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Why Harry Truman Ended Segregation in the US Military in 1948

Why Harry Truman Ended Segregation in the US Military in 1948



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When President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948, calling for the desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces, he repudiated 170 years of officially sanctioned discrimination. Since the American Revolution, African Americans had served in the military, but almost always separately from white soldiers—and usually in menial roles.

A major achievement of the post-war civil rights movement—and of Truman’s presidency—the event marked the first time a U.S. commander in chief had used an executive order to implement a civil rights policy. It became a crucial step toward inspiring other parts of American society to accept desegregation.

Truman’s journey to signing 9981 is the story, in part, of heeding pressure from Black civil rights leaders and recognizing, pragmatically, the importance of the Black vote to his political fortunes. But it’s also the story of his overcoming his own deeply embedded racial prejudices.

READ MORE: Black Americans Who Served in WWII Faced Segregation Abroad and at Home

Truman’s White Supremacist Roots

In 1911, when Truman was a 27-year-old corporal in the Missouri National Guard, he wrote to his future wife, Bess Wallace: “I think one man is just as good as another so long as he’s honest and decent and not a nigger or a Chinaman… I am strongly of the opinion that negros (sic) ought to be in Africa, yellow men in Asia and white men in Europe and America.”

Truman came by these beliefs from his upbringing in Missouri, where his grandparents had owned slaves and where 60 African Americans were lynched between 1877 and 1950, the second highest number of any state over that period outside the Deep South.

He grew up in a home that openly reviled abolitionism, Reconstruction and Abraham Lincoln. “Truman literally learned at his mother’s knee to share the South’s view of the War Between the States,” wrote William E. Leuchtenburg, a professor emeritus of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in 1991. “He also acquired an abiding belief in white supremacy.”

READ MORE: 'Dewey Defeats Truman': The Election Upset Behind the Photo

After the Lynchings of Black Veterans, Truman Took Action

Yet when the beatings and murders of recently returned African American World War II veterans in the South captured national attention, Truman, who assumed the presidency after Franklin Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, was moved to act.

“My stomach turned over when I learned that Negro soldiers, just back from overseas, were being dumped out of army trucks in Mississippi and beaten,” Truman said. “Whatever my inclinations as a native of Missouri might have been, as president I know this is bad. I shall fight to end evils like this.”

In response to the lynchings, and under pressure from Black civil rights groups, Truman formed the President’s Committee on Civil Rights in late 1946. It produced a report, To Secure These Rights, which condemned all forms of segregation and asked for an immediate end to discrimination and segregation in all branches of the armed services.

In 1947, Truman became the first president to address the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In his speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Truman said, “It is my deep conviction that we have reached a turning point in the long history of our country’s efforts to guarantee freedom and equality to all of our citizens.”

READ MORE: How Tuskegee Airmen Fought Military Segregation with Nonviolent Action

Truman Realized He Needs the Black Vote

Throughout his life, Truman made racist statements to his intimates and in private correspondence and likely never fully abandoned the attitudes of his youth. But he was an astute politician who understood the importance of the Black vote to his political fortunes. In 1940, as a U.S. Senator, he told the National Colored Democratic Association, “The Negroes’ flag is our flag, and he stands ready, just as we do, to defend it against all foes from within and without.”

Truman’s sharpening views on civil rights during his first term as president divided the Democratic Party. Conservative Southern Democrats from South Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama protested the party’s civil rights plank, walking out of the 1948 Democratic National Convention. Without the white Southern vote, Truman’s chances in the general election against Republican nominee Thomas Dewey dimmed considerably.

Despite the Dixiecrat defections, Truman’s aides convinced him that a winning coalition included Black voters, whose leaders saw integration of the armed forces as a major election issue. Months before the election, 20 African American organizations, including the NAACP and the National Urban League, issued a “Declaration of Negro Voters,” which included desegregating the armed forces among its demands.

In the last days of the election, Truman made a campaign appearance in Harlem, marking the first time a U.S. president had visited the symbolic capital of Black America. Truman was lured there by Anna Arnold Hedgeman, an African American political operative who spearheaded his campaign’s Black outreach. According to Hedgeman’s biographer, Jennifer Scanlon, “Truman won the race, in a narrow margin nationally, thanks in part to the Black electorate and to Hedgeman.”

