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Friday, July 16, 2004
BLACKS IN U.S. MILITARY HISTORY
I had an interesting discussion with my Dutch friend Maarten. He questioned me on the lack of Black or Asian faces in 'Band of Brothers'. It led me to explain that despite the very significant contributions of these groups to all our wars, from the American Revolution through present day Iraq and Afghanistan, it is only since the Truman administration that our armed forces have been racially integrated. I first intended to cover it all in one post, but the breadth of material available really calls for several focused posts. Thus, tonight we'll begin with African Americans..
The role of Blacks in the American Revolution
The study of African American involvement in the Civil War is complex and extensive. I can recommend no better starting point on the web than the 'Lest We Forget' site.. I might also add that I am indebted to this fine site for several other links in this post.. including this one, on the New York riots of 1863. Though it is not specifically a military story, it is good to read, to get a sense of the social context in which Blacks made the decision to fight..
The term 'Buffalo Soldiers' has often been used generically for Blacks in the 19th and early 20th century army. However, the original 'Buffalo Soldiers' were Blacks, faced with very limited opportunities, who enlisted in the army in the post Civil War era, and were sent west, where they excelled during the Indian Wars. Much can be made of the irony of pitting one oppressed and disadvantaged group against another. Still, we need to be careful about putting our 21st century constructions on the realities of a very different time.. The Buffalo Soldiers Museum includes a good overview of Black Military History..
Blacks played a significant role in the First World War .
And, in even greater numbers, in WWII . Here is a superb archive of photos.
One of the very significant developments was training and utilization of the Tuskegee Airmen.
And finally, the story of the integration of the armed forces.
A bit on Blacks serving in the Vietnam War..
Over this long history, many Blacks received the Congressional Medal of Honor. And many more probably deserved it, but were deprived by forces of racism in the very land they gave their lives to save. Some, indeed, have been honored posthumously.
The modern definition of 'racist' is someone who is winning an argument with a liberal.