Term Paper: Black Soldiers in WWII

Pages: 7 (2556 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Military  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] None of this information was widely available to the public at the time. The service of black Americans was not considered newsworthy. Although there were prominent figures, notably Eleanor Roosevelt, who attempted to raise social consciousness, blacks were largely viewed as inferior. Their military service was not considered to be of consequence. There was still considerable prejudice in the U.S. Blacks were understandably angry and frustrated. In an interview after the war, Ray Elliott recalled, "We had to think of different ways so that we could keep from being full of rage because we knew that would be counterproductive."

Unlike the white press, the black press discussed racial inequality in the military and demanded that action be taken. Race relations in one city, Dallas, were particularly tense at the time Pearl Harbor was attacked; only eight days earlier, there had been a racially motivated bombing of Hatcher's Florists in the city. It was one of eighteen racial bombings in Dallas that year alone. The Dallas Express, the city's largest circulating African-American newspaper, attempted to calm Dallas' citizens. In a front page editorial entitled "No Time for Racial Troubles Now," it was stated that "Dallas is too busy now getting ready to send young men -- white and colored -- to the war…to be wasting time on interracial disturbances" (Vanderpool 36). The Dallas Express was following the example of other African-American newspapers in the U.S. that promoted the Double V campaign. Two victories were sought, one over fascism abroad and one over racial inequality at home. In a letter to The Pittsburgh Courier, the most widely read black newspaper of its day, James G. Thompson wrote the following in a letter to the editor: "Should I sacrifice my life to live half American? Will things be better for the next generation in the peace to follow? ... These and other questions need answering; I want to know, and I believe every colored American, who is thinking, wants to know" (Elliot). Former soldier Ray Elliott said of the Double V campaign: "[It] gave us courage and hope and patience, because what we decided was that we had two wars to win." It was a sentiment shared by blacks throughout the country, and the black press mounted a consistent campaign to spread the word. Robert Quarles, a corporal in the 920th Air Base Security Battalion, remembered the Double V campaign as a rallying cry of civil rights leaders. Recalling his military days, Quarles said, "I thought my service would be a passport to first class citizenship. Everyone was concerned about going home. I thought things would be different when I returned. Unfortunately, they weren't" (Engelhardt).

While African-Americans were hopeful about the promise of Double V, the federal government was wary about actions the black community might take. There had already been race riots across the United States before and during the war; officials wondered what blacks might do and expect when they returned from service. The federal government systematically monitored the black press, including articles about the Double V campaign. The Philadelphia Courier attempted to appease the government and avoid charges of disloyalty or aiding and abetting the enemy. The Courier ran an article offering assurance that no one should interpret the campaign as a plot to impede the war effort (Gates).

Thirty-four African-Americans reached the rank of colonel or lieutenant colonel in World War II, but only one person, Benjamin O. Davis Sr., became general in the regular Army. Appointed by President Roosevelt in 1940, it took another fourteen years for a second black general to make rank (Chappell 62). Not a single black soldier received the Congressional Medal of Honor during the war or in the years immediately following. It took a span of more than fifty years for a particular group of soldiers to receive their due. In 1997, President Clinton awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor to seven black veterans. Only one of the men was still living; the rest of the awards were granted posthumously (Black and Thompson 42). It may have been of some comfort to the surviving family members to see these honors bestowed, but there also had to be some bitterness that the men who earned the medals did not live long enough to see their heroism acknowledged publicly.

It matters very much that the record is set straight for the black Americans who contributed to nation's efforts during World War II. They demonstrated that they were capable of holding responsible positions that required intelligence and good judgment. They showed their willingness to fight on behalf of all citizens of the United States. They were able to do everything that whites could do -- when given the chance -- and thus proved they were deserving of the freedom for which they fought.

Bibliography

1. Black, Helen K., and Thompson, William H. "A War Within a War: A World War II Buffalo Soldier's Story." Journal of Men's Studies 20, no. 1 (Jan. 2012): 32-46. Accessed Apr. 19, 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.3149/jms.2001.32.

2. Chappell, Kevin. "Blacks in World War II." Ebony 50, no. 11 (Sep. 1995): 58-64. Accessed Apr. 17, 2014. MasterFILE.

3. Elliot, Ray. "Two Wars to Win." Accessed Apr. 19, 2014. http://www.americancenturies.mass.edu/centapp/oh/story.do?shortName=elliot1939vv

4. Engelhardt, Brian C. "Fighting for the Double V: Memories of Six African-American Veterans of World War II." Berks History Center. Accessed Apr. 22, 2014. http://www.berkshistory.org/articles/doublev.html

5. Frohardt-Lane, Sarah. "Close Encounters: Interracial Contact and Conflict on Detroit's Public Transit in World War II." Journal of Transport History 33, no. 2 (Dec. 2012): 212-227. Accessed Apr. 18, 2014. Academic Search Premier.

6. Gates, Henry Louis Jr. "What was Black America's Double War?" 2013. Accessed Apr. 18, 2014. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/what-was-black-americas-double-war/

7. "Institute on World War II/African-American." Florida State University. Updated Jan. 6, 2014. Accessed Apr. 22, 2014. http://ww2.fsu.edu/African-American

8. Moore, Chrisopher Paul. Fighting for America: Black Soldiers -- The Unsung Heroes of World War II. New York: Ballantine, 2007. Kindle edition.

9. "Pictures of African-Americans During World War II." N.d. Accessed Apr. 18, 2014. http://www.archives.gov/research/african-americans/ww2-pictures/

10. Vanderpool, Guy C. "The Dallas Express and the Double V Campaign." Legacies 20, no. 1 (Mar. 2008): 36-47. Accessed Apr. 21, 2014. Academic Search Premier.

11. Welch, William M. "Worst Home-Front Disaster of WWII Gets Recognition." USA Today. (Dec. 28, 2009). Accessed Apr.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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