READ MORE: Red Summer: How Black WWI Vets Fought Back Against Racist Mobs

African American Leaders Dialed Up the Pressure

On March 22, 1948, Truman met with Black leaders to discuss segregation. “I can tell you the mood among Negroes of this country is that they will never bear arms again until all forms of bias and discrimination are abolished,” A. Phillip Randolph, the pioneering union organizer and civil rights leader, told the president.

At a hearing nine days later before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Randolph said, “I personally will advise Negroes to refuse to fight as slaves for a democracy they cannot possess and cannot enjoy.”

In a celebrated case taken up by the American Civil Liberties Union, Winfrid Lynn, a Black landscape gardener from New York, went to jail after he told his local draft board he would “not be compelled to serve in a unit undemocratically selected as a Negro.”

That June, Randolph informed President Truman that if he didn’t issue an executive order ending segregation in the armed forces, African Americans would resist the draft.

A month later, with an election looming and under intense pressure from civil rights leaders, Truman signed Executive Order 9981—and created the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Forces, popularly known as the Fahy Committee, to oversee the process.

Gradual Integration—and a Lasting Legacy

To achieve full integration, Truman needed cooperation from the military’s four branches. “I want the job done,” Truman told the committee in early 1949, “and I want it done in a way so that everyone will be happy to cooperate to get it done.”

For its part, the Army balked. “The Army is not an instrument for social evolution,” said Kenneth Royall, the Secretary of the Army, who expressed concern about the order’s adverse effect on enlistments, reenlistments and soldier morale nationwide—but especially in the South.

Truman, who would settle for nothing less than full desegregation, forced Royall into retirement after he refused to comply with the order.

It took six years to desegregate America’s armed forces. In late 1954, the deactivation of the 94th Engineer Battalion, the Army’s last all-Black unit, completed the process. Executive Order 9981 remains one of the crowning achievements of Truman’s eight years in office, a bold decision that pitted him against the southern wing of his party on this and other civil rights issues. But as postwar American society evolved, the armed forces became an important model for desegregation and equal opportunities for African Americans.

In 1998, on the 50th anniversary of Executive Order 9981, General Colin Powell, who later became America’s first Black secretary of state, spoke about the impact of Truman’s decision on his life: “The military was the only institution in all of America—because of Harry Truman—where a young Black kid, now 21 years old, could dream the dream he dared not think about at age 11. It was the one place where the only thing that counted was courage, where the color of your guts and the color of your blood was more important than the color of your skin.”


70 years ago today, President Harry Truman ended segregation in the United States military

In the summer of 1948 the United States, barely three years removed from World War II, clearly maintained the world’s most powerful armed forces. Assisting the American war effort had been thousands of Black men and women who served with distinction in each branch of the military, much like their ancestors had in almost every American conflict since Patriot Crispus Attucks was killed by British Soldiers during the Boston Massacre in 1770.

Still, ever since Attucks’s death, Black service personnel had been compelled to fight in separated units often led by white officers. Or, if they were attached to all White units, they served in support capacities as cooks, barbers, ditch diggers and the like.

The success of all Black units during World War II, and the valor of individual officers like Army Air Corps (later Air Force) General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., provided an opportunity for civil rights activists to seek full desegregation of the military. To this end, in 1946, Army General Alvan Gillem developed a committee to consider its position on race. The Gillem Committee concluded later that year that future policy should “eliminate, at the earliest practicable moment, any special consideration based on race.”

In 1947, Asa Phillip Randolph, the renowned civil rights leader, petitioned President Harry S. Truman for full desegregation. After a long, hard year of lobbying, on July 26, 1948󈞲 years ago today–Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which held:

“It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin. This policy shall be put into effect as rapidly as possible, having due regard to the time required to effectuate any necessary changes without impairing efficiency or morale.”

