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Black Soldiers & Units

Black Soldiers & Units in the Second World War.
Latest hand-picked WWII news. See also: Black people in Nazi Germany, Tuskegee Airmen: Black pilots of 332nd fighter group, WW2 Militaria.

British black WWII veteran Allan Wilmot battled racism in the British Forces
Allan Wilmot enlisted in the Royal Navy at the age of 16 in 1941 and joined the RAF Sea and Rescue Service two years later. After the war, he said black servicemen didn`t get the same recognition as white British men who were treated as heroes: "After the war ended, everybody was more or less, forgotten. The general consensus was: once you are black you are from Africa; you live in trees; you can`t read and write. So how can you be in the RAF with the RAF uniform?" He said while British soldiers, sailors and airmen were marching in victory parades, when ex-servicemen went home to Jamaica nothing like that was arranged for them.
(itv.com)

Connie Nappier recalls the day when 100 U.S. officers started a mutiny in Indiana
In 1943, the Army Air Corps created the 477th Bombardment Group, an all-black group of B-25 medium bombers with a white command structure. Because the Air Corps was not about to mix blacks and whites, the 477th faced a shortage of bombardier-navigators. The bomb group was commanded by Colonel Robert E. Selway, who ordered the creation of a separate officers club for blacks at Freeman Field in Indiana. In what historical accounts refer to as the "Freeman Field mutiny," 101 black officers refused to sign a document agreeing to the separate officers clubs. All of them were arrested, some charged with "willful disobedience," which under the Acts of War carried a maximum penalty of death.
(courant.com)

Black woman Anna Mae Clarke led all-white platoon in the Second World War
Anna Mae Clarke was the first black woman in Kentucky to enlist in the military during WWII. Her educational and athletic background pushed her to enter officer candidate school for the Women`s Army Auxiliary Corps, of which she was already a member. She attended officer school at Fort Des Moines and was reassigned as a third officer in February 1943, making her the first WAAC officer to command an all-white platoon. While stationed at Douglas Air Field in Arizona she led protests to desegregate the base. She died in 1944 of a ruptured appendix at the base hospital.
(courier-journal.com)

Two documentary films explore "Brown Babies" - The offspring of white German women and African American soldiers
Two documentary films - "Brown Babies: The Mischlingskinder Story" and "Brown Babies: Germany`s Lost Children" - reveal the virtually unknown stories of the offspring of white German women and African American soldiers in the years following World War II. These children, who were called "mischlingskinder," a derogatory term for biracial children, were often adopted by African American families after their parents were forcibly separated. Both documentaries follow their stories, as they search for their roots.
(huffingtonpost.com)

Most all-black units in the U.S. Army were excluded from World War II combat
900,000 black Americans served in the U.S. Army during World War II, but only one black division - the 92nd - saw infantry combat in Europe. Most African Americans in the military were simply assigned to segregated construction or supply units. Robert Shumpert served in the 1323rd Engineer Regiment, an all-black unit. When he got the chance to do some sightseeing in Paris and London, he noticed the differences: "You could mix with whites. And you could sit where you wanted to on the buses. You didn`t have to go to the back. I would say we were treated better over there than at home."
(jacksonsun.com)

Black Faces of War: A Legacy of Honor from the American Revolution to Today (book review)
"Black Faces of War" recounts how black Americans served and died for a nation that neither desired nor appreciated their service. From Crispus Attucks (the first person shot to death by British redcoats during the Boston Massacre in the American Revolutionary War) to the 25 Civil War Medal of Honor awardees and today`s modern warriors, author Robert V. Morris highlights the triumphs of courage and determination over fear and ignorance.

Another person definitely worth bringing up is Lieutenant Colonel Charity Edna Adams Earley. She was the first African American woman to be an officer in the Woman`s Army Air Corps, and she also led the first battalion of African American women which served overseas.

(nctimes.com)

Documentary film "The Wereth Eleven" retraces the steps of the 11 black GIs who were executed by the Nazis
Docudrama "The Wereth Eleven" retraces the journey of the 11 soldiers of the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion who escaped The German 18th Volksgrenadier Division after their unit was overrun during the Battle of the Bulge. Their 10-mile adventure from their battery position to Wereth, Belgium led them to refuge with a Belgian family - until a Nazi sympathizer betrayed them to an SS Patrol. The GIs surrendered, but were taken to a field, where they were tortured, maimed, and shot on Dec. 17, 1944.

Staff Sergeant George Shomo, a member of the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion, recalled: "As a black soldier in the United States Army, you weren`t as good as a dog. We fired until we ran out of ammunition. It`s hard when a man`s got a rifle coming at you and all you got is a trench knife."

