served with the 598th Field Artillery Battalion as a forward observer. On Christmas night, enemy soldiers gradually infiltrated the town of Sommocolonia in civilian clothes, and by early morning the town was largely in hostile hands. Commencing with a heavy barrage of enemy artillery at 0400 hours on 26 December 1944, an organized attack by uniformed German units began.

Being greatly outnumbered, most of the United States Infantry forces were forced to withdraw from the town, but Lieutenant Fox and some other members of his observer party voluntarily remained on the second floor of a house to direct defensive artillery fire. At 0800 hours, Lieutenant Fox reported that the Germans were in the streets and attacking in strength. He then called for defensive artillery fire to slow the enemy advance.

As the Germans continued to press the attack towards the area that Lieutenant Fox occupied, he adjusted the artillery fire closer to his position. Finally he was warned that the next adjustment would bring the deadly artillery right on top of his position.

After acknowledging the danger, Lieutenant Fox insisted that the last adjustment be fired as this was the only way to defeat the attacking soldiers. Later, when a counterattack retook the position from the Germans, Lieutenant Fox's body was found with the bodies of approximately 100 German soldiers. Lieutenant Fox's gallant and courageous actions, at the supreme sacrifice of his own life, contributed greatly to delaying the enemy advance until other infantry and artillery units could reorganize to repel the attack.

His extraordinary valorous actions were in keeping with the most cherished traditions of military service, and reflect the utmost credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.


James, Willy F., Jr.

Citation: For extraordinary heroism in action on 7 April 1945 near Lippoldsberg, Germany.

As lead scout during a maneuver to secure and expand a vital bridgehead, Private First Class James was the first to draw enemy fire. He was pinned down for over an hour, during which time he observed enemy positions in detail. Returning to his platoon, he assisted in working out a new plan of maneuver. He then led a squad in the assault, accurately designating targets as he advanced, until he was killed by enemy machine gun fire while going to the aid of his fatally wounded platoon leader.

Private First Class James' fearless, self-assigned actions, coupled with his diligent devotion to duty exemplified the finest traditions of the Armed Forces.


Rivers, Rubin

Citation: For extraordinary heroism in action during the 15-19 November 1944, toward Guebling, France.

Though severely wounded in the leg, Sergeant Rivers refused medical treatment and evacuation, took command of another tank, and advanced with his company in Guebling the next day.

Repeatedly refusing evacuation, Sergeant Rivers continued to direct his tank's fire at enemy positions through the morning of 19 November 1944. At dawn, Company A's tanks began to advance towards Bougaktroff, but were stopped by enemy fire. Sergeant Rivers, joined by another tank, opened fire on the enemy tanks, covering company A as they withdrew. While doing so, Sergeant River's tank was hit, killing him and wounding the crew.

Staff Sergeant Rivers' fighting spirit and daring leadership were an inspiration to his unit and exemplify the highest traditions of military service.


Thomas, Charles L.

Citation: For extraordinary heroism in action on 14 December 1944, near Climbach, France.

While riding in the lead vehicle of a task force organized to storm and capture the village of Climbach, France, then First Lieutenant Thomas's armored scout car was subjected to intense enemy artillery, self-propelled gun, and small arms fire. Although wounded by the initial burst of hostile fire, Lieutenant Thomas signaled the remainder of the column to halt and, despite the severity of his wounds, assisted the crew of the wrecked car in dismounting. Upon leaving the scant protection which the vehicle afforded, Lieutenant Thomas was again subjected to a hail of enemy fire which inflicted multiple gunshot wounds in his chest, legs, and left arm. Despite the intense pain caused by these wounds, Lieutenant Thomas ordered and directed the dispersion and emplacement of two antitank guns which in a few moments were promptly and effectively returning the enemy fire.

Realizing that he could no longer remain in command of the platoon, he signaled to the platoon commander to join him. Lieutenant Thomas then thoroughly oriented him on enemy gun dispositions and the general situation. Only after he was certain that his junior officer was in full control of the situation did he permit himself to be evacuated.

First Lieutenant Thomas' outstanding heroism were an inpiration to his men and exemplify the highest traditions of the Armed Forces.


Watson, George

Citation: For extraordinary heroism in action on 8 March 1943. Private Watson was on board a ship which was attacked and hit by enemy bombers.

When the ship was abandoned, Private Watson, instead of seeking to save himself, remained in the water assisting several soldiers who could not swim to reach the safety of the raft. This heroic action, which subsequently cost him his life, resulted in the saving of several of his comrades. Weakened by his exertions, he was dragged down by the suction of the sinking ship and was drowned.

Private Watson's extraordinarily valorous actions, daring leadership, and self-sacrificing devotion to his fellow-man exemplify the finest traditions of military service.


African-American soldiers who “liberated” Buchenwald

United States, the "Colored Troops" were the official liberators of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.

New Orleans – hosted a first-ever national Symposium on the African-American experience in World War II.

In February 2007, New Orleans' D-Day Museum – in cooperation with Tulane's Amistad Research Center and The Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans – hosted a first-ever national symposium on the African-American experience in World War II.

Black vets celebrated their place in history, but also traded with historians stories of discrimination, protest and reprisal. Even keynote speaker Ossie Davis revealed a deadly racial incident he witnessed while stationed in Liberia.

The symposium title, "Double Victory: Fighting on Two Fronts" alludes to a grassroots civil rights movement that called for "Victory at Home, Victory Abroad." The movement had no leaders, but some of its adherents were so passionate that they burned or carved a "double V" on their chests. "Troublemakers" in the controversial 364th Regiment had those "double Vs," according to Army intelligence files.

Sources, Links and Suggested Bibliography


Aptheker, Herbert, editor. A Documentary History of the Negro in the United States, Vol. 4, 1974, 1992, pp. 528-29.

Haliburton, Warren. The Fighting Red Tails: America's First Black Airmen, 1978.

McKissack, Patricia and Fredrick. Red-Tail Angels: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, 1995.

"Teacher Remembers WW II Experiences." Los Angeles Sentinel, Vol. LXIV, No. 6, May 21-May 28, 1998, p. A-14 (Black History).

  • See also: Battle, LeRoy. Easier Said. 1998. (Autobiography)

Harley, Sharon, Ph.D. The Timetables of African-American History: A Chronology of the Most Important People and Events in African-American History, 1995.

Inglewood Daily News, July 18-20, 1944.

Murray, Florence, editor. Negro Handbook, 1946-47, pp. 347-56.

Salzman, Jack, et al, editor. Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, Vol. 4, 1996.

Williams, Michael W., editor. The African American Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, 1993.

Brown, Earl. The Detroit Race Riot of 1943, in Aptheker, pp. 444, 450-52.

Harding, Vincent. The Other American Revolution, 1980, p. 134.

Notes

George Lucas, President Lucasfilms PO Box 2009 San Rafael, CA 94912

Tuskegee Airmen to be subject of George Lucas film - Yahoo! News http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/film_tuskegee_airmen

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The black airmen whose lives will be the basis of a George Lucas movie know the picture will highlight their record of successfully escorting thousands of U.S. bombers in World War II.

They also feel it should tell of the trials they encountered stateside, like seeing German prisoners of war being treated better and afforded rights that were withheld from black American citizens.

Now that "Red Tails" is in preproduction, some of the airmen say they are excited their story is coming to the big screen but torn over how much it should devote to each of their two historic fights — against Adolf Hitler abroad and Jim Crow at home.

Africans