(Truman featured in the New York Times discussing his Executive Order above, and shaking the hands of an Air Force sergeant, below)

Two years after Truman’s Executive Order was signed, the Korean War became the first conflict in which Black and White armed service members fought and died side-by-side en masse. By 1954, a year after a cease-fire ended hostilities in Korea, the last all-black unit was dissolved but nevertheless, in military bases across the south, Black soldiers who commanded or fought alongside white soldiers on base, were still subjected to Jim Crow laws, the Ku Klux Klan, and White Citizens Council members who used violence to maintain the racial social order, as depicted below.


54a. Separate No Longer?


Jim Crow laws existed in several southern states and served to reinforce the white authority that had been lost following Reconstruction. One such law required blacks and whites to drink from separate water fountains.

During the first half of the 20th century, the United States existed as two nations in one.

The Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) decreed that the legislation of two separate societies &mdash one black and one white &mdash was permitted as long as the two were equal.

States across the North and South passed laws creating schools and public facilities for each race. These regulations, known as Jim Crow laws, reestablished white authority after it had diminished during the Reconstruction era. Across the land, blacks and whites dined at separate restaurants, bathed in separate swimming pools, and drank from separate water fountains.

The United States had established an American brand of apartheid.

In the aftermath of World War II, America sought to demonstrate to the world the merit of free democracies over communist dictatorships. But its segregation system exposed fundamental hypocrisy. Change began brewing in the late 1940s. President Harry Truman ordered the end of segregation in the armed services, and Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play Major League Baseball. But the wall built by Jim Crow legislation seemed insurmountable.

The first major battleground was in the schools. It was very clear by mid-century that southern states had expertly enacted separate educational systems. These schools, however, were never equal. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), led by attorney Thurgood Marshall , sued public schools across the South, insisting that the "separate but equal" clause had been violated.


In the summer of 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play major league baseball. After a stellar career, he became the first African American player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In no state where distinct racial education laws existed was there equality in public spending. Teachers in white schools were paid better wages, school buildings for white students were maintained more carefully, and funds for educational materials flowed more liberally into white schools. States normally spent 10 to 20 times on the education of white students as they spent on African American students.

The Supreme Court finally decided to rule on this subject in 1954 in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case.

The verdict was unanimous against segregation. "Separate facilities are inherently unequal," read Chief Justice Earl Warren 's opinion. Warren worked tirelessly to achieve a 9-0 ruling. He feared any dissent might provide a legal argument for the forces against integration. The united Supreme Court sent a clear message: schools had to integrate.


May 17, 1954, saw the Supreme Court &mdash in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka &mdash rule that segregation of public schools was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that all citizens deserve equal protection under the law.

The North and the border states quickly complied with the ruling, but the Brown decision fell on deaf ears in the South. The Court had stopped short of insisting on immediate integration, instead asking local governments to proceed "with all deliberate speed" in complying.

Ten years after Brown , fewer than ten percent of Southern public schools had integrated. Some areas achieved a zero percent compliance rate. The ruling did not address separate restrooms, bus seats, or hotel rooms, so Jim Crow laws remained intact. But cautious first steps toward an equal society had been taken.

It would take a decade of protest, legislation, and bloodshed before America neared a truer equality.


Why was Executive Order No. 9981 so important?

It's difficult to find the silver lining in crisis situations, especially ones as massive and tragic as World War II and the Holocaust. But in the context of civil rights, these tragedies were just the shot in the arm that the United States needed to call attention to an important issue.

In the 1930s, the Nazi party rose to power in Germany and began to enforce racist policies on the basis of their philosophy of racial hygiene. Through forced sterilization and attempted genocide, the Nazis wanted to cleanse the nation of what they considered lesser races in an effort to strengthen and generally promote the "improvement" of humankind. While the world watched in horror to see where racism could lead, Americans were encouraged to take a closer look at the racial discrimination inside their own borders.

By 1941, when the United States was increasing production for the war abroad, the insatiable demand for workers helped to dissolve the lines of segregation that kept African-Americans and whites separate. Under pressure from African-American civil rights leaders, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, which banned discrimination in industries with federal contracts. As a result, many African-Americans suffering under the oppressive Jim Crow laws in the South moved where the jobs were -- Northern and Western cities such as Detroit, Los Angeles and Seattle. While discrimination was still present in these areas, it was less severe. African-American groups gained a sense of empowerment through exercising new freedoms and privileges not common in the South [source: Packard].