(urbanmecca.net)

For black GIs Germany was a breath of freedom: WWII Germany helped to end segregation in US
"For black GIs ... Germany was a breath of freedom. They could go where they wanted, eat what they wanted and date whom they wanted," Colin Powell, a former secretary of state, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and America`s most famous African-American soldier, stated in his memoir. Many black GIs vowed to "never go back" to the old ways.
(stripes.com)

The forgotten WWII heroes: 500,000 African troops served with British forces
At the age of 19, Christopher Kagwa was taken from his home in Uganda to fight in a faraway war he knew nothing about. "In the year 1939 we were told King George was going to come for us ... to go fight in Germany against Hitler and Mussolini, so after a few days a truck came... were taken to the barracks... we did not even know what a gun looked like let alone how to fire one... but they still took us to the frontline." In "Fighting For Britain: African Soldiers in the Second World War", David Killingray says over half a million African troops served with the British forces 1939-1945, mostly in the King`s African Rifles.
(cnn.com)

In WWII injured American soldiers didn`t always want black medic`s help
The Allies stormed Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. Germans fired from the hills and wounded soldiers cried out for help. Medic James E. Baker came across an Army lieutenant who had a bullet in the knee. But the U.S. Army officer wasn`t happy to see a medic, saying: "Get your black hands off me." Baker recalls the incident clearly: "He was cussing me all the time I was trying to wrap him up... It wasn`t the first time." Once in France there was a single large latrine, and someone put up a "Whites only" sign. "I remember taking pictures of it. And then we tore it down." Still, black soldiers never went to that latrine alone.
(dailypress.com)

Vernon Baker: A black U.S. soldier who got his WWII Medal of Honor in 1997
Vernon Baker, a black U.S. soldier who belatedly got the Medal of Honor for his World War II battlefield feats after a study found out that he had been unjustly denied the medal because of his race, passed away at the age of 90. In 1997, Baker was the lone survivor among just 7 black soldiers selected to receive the Medal of Honor 52 years after the war ended. On April 5, 1945, Lt. Baker was leading 25 black infantrymen through a complex of German bunkers and machine gun nests near Viareggio, Italy. He crawled under machine-gun fire to destroy a gun emplacement, killing 3 Germans, then attacked an observation post killing 2 more.
(latimes.com)

Black WW2 heroes deliberately removed from the unit that liberated Paris
WW2 papers reveal that Allied commanders ensured that the liberation of Paris on 25 August 1944 was seen as a "whites only" victory. Many fought Nazi Germany to defeat the racism that left millions of Jews dead. Yet the black colonial soldiers, 2/3 of Free French forces, were removed from the unit that led the Allied advance in Paris. Charles de Gaulle wanted his Frenchmen to lead the liberation of Paris, and Allied High Command agreed on one condition: De Gaulle`s division must not have any black soldiers. Dwight Eisenhower`s Chief of Staff, Major General Walter Bedell Smith wrote: "It is more desirable that the division ... consist of white personnel."
(bbc.co.uk)

WW2 map leads student to segregated compound on Umnak Island in the Aleutian Islands
A strange notation on an old map of Fort Glenn had Chris Roe puzzled. He had obtained a copy of the WW2 document for a project in pursuit of his master`s degree. An army veteran and history buff, he knew the jargon to understand most of what he saw. "AE" designated the quarters and facilities for Company A of the Engineering Regiment. But area "N"? So he checked the Post Diary, an official synopsis of day-by-day activities. "I saw an entry that in April 1943 the Second Battalion of the 93rd Engineering Regiment (Colored) had arrived." It was one of the African-American Army units that built the Alaska Highway, and the last all-black military unit.
(adn.com)

Miracle at St. Anna follows 4 black soldiers of the all-black 92nd Infantry Division
In "Miracle at St. Anna" 4 soldiers are trapped behind Nazi lines in Tuscany. Mainly set in 1944, this 160 minutes long Spike Lee film uses all World War II movie cliches. The early battle scenes are nothing much but they`re better than the motionless scenes where the men, holed up in a village, connect with local partisans. Lee owes a great debt to everything from "Saving Private Ryan" to Roberto Rossellini`s "Paisan," but the didacticism of "Miracle of St. Anna" is all his own. His motto might be: Don`t dramatize a message - tell it. Whatever miracle took place at St. Anna never made it to the screen.
(csmonitor.com)

Black World War II veteran Samuel Snow dies a day after hearing a formal apology
Samuel Snow, one of 28 black soldiers who were incorrectly convicted in a riot and lynching of an Italian WWII prisoner in Seattle in 1944, clung to life just long enough for his name to be cleared. He came to Seattle to hear a formal apology, but was in the hospital by the time of the ceremony, because of an irregular heartbeat. Ray Snow showed his father the honorable discharge plaque and read it to him in the hospital. "My dad has been standing in formation all these years waiting to have his name cleared. With the Army`s honorable discharge, he was at ease. He now has his discharge papers and he went home."
(usatoday.com)

