Paris was freed from Nazi rule on August 25th 1944 by the 2nd Armoured Division of the Free French army, a few months after D-Day. The strange thing is that all the soldiers seemed to be white – even though the French army at the time was two-thirds black. As it turns out the British and Americans who ran D-Day would only let an all-white division across the Channel. Even the black American soldiers were left behind in Britain and joined the fighting only later. France in those days ruled much of Africa and had black soldiers in its army. In 1940 when Paris fell to Hitler 17,000 black soldiers had lost their lives defending France. In spite of that no black soldiers were allowed to take part in the liberation of Paris four years later. And to this day there is no monument in Paris to honour them. Read the rest of Abagond’s post here. I have some thoughts of my own to add. My father served under Gen. George Patton. He spoke of some of the racism he experienced while fighting in WWII. Yes, Abagond, the liberation of not only France, but, Europe, has been white-washed to the max. Black soldiers showed themselves capable in their fight during WWII:
17. “Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, U.S. Third Army commander, pins the Silver Star on Private Ernest A. Jenkins of New York City for his conspicuous gallantry in the liberation of Chateaudun, France…” October 13, 1944. 208-FS-3489-2. (african_americans_wwii_017.jpg)
24. “Two smiling French soldiers fill the hands of American soldiers with candy, in Rouffach, France, after the closing of the Colmar pocket.” February 5, 1945. Todd. 111-SC-199861-S. (african_americans_wwii_024.jpg) Black American soldiers were not the only ones to help liberate France, but, not mentioned in WWII history is their hand in liberating one of the infamous concentration camps of Hitler’s Nazis: Of note is the undisputed record of the 761ST, a segregated unit of Black American men:
Fighting in 183 days of combat in 1944 and 1945, the 761ST Battalion, wearing the famous Black Panther patch they would become well known for, captured and liberated four airfields and over 30 major towns. Suffering a 50 percent casualty rate and having lost 71 tanks, the 761ST broke through the Siegfried Line into Germany and they fought in the Battle of the Bulge. And they did liberate at least one concentration camp: they were the first unit to arrive at and participate in the liberation of the Gunskirchen camp in Austria, on May 5, 1945. (“It is also generally accepted by historians that the all-black 761st Tank Battalion had taken part in the liberation of a satellite of Mauthausen concentration camp, Gunskirchen, on May 5, 1945.” LA Times, by Elliot Perlman)
Floyd Dade was a soldier in the 761ST Tank Battalion. His unit was present at the liberation of Gunskirchen, a subcamp of Mauthausen, and he witnessed the aftermath of its operations. Mr. Dade spoke to students in the San Francisco Bay Area of California for many years, sharing his experiences and the things he had seen.
Another never discussed historical fact of WWII is the fighting of Black troops in the Pacific Rim—Japan, China, Burma, Iwo Jima— (known in WWII parlance as the “Pacific Theater”). Black American troops fought there as well:
16. “Cautiously advancing through the jungle, while on patrol in Japanese territory off the Numa-Numa Trail, this member of the 93rd Infantry Division is among the first Negro foot soldiers to go into action in the South Pacific theater.” May 1, 1944. 111-SC-189381-S (african_americans_wwii_016.jpg) 14. “Negro troops of the 24th Infantry, attached to the Americal Division, wait to advance behind a tank assault on the Jap[anese], along Empress Augusta Bay on Bougainville.” 1944. 111-SC-202491 (african_americans_wwii_014.jpg)
13. “Seeking to rescue a Marine who was drowning in the surf at Iwo Jima, this sextet of Negro soldiers narrowly missed death themselves when their amphibian truck was swamped by heavy seas. From left to right, back row, they are T/5 L. C. Carter, Jr., Private John Bonner, Jr., Staff Sergeant Charles R. Johnson. Standing, from left to right, are T/5 A. B. Randle, T/5 Homer H. Gaines, and Private Willie Tellie.” March 11, 1945. S/Sgt. W. H. Feen. 127-N-114329 (african_americans_wwii_013.jpg)