In December 1941, the United States was pulled into the war after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. During this battle, the valor of one African-American took the spotlight. Doris Miller was a cook aboard the USS West Virginia when he disobeyed an order to abandon ship. Instead, he manned a 50-caliber anti-aircraft machine gun and, despite not having any training in the weapon, started firing and successfully shot down a few Japanese planes.

African-Americans fought in every branch of the military during World War II. But throughout the war, the U.S. armed forces remained segregated. It took a groundbreaking executive order after the war to change that. Historians credit figures like Miller for calling people's attention to the injustice of the military segregation policies. In particular, one prominent African-American unit is known for its contribution to the war: the Tuskegee Airmen.

The U.S. military didn't allow African-Americans to fly planes in the service until civil rights organizations put pressure on the War Department in the late 1930s. By then, President Roosevelt had already been preparing for the possibility of entering the war by gearing up a pilot training program. In January 1941, the War Department created the 99th Pursuit Squadron of the U.S. Army Air Corps (the Air Force didn't exist yet).

The army used the Tuskegee Institute and airfield in Tuskegee, Ala., where the experimental African-American squadron would be trained in single-engine planes. The training location is why the squadron became informally known as the Tuskegee Airmen. To lead the unit, the army chose Capt. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., a strict disciplinarian who would later become the first African-American general in the Air Force. Davis encouraged his pilots to combat racism by proving their valor and skills in battle.

In July 1941, the first class began navigation and meteorology training. Those who qualified were transferred to the Tuskegee Army Air Field for pilot training. By the time the pilots graduated in March 1942, the United States was entrenched in World War II. However, the pilots trained for another year before showing their stuff in the Allied invasion of Italy. Their first mission took place on June 2, 1943. They flew P-40 Warhawks for an attack on Pantelleria, an Italian island. They also successfully fought the Luftwaffe, the German air force, a month later.

The relatively inexperienced squadron soon faced difficulties, however. Col. William M. Momyer, the commander of the 33rd Fighter Group that the Tuskegee squadron was then a part of, complained that the unit wasn't aggressive enough and lacked discipline [source: Sutherland]. The squadron was temporarily suspended from combat and might have been dissolved completely were it not for Davis, who pleaded their case. In January 1944, the squadron helped fight a German air invasion and shot down 12 planes as a result, the War Department awarded the group a Distinguished Unit Citation.

By this time, the squadron was absorbed into the 332nd Fighter Group, a group of four all African-American squadrons that were formed after the original 99th squadron. Davis was also promoted to colonel to lead the 332nd. By the end of the war, more than 1,000 pilots trained at Tuskegee. The 332nd group lost only 150 pilots, while destroying more than 200 enemy planes in the sky and on the ground -- in addition to hundreds of railroad cars, dozens of boats and one destroyer.

Despite the undeniable success achieved by the Tuskegee Airmen and the 332nd Fighter Group, the military remained rigidly segregated by the war's end.

Desegregating the Military

During World War II, approximately 909,000 African-Americans enlisted in the military, and about 500,000 of them were stationed overseas [source: Harris]. After the war, President Harry S. Truman recognized how hypocritical it was to have a segregated military while he'd been trying to promote democracy and acceptance overseas [source: Geselbracht].

The Supreme Court, meanwhile, was making some milestone civil rights decisions throughout the 1940s. In 1944, the court banned the all-white political primaries that were occurring in the South and struck down segregation in interstate bus travel two years later. Many Southerners in the House of Representatives and the Senate were still effectively blocking anti-lynching legislation after the outbreak of race riots.

In November 1947, civil rights leaders A. Philip Randolph and Grant Reynolds formed the Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service and Training, which originally targeted Congress for action to desegregate the military. When they found this route fruitless, they turned to Truman. If he issued an executive order on the issue, it wouldn't be subject to a legislative vote. This was a smart move because in addition to Truman's sympathies toward the cause, he was coming up on an election year. Rooting out discrimination in the military could help him secure the African-American vote, which made up about 10 percent of the electorate.