Buffalo Soldiers: Fighting the crackers, the rednecks and eventually the Nazis
Four of the remaining WWII Buffalo Soldiers, a group of African Americans who served in the Army`s 92nd Infantry Division, gathered at Saybrook Point Inn to recall the past. They talked about fighting the Germans and Italians, but it was the racism that dogged them within their own military that had bruised these soldiers the most: riding in rail baggage cars, banned from all-white bunkhouses and sent on suicidal missions. "But it didn`t diminish our desire to perform. It was like we had two battles. We not only had to fight the enemy, but we also had to fight the crackers and rednecks who were in charge of us," said Frank Seaforth.
(courant.com)

Hundreds of black seamen sacrificed in a-bomb test - Just another conspiracy theory?
On July 17 1944, at the Port Chicago Naval Munitions base, the SS E.A. Bryan was packed with 4,606 tons of explosives as the largest WWII military disaster on the US mainland took place. It was the biggest single loss of black Navy seamen - 15% of all the black WWII casualties. That terrible explosion remains a mostly forgotten, but now a few voices are re-opening the case - asking was the explosion a secret atomic bomb test? While many have ignored the notion as just another crazy conspiracy theory, the detailed research over 20 years by Peter Vogel has given the idea a level of credibility.
(voice-online)

Now The Hell Will Start by Brendan Koerner - The biggest manhunt of World War II
"Now the Hell Will Start" tells the story of Herman Perry, who ended up going native in the Indo-Burmese jungle - not because he wanted adventure, but to escape the greatest WWII manhunt by the U.S. Army. An African American G.I. assigned to a segregated labor battalion, Perry was shipped to South Asia in 1943, facing terrible hardships while sailing around the globe. He was one of thousands of black soldiers sent to build the Ledo Road. Perry could not endure the jungle`s brutality, nor the racism of white officers. He found solace in opium. On March 5, 1944, he collapsed mentally and shot an unarmed white lieutenant.
(indigo.ca)

Our War: Black Panthers of The 761st had to fight the Army for respect   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Men of the 761st Tank Battalion had a lot of things against them in World War 2. They were the first black unit to face combat. They were saw some of the fiercest fighting in Nazi Germany, in some of the worst conditions. The 761st, the Black Panthers, was segregated and had to fight the US Army and white soldiers for respect. The 761st fought under General George Patton. And the Black Panthers became one of his favorite units, living up to its motto: "Come out fighting." It often led his attacks, like the attack to turn the tide in the Battle of the Bulge and creating a hole in the Siegfried Line to allow 4th Armored Division to advance into Third Reich.
(bnd)

1944 Conviction of Black G.I.’s Is Ruled Flawed
Guglielmo Olivotto, an Italian POW, died with a noose around his neck, lynched at a military post on Puget Sound on Aug 15, 1944. Samuel Snow hopes that people will stop blaming the 28 black soldiers convicted of starting the riot that led to Olivotto’s death. A review board issued a ruling that could lead to overturning the convictions of all 28 soldiers. The board found that the court-martial (one of the largest Army World War II court-martial) was flawed, that the defense was rushed and that the prosecutor Leon Jaworski had evidence that he did not share with the defense. All of the 28 have died except for Snow and another soldier.
(nytimes)

Museum of Black World War II history to hold its first major event   (Article no longer available from the original source)
The Museum of Black World War II History will hold its first major event when it welcomes Raymond Elliott to speak about his experiences as a black WWII enlistee. "The oral history illustrates it better than books can do." The Museum of Black World War II History focuses on the untold military stories, said Bruce Bird, curator and founder of the museum. "The museum is the only one of its kind in the country. It`s part of history that hasn`t been covered," said military historian Bird, who has collected memorabilia, such as photos, helmets and weapons - shown on display in the 2-gallery museum.
(benningtonbanner)

The Negro Soldier - 1944 propaganda film created by the U.S. Army
During WWII, the American military effort was disfigured due to the nation’s cruel policies regarding racial segregation. African-Americans who responded to the defense of their country found themselves in violent situations. Contrary to popular belief, they did not passively accept their situation. Despite censorship designed to squash inklings of a fragmented home front, civil rights leaders and the troops angrily pressed for fair treatment and a greater level of participation in the actual battles. The sensitivity of the matter caused the War Department to create a documentary designed to boost the value of the African-American contribution.
(filmthreat)

WWII cavalry man one of last Buffalo Soldiers   (Article no longer available from the original source)
They were an anachronism: soldiers on horseback in a war fought with battle tanks and B-17s. Nevertheless, here they were during World War Two, patrolling the hills and canyons along the border between California and Mexico. "They were about 4-hour shifts. We would ride back and forth looking for men. We never found any," says Andrew Whitaker, a member of the famed Buffalo Soldiers, all-black units formed by Congress after the Civil War. In 1944, the 10th Cavalry Regiment was inactivated and its men transferred to other units. With the cavalry`s horses turned over to caretakers, the era of the horse soldier in the U.S. Army had ended.
(buffalosoldiersw.com)

