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African American soldiers in World War II

 Many famous photographs emerged during the Second World War, such as six American soldiers erecting the national flag on Iwo Jima, as well as the 11 classic photos taken by the American war photojournalist Robert Capa following the first troops that landed in Normandy... But without exception, black soldiers (Editor's note: original text) are not visible in the photos. It is not that African-Americans did not participate in the war: during World War II, more than 1 million African-American soldiers served in the U.S. military.


The vast majority of African-American soldiers are sent to do some important but inconspicuous chores, such as burying dead bodies, driving trucks, repairing tanks, cooking and cleaning... A small number of people have the opportunity to participate in the battle, but they can only join only black people. Team. For those few African-Americans who can reach the rank of military officers, it is impossible to give orders to whites, even a recruit.


The United States sends troops labeled "racism" to combat racist regimes. After the victory, the African-American soldiers who brought freedom to half of the world returned to the United States and continued to be treated as "second-class citizens." Driven by the black veterans of World War II, the civil rights movement finally ended the apartheid system in the United States decades later.


| The White Army before Pearl Harbor |

Beginning in the War of Independence in 1775, African-Americans participated in all battles in the United States. When World War II broke out in 1939, the US military was almost entirely white: less than 1% of soldiers (approximately 4,000) were black, and only 12 of them reached the rank of officer. The army only accepts blacks in four units, the navy only allows blacks to do cooking, and there is no black soldier in the Marine Corps.


Pressure and demand make everything change. One year before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the US government began to organize a nationwide conscription out of fear of war. The Secretary of Defense of the United States once said that enlisting blacks would damage the morale of the troops, and mixing blacks in white ranks would reduce combat effectiveness, but pressure from major civil rights support organizations forced the then President Roosevelt to implement a compromise solution.


In early 1940, Roosevelt decided to lift the limit on the number of black soldiers. In the face of large-scale protests in Washington, he also banned racial discrimination in the defense industry in the form of a law. However, deeper levels of inequality still exist: apartheid is deep-rooted, blacks and whites serve separately, and African-American officers can only command blacks.


In fact, in the history of apartheid, "segregation" is synonymous with "discrimination." Most military training centers in the United States are located in the south where apartheid laws are enforced, and discrimination within bases is not uncommon.


For example, African-American sergeant Henry Jones said in 1943 that in the Thousand People Theater at their base, blacks could only take the last 20 seats in the row. In addition, blacks cannot use other isolated areas, and there are few seats for them on buses, so many blacks can only go everywhere on foot.


Deep-rooted racism goes far beyond training. A study published by the U.S. Army Military Academy in 1925 stated that African-American soldiers were slack, slack, weakly aware of responsibility, morally corrupt, and littered with lies. Because of this, black soldiers are rarely sent to combat troops, but are limited to doing some physical work. At the same time, the study also agrees with the view that "blacks are inherently inferior", that blacks have no right to command whites even if they reach the rank of military officer.


| Black Heroes in World War II |

Although the vast majority of black soldiers are doing heavy and unwelcome work, many of them have proven their worth. Thanks to the black driver of the "Red Ball Express" truck, General George Patton's tank troops were able to shuttle freely on the European battlefield. In more than 80 days, trucks crossed French territory time and time again. In order not to be spotted by the Nazi planes, black truck drivers need to turn off their lights when driving at night and avoid landmines as much as possible with skillful techniques.




African American soldiers in the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu


The combat forces composed entirely of blacks also proved that the opinions of the experts in the military academy were grossly wrong. The Tuskegee Air Force is the first U.S. military force to recruit black pilots on a trial basis. During the war, the flying team completed more than 15,000 bomber escort missions, and their outstanding performance earned them more than 150 medals.




Entrance of the colored military police in Columbus, USA, 1942


Also outstanding were the 761st Tank Battalion, which liberated more than 30 European cities, and the 320th Air Balloon Battalion. Although the latter did not appear in the photos taken by Kappa, it also participated in the Normandy Landing to stop the Nazis. The way of the airplane saved the lives of many white soldiers.




Post-battle photo of the Tuskegee flying team


Although apartheid was practiced in the U.S. military throughout World War II, there were several weeks in 1944 when the top military officers had to break convention. On a cold December 16, Nazi troops unexpectedly appeared in the Ardennes Forest in France. In the first 17 days of the battle alone, the U.S. military lost more than 40,000 troops. At the time of life and death, Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, and several other generals decided to let black and white soldiers fight together.


The "low morale" predicted by the U.S. Department of Defense four years ago did not appear. The efforts of African American soldiers are critical to victory. When the military leaders called on black volunteers to accept combat missions, more than 4,500 volunteered.


The great achievements of the 101st Airborne Division in the Ardennes were known to the public because of the famous TV series "Brothers", and it was the division's commander who proposed to award the 969th Field Artillery Battalion. The 969th Field Artillery Battalion also became the first African-American combat unit to receive this honor.


| Bitter way home after the war |

After the victory, many African-American troops participated in the occupation of Germany. They were placed far away from big cities by the US military. According to those involved, they did so because the US military did not believe that these soldiers had the strength to rival the Germans. After all, the Germans were also white.




In 1946, African American soldiers participated in a musical performance in Frankfurt, Germany.


Objectively speaking, these black soldiers are at ease in Germany, perhaps more at ease than returning to the United States. One year after defeating the Nazis, many black soldiers chose to re-enlist. Nearly 85% of black recruits applied for service in Europe, and most of them chose Germany. Many black soldiers said that they had established a good relationship with the locals, and the white comrades were very angry when they learned of the incident.


In fact, when they returned to the United States, including the veritable war heroes, they still faced the same discrimination conditions they had before the march. Many black soldiers were beaten and insulted even when they were wearing military uniforms. The "double victories" supported by civil rights organizations-the victory over Nazism abroad and the victory over racism at home-were only half realized. The lofty ideals Roosevelt promised to the world could not be realized in his "home".


In 1948, President Truman decided to abolish the apartheid system in the US military, but it took several years to realize it. However, for many black soldiers who made a decisive contribution to the victory of the United States in World War II, the world is different. Many people left the southern U.S. with veteran education assistance or skills learned during service, while others contributed decisively to the civil rights movement, which ultimately ended American race in the 1960s. Isolation system.


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