To give Truman that final push, Randolph and Reynolds sent a letter to Truman, threatening that the African-American youth would boycott the draft if he didn't sign an executive order to end segregation in the military. On July 26, 1948, one month after receiving this letter, Truman issued Executive Order 9981, which stated, "there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin" [source: Truman Library]. It also created a committee to investigate the state of affairs and rules of the military so that it could report back to the president with suggestions on how to enforce integration.

The military didn't achieve racial integration overnight. Opponents in Congress were able to delay the effort by falsely interpreting Truman's language. Truman wrote that the military needed to achieve integration as fast as possible, "without impairing efficiency or morale." Taking liberties with Truman's language, Secretary of the Army Kenneth Royall hampered desegregation by prolonging the implementation of integration procedures [source: Geselbracht].

During the Korean War in the early 1950s, much of the military had been racially integrated. By the end of the war, about 10 percent of African-Americans were still serving in segregated units, which were abolished completely in 1954 [source: Harris].


Harry Truman, Lincoln’s heir

Presidents Day, which falls between the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, celebrates the contributions of those presidents. But here’s a nomination for another president worth remembering on this long weekend: Harry Truman, the first of the presidents who succeeded Lincoln to accomplish anything of consequence to redress the injustices that black Americans continued to suffer long after their emancipation.

Driven by black protests, and by his own conscience, Truman ordered the integration of the armed forces and threw the weight of the federal government behind the legal struggle to end segregation in the nation’s schools and housing. More broadly, with a flood of public utterances and proclamations, he put the prestige of the highest office in the land on the side of the least favored Americans, paving the way for the civil rights revolution of the 1960s.

During the interval between Lincoln, the 16th president, and Truman, the 33rd, blacks had grown accustomed to hypocrisy and broken promises from the president, regardless of his party. “May God write us down as asses if ever again we are found putting our trust in either the Republican or the Democratic parties,” declared the leading black intellectual of his day, W.E.B. DuBois, in 1922 after the latest betrayal, this time by Republican President Warren G. Harding.

Despite such duplicity, out of loyalty to Lincoln’s memory, black voters continued to give their support, if not their trust, to GOP presidential candidates for decades after the Civil War. It took the Depression and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal to turn the tide of black voters in favor of the Democrats, and that had more to do with economic issues than it did with civil rights, which simply weren’t on FDR’s agenda.

Truman, who became president in 1945 after Roosevelt’s death, changed all that. Given his heritage as the descendant of slaveholders, the man from Missouri seemed an unlikely champion of civil rights. But just as Lincoln’s resolve to abolish slavery grew stronger during his presidency, Truman’s views on race evolved. His views on the 16th president evolved also.

“My family didn’t think much of Lincoln,” he recalled. Some had even cheered his assassination. “I began to feel just the opposite,” he said, “after I’d studied the history of the country and what he did to save the Union.”

As president, Truman was spurred to action on civil rights by the violent reactions of white Southerners against blacks who sought to lay claim to their full rights as citizens in the wake of World War II. He was particularly appalled when black ex-servicemen were victimized.

Die-hard Southern segregationists in Congress made legislative initiatives extremely difficult. But, as Truman told a 1948 campaign rally in Harlem, “I went ahead and did what the president can do, unaided by Congress.”

That turned out to be quite a lot. He issued an executive order smashing the color line in the armed services, and he set up a watchdog committee to make sure that, despite intense resistance from the military’s top brass, his order was carried out.

He also approved deploying Justice Department lawyers as “friends of the court” to support private plaintiffs who were attacking discrimination across the social and economic spectrum.

In December 1952, just before the end of his final term, Truman approved the Justice Department’s filing of a brief in support of the plaintiffs in Brown vs. Board of Education, which challenged school segregation. To the consternation of Truman’s successor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, it was the Justice Department’s argument, which buttressed the contention of the NAACP representing the plaintiffs, that the Supreme Court embraced in 1954 when it handed down its historic decision overturning the color line in schools.

Were Truman’s actions calculated to win elections? The president knew that his civil rights efforts would probably help him win black voters in the big cities of the North in the 1948 election. But he also knew that whatever gains he made with black Americans would carry a price among whites, particularly in the South. So political calculus alone wasn’t Truman’s motive when it came to civil rights.