The Black D-Day Heroes
With his garrison cap Allen Price of the 3275th Quartermaster Service Company, Omaha Beach, looks like another avatar of the Greatest Generation. "You see these movies, like The Longest Day, you don’t see no African-Americans. Private Ryan, no African-Americans. ... They didn’t show you any of that." 63 years after he and nearly 2,000 other African-Americans participated in the invasion of Normandy, he allows himself a trace only of irony. The contributions of African-American soldiers to D-Day, little known, even to the history buffs who manage the minutiae of World War II history, are the starting point for "A Distant Shore: African Americans of D-Day" documentary.
(nytimes)

Black soldiers recall bias of World War II D-Day and beyond   (Article no longer available from the original source)
You rarely see them in newsreels, documentary footages or war films. "You don`t see us in The Longest Day or Private Ryan." But some 132,000 African American soldiers joined the buildup to D-Day in England and 2,000 crossed the English Channel on the massive invasion on June 6, 1944. A dozen or so tell their stories in The History Channel documentary "A Distant Shore: African Americans of D-Day." It is an unusual documentary in that the stories come only from the men themselves, at times via diary or letter, but mostly they sit before the cameras and unfold their tales without input from historians.
(oregonlive)

African Americans of D-Day -- History Channel   (Article no longer available from the original source)
The story of black U.S. soldiers who stormed Normandy`s beaches is the focus of the History Channel`s A Distant Shore: African Americans of D-Day. The Feb. 24 presentation includes recollections from living veterans on the invasion of Normandy and the troop buildup in England prior to the invasion. Before World War II, the Marines and the Air Force barred blacks. The Army had a few black combat units that were mostly led by whites. Most black battalions were segregated from the rest of the military.
(moldova)

Absent from history: the black soldiers at the Battle of Iwo Jima
Nearly 900 African-Americans fought on the Japanese island but not one appears in Clint Eastwood`s film. "Of all the movies that have been made of Iwo Jima, you never see a black face. This is the last straw. I feel like I`ve been denied, I`ve been insulted, I`ve been mistreated. But what can you do? We still have a strong underlying force in my country of rabid racism." Iwo Jima vet Thomas McPhatter even had a part in the raising of the flag. "The man who put the first flag up on Iwo Jima got a piece of pipe from me to put the flag up on. That, too, is absent from the film."
(guardian)

Nazis slained 11 black American soldiers during World War II   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Only one site memorialize the Nazi`s brutal killing of 11 black American soldiers during World War II — and it is in Belgium, at the spot their bodies were found after the Battle of the Bulge. It was vicious slaying, and one forgotten by history. But that changes when the first American monument to those fallen soldiers goes up. The men were part of the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion, and were found by German soldiers in a tiny Belgian hamlet called Wereth. They surrendered, but were maimed and killed anyway.
(telegram)

Bruce Bird opens Black World War II museum
Bruce Bird is struggling to fill a gap in the history of the Second World War. "I`ve been studying the history of World War II for nearly 50 years, and I`ve only known about black WWII history for 10 years. Black service in WWII has been grossly neglected." Bird is white. He also is curator of the Museum of Black WWII History, which opened in June. Bird hopes the museum can help tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black WW2 air unit whose mission it was to escort bombers flying over Europe. Known as the 332nd Fighter Group, and in all its missions it never lost a plane — the only unit of its kind not to do so.
(timesargus)

Black soldiers` World War Two convictions may be reviewed
The 1944 convictions of 28 black soldiers for a riot that resulted in the death of an Italian prisoner of war could be up for review. On Aug. 14, 1944, a riot broke out on the post in what is now Discovery Park. Black soldiers in segregated barracks were accused of sparking the violence due to resentment over treatment of Italian prisoners of war they believed had better living conditions than their own. 32 men were hospitalized and POW Guglielmo Olivotto was later found hanging on wires in a post obstacle course. 42 soldiers were tried in the largest court-martial of World War II.
(seattletimes)

Patton: Black soldiers cannot fight - ended up needing them   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Laurel, James B. Jones joined the U.S. Army and became a part of one of the few black combat units fighting Nazis shortly after the June 6, 1944, D-Day landings at Normandy. The German POWs were treated better than black soldiers: "They could ride on buses and were accepted much more quickly than we were." Gen. George S. Patton who lost so many tanks trying to break out of Normandy during the weeks following the invasion, ended up calling up the all-black tank battalion, 761st. This was despite the outspoken general`s earlier assertion that black soldiers couldn`t fight.
(clarionledger)


See also:
Black people in Nazi Germany
Tuskegee Airmen: Black pilots of 332nd fighter group
WW2 Militaria.