In 1952, Truman told graduating students at Howard University that many people had advised him that by raising the issue, he would make things worse. “But you can’t cure a moral problem or a social problem by ignoring it,” he said. “Now instead of making things worse, our efforts in the field of civil rights have made things better — better in all aspects of our national life and in all parts of our country.”

That concept of linking civil rights and morality encouraged the next Democrat in the White House, John F. Kennedy, to advocate a bold civil rights agenda. And that in turn inspired Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, to not only push through Congress Kennedy’s program but also to advance a civil rights agenda of his own, including a voting rights act.

In launching his second term on the steps of the Capitol last month, Obama cited the “self-evident” truths that help form the American creed, particularly the promise of equality for all. The country’s 44th president added pointedly: “History tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing.” The 16th president and the 33rd would have heartily agreed.

Robert Shogan, a former Washington correspondent for The Times, is author of the forthcoming book “Harry Truman and the Struggle for Racial Justice.”

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The Story of How the U.S. Army Ended Racial Segregation

On July 26, 1948, President Harry Truman issued Executive Order No. 9981, which stated in part, “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.”

Weekends Reads from TNI:

Although some senior officers in the U.S. military establishment resisted such a monumental and fundamental change, the days of segregation were numbered. In the coming years, influenced by the onset of the Korean War, full integration was achieved. Although many of the injustices suffered by blacks and other minorities while serving their country are well documented, the heroism of a number of these fighting men in World War II remained overlooked and unacknowledged for decades. Only in relatively recent times have the exploits of the Tuskegee airmen, the drivers of the Red Ball Express, and hard-fighting Marines on the Pacific island of Peleliu been well publicized. Still, the exploits of others have remained virtually unknown.

Ruben Rivers: A Hero of the Third Army

Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers was such a hero. Born one of 11 children on his family’s farm in Tecumseh, Oklahoma, Rivers enlisted in the Army along with two brothers. When the 761st Tank Battalion became hotly engaged on November 8, 1944, his bravery earned him the Silver Star. The citation read in part: “Staff Sergeant Rivers courageously dismounted from his tank in the face of directed enemy small arms fire, attached a cable to the road block and moved it off the road, thus permitting the combat team to proceed. His prompt action thus prevented a serious delay in the offensive action and was instrumental in the successful assault and capture of the town….”

Just eight days later, Rivers was seriously wounded but refused to be evacuated. His commanding officer, Captain David Williams, remembered, “With the morphine needle in my right hand about a half inch from Sergeant Rivers’ leg, I could have told my sergeant to hold him down. I said, ‘Ruben, you’re going back. You’ve got a million dollar wound. You’re going back to Tecumseh. You’re getting out of this.’”

When Rivers was killed in action on November 19, his condition had deteriorated, the leg wound sapping his strength and infection setting in. Still, his tank had assumed its customary lead position, and when the Germans were spotted, he engaged them. The following day, Captain Williams recommended that Rivers receive the Medal of Honor.

A Long Overdue Posthumous Medal of Honor

On January 13, 1997, more than half a century later, the family of Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers finally got his long overdue medal. In a ceremony at the White House, President Bill Clinton presented seven Medals of Honor, six to the families of deceased recipients and one to a living veteran of World War II. During the war, more than 430 of the nation’s highest combat decoration were awarded, but none of these were given to black soldiers.

Rivers’s sister, Grace Woodfork, accepted the medal, and the accompanying citation noted, “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 Rivers’ 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.”

Captain Williams, who championed the recognition of Sergeant Rivers for years following the war, attended the White House ceremony. During an interview with the Tulsa World, he was queried as to the reason for such delayed recognition for Rivers. Candidly, the captain answered, “It is obvious. He was a Negro.”

The heroism and sacrifice of Sergeant Rivers and others like him evidenced their patriotism and hastened the coming of equality in the military. Theirs is indeed a noble legacy.

This article by Michael Haskew first appeared in the Warfare History Network on August 16, 2016.


Why Harry Truman Ended Segregation in the US Military in 1948 - HISTORY

President Harry S. Truman. (Courtesy photograph)

In 1940 the U.S. population was about 131 million, 12.6 million of which was African American, or about 10 percent of the total population.

During World War II, the Army had become the nation’s largest minority employer. Of the 2.5 million African Americans males who registered for the draft through Dec. 31, 1945, more than one million were inducted into the armed forces. African Americans, who constituted approximately 11 per cent of all registrants liable for service, furnished approximately this proportion of the inductees in all branches of the service except the Marine Corps. Along with thousands of black women, these inductees served in all branches of service and in all Theaters of Operations during World War II.

During World War II, President Roosevelt had responded to complaints about discrimination at home against African Americans by issuing Executive Order 8802 in June 1941, directing that blacks be accepted into job-training programs in defense plants, forbidding discrimination by defense contractors, and establishing a Fair Employment Practices Commission.

After the war, President Harry Truman, Roosevelt’s successor, faced a multitude of problems and allowed Congress to terminate the FEPC. However, in December 1946, Truman appointed a distinguished panel to serve as the President’s Commission on Civil Rights, which recommended “more adequate means and procedures for the protection of the civil rights of the people of the United States.” When the commission issued its’ report, “To Secure These Rights,” in October 1947, among its proposals were anti-lynching and anti-poll tax laws, a permanent FEPC, and strengthening the civil rights division of the Department of Justice.

President Truman’s Executive Order, signed July 26, 1948, that desegregated the U.S. military. (Courtesy photograph)

In February 1948, President Truman called on Congress to enact all of these recommendations. When Southern senators immediately threatened a filibuster, Truman moved ahead on civil rights by using his executive powers. Among other things, Truman bolstered the civil rights division, appointed the first African American judge to the Federal bench, named several other African Americans to high-ranking administration positions, and most important, on July 26, 1948, he issued an executive order abolishing segregation in the armed forces and ordering full integration of all the services.

Executive Order 9981 stated that “there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.” The order also established an advisory committee to examine the rules, practices, and procedures of the armed services and recommend ways to make desegregation a reality. There was considerable resistance to the executive order from the military, but by the end of the Korean conflict, almost all the military was integrated.

By mid-1951, more than 18 percent of African-Americans in the Army were serving in integrated or partially-integrated units. The change to integrated units was permanent, if limited. And most importantly, the integrated units were successful. Segregation officially ended in 1954 with the disbandment of the last all-black unit.


Executive Order 9981: Desegregation of the Armed Forces (1948)

On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed this executive order establishing the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, committing the government to integrating the segregated military.

In 1940 the U.S. population was about 131 million, 12.6 million of which was African American, or about 10 percent of the total population. During World War II, the Army had become the nation's largest minority employer. Of the 2.5 million African Americans males who registered for the draft through December 31, 1945, more than one million were inducted into the armed forces. African Americans, who constituted approximately 11 per cent of all registrants liable for service, furnished approximately this proportion of the inductees in all branches of the service except the Marine Corps. Along with thousands of black women, these inductees served in all branches of service and in all Theaters of Operations during World War II.

During World War II, President Roosevelt had responded to complaints about discrimination at home against African Americans by issuing Executive Order 8802 in June 1941, directing that blacks be accepted into job-training programs in defense plants, forbidding discrimination by defense contractors, and establishing a Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC).

After the war, President Harry Truman, Roosevelt's successor, faced a multitude of problems and allowed Congress to terminate the FEPC. However, in December 1946, Truman appointed a distinguished panel to serve as the President's Commission on Civil Rights, which recommended "more adequate means and procedures for the protection of the civil rights of the people of the United States." When the commission issued its report, "To Secure These Rights," in October 1947, among its proposals were anti-lynching and anti-poll tax laws, a permanent FEPC, and strengthening the civil rights division of the Department of Justice.

In February 1948 President Truman called on Congress to enact all of these recommendations. When Southern Senators immediately threatened a filibuster, Truman moved ahead on civil rights by using his executive powers. Among other things, Truman bolstered the civil rights division, appointed the first African American judge to the Federal bench, named several other African Americans to high-ranking administration positions, and most important, on July 26, 1948, he issued an executive order abolishing segregation in the armed forces and ordering full integration of all the services. Executive Order 9981 stated that "there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin." The order also established an advisory committee to examine the rules, practices, and procedures of the armed services and recommend ways to make desegregation a reality. There was considerable resistance to the executive order from the military, but by the end of the Korean conflict, almost all the military was integrated.


Executive Order 9981: Ending Segregation in the Armed Forces

On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed this executive order establishing the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, committing the government to integrating the segregated military.

In 1940, the US population was about 131 million, 12.6 million of which was African American, or about 10 percent of the total population. During World War II, the Army had become the nation’s largest minority employer. Of the 2.5 million African Americans males who registered for the draft through December 31, 1945, more than one million were inducted into the armed forces. Along with thousands of black women, these inductees served in all branches of service and in all Theaters of Operations during World War II.

During World War II, President Roosevelt had responded to complaints about discrimination at home against African Americans by issuing Executive Order 8802 in June 1941, directing that blacks be accepted into job-training programs in defense plants, forbidding discrimination by defense contractors, and establishing a Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC).

After the war, President Harry S. Truman faced a multitude of problems and allowed Congress to terminate the FEPC. However, in December 1946, Truman appointed a distinguished panel to serve as the President’s Commission on Civil Rights, which recommended “more adequate means and procedures for the protection of the civil rights of the people of the United States.” When the commission issued its report, “To Secure These Rights,” in October 1947, among its proposals were anti-lynching and anti-poll tax laws, a permanent FEPC, and strengthening the civil rights division of the Department of Justice.

In February 1948, President Truman called on Congress to enact all of these recommendations. When Southern Senators immediately threatened a filibuster, Truman moved ahead on civil rights by using his executive powers. Among other things, Truman bolstered the civil rights division, appointed the first African American judge to the Federal bench, named several other African Americans to high-ranking administration positions, and most important, on July 26, 1948, he issued an executive order abolishing segregation in the armed forces and ordering full integration of all the services.

Executive Order 9981 stated that “there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.” The order also established an advisory committee to examine the rules, practices, and procedures of the armed services and recommend ways to make desegregation a reality. There was considerable resistance to the executive order from the military, but by the end of the Korean conflict, almost all the military was integrated.

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Cold War

A)The United Nations Security Council has 15 members.

B)The United Nations is supported by contributions of member nations.

C)The United Nations administers health education programs.

This statement was made by

The remedy lies in breaking the vicious circle and restoring the confidence of the European people in the economic future of their own countries and of Europe as a whole. The manufacturer and the farmer throughout wide areas must be able and willing to exchange their products for currencies the continuing value of which is not open to question."—Congressional Record, June 30, 1947

The text outlines the basis for the

Article 5 of the NATO Treaty promises

A)acceptance of other nations by unanimous agreement.

B)quick resolution of international disputes.

C)promotion of world peace by all member nations.

A)free Eastern European countries from communism

B)supply food to all member countries

C)promote peace through international agreements

A)provide economic aid to European nations threatened by communism

B)rebuild Japan after World War II

C)establish a Pan-American military alliance system

As an American, I condemn a Republican "Fascist" just as much I condemn a Democratic "Communist." I condemn a Democrat "Fascist" just as much as I condemn a Republican "Communist." They are equally dangerous to you and me and to our country. As an American, I want to see our nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves." —Senator Margaret Chase Smith, "Declaration of Conscience"

In this speech, Senator Smith is discussing the dangers of

B)the House Un-American Activities Committee.

A)The U.S.S.R. was sending agents to work in Hollywood.

B)some feared that movies might influence people's politics.

C)too many communist propaganda films were being made.

. . . I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation [control] by armed minorities or by outside pressures. I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way. I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes. . . .
—President Harry Truman, speech to Congress (Truman Doctrine), March 12, 1947

The program described in this quotation was part of the foreign policy of

In this text, Barowsky was discussing how the Berlin Airlift

A)accomplished the Soviet goal of forcing the West to surrender.

B)succeeded in showing that the Soviet Union could be challenged.

C)failed to allow the Soviet Union to be defeated by the West.

A)an international force was not strong enough to face the Communist threat.


Watch the video: Why Harry Truman is remembered for military desegregation (August 2022).