10. “A U.S. Army soldier and a Chinese soldier place the flag of their ally on the front of their jeep just before the first truck convoy in almost three years crossed the China border en route from Ledo, India, to Kunming, China, over the Stilwell road.” February 6, 1945. Sgt. John Gutman. 208-AA-338A-1 (african_americans_wwii_010.jpg) Abagond, also lost in this whitewashing of WWII history, are other battles as well: -The Battle of the Bulge The Black units that faced the heaviest fighting during WWII were the following: -761ST -Tuskegee Airmen -92nd and 93rd, which fought in the Po Valley in Italy:
40. “Negro `doughfoots’ of the 92nd Infantry (`Buffalo’) Division pursue the retreating Germans through the Po Valley. German forces in Italy have since capitulated unconditionally.” Ca. May 1945. 208-AA-49E-1-13. (african_americans_wwii_040.jpg)
Early in the 20th century, the Buffalo Soldiers found themselves being used more as laborers and service troops rather than as active combat units. During World War II the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments were disbanded, and the soldiers were moved into service-oriented units, along with the entire 2nd Cavalry Division. One of the infantry regiments, the 24th Infantry Regiment, served in combat in the Pacific theater. Another was the 92nd Infantry Division, AKA the “Buffalo Soldiers Division”, which served in combat during the Italian Campaign in the Mediterranean theater. Another was the 93rd Infantry Division—including the 25th Infantry Regiment—which served in the Pacific theater. (SOURCE)
At the start of World War II, the 24th IR was stationed at Fort Benning as School Troops for the Infantry School. They participated in the Carolina Maneuvers of October – December 1941. During World War II, the 24th Infantry fought in the South Pacific Theater as a separate regiment. Deploying on April 4, 1942 from the San Francisco Port of Embarkation, the Regiment arrived in the New Hebrides Islands on May 4, 1942. The 24th moved to Guadalcanal on August 28, 1943, and was assigned to the US XVI Corps. 1st Battalion deployed to Bougainville, attached to the 37th Infantry Division, from March to May, 1944 for Perimeter Defense Duty. The Regiment departed Guadalcanal on December 8, 1944, and landed on Saipan and Tinian on December 19, 1944 for Garrison Duty that included mopping up the remaining Japanese forces that had yet to surrender. The Regiment was assigned to the Pacific Ocean Area Command on March 15, 1945, and then to the Central Pacific Base Command on May 15, 1945, and to the Western pacific Base Command on June 22, 1945. The Regiment departed Saipan and Tinian on July 9, 1945, and arrived on the Kerama Islands off Okinawa on July 29, 1945. At the end of the war, the 24th took the surrender of forces on Aka Shima Island, the first formal surrender of a Japanese Imperial Army Garrison. The Regiment remained on Okinawa through 1946. (SOURCE)
Has anyone ever heard of the Red Ball Express? This transportation unit of truck drivers, which was predominantly Black, was set up to supply the rapidly advancing US forces. The RBE suffered heavy casualties. They drove many times behind German line to get the needed supplies to Patton’s army to continue the war effort: http://www.skylighters.org/redball/
Not mentioned at all in the history of WWII are the Black women who served in the military. Yes, they did not fight on the battle lines as the men did, but, they still made a major impact in their dedicated service in WWI II. Black American women also fought to serve in the war effort as nurses. Despite early protests that black nurses treating white soldiers would not be appropriate, the War Department relented, and the first group of Black American nurses in the Army Nurse Corps arrived in England in 1944. Not well known is the important efforts of the famous 6888TH Central Postal Battalion: -6888TH (aka the “Six Triple Eight”) Central Postal Battalion: http://kathmanduk2.wordpress.com/2009/03/07/the-6888th-central-postal-battalion-finally-honored-by-the-united-states-government/
148. “The first Negro WACs to arrive [on] the continent of Europe were 800 girls of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Bn, who had also been the first to arrive in England. After the battalion had set up its facilities at Rouen, France, it held an `open house’, which was attended by hundreds of Negro soldiers. Pvt. Ruth L. James,…of the battalion area is on duty at the gate.” May 26, 1945.Pfc. Stedman. 111-SC-23707. (african_americans_wwii_148.jpg)
147. “Capt. Della H. Raney, Army Nurse Corps, who now heads the nursing staff at the station hospital at Camp Beale, CA, has the distinction of being the first Negro nurse to report to yuty in the present war…” April 11, 1945. 208-PU-161K-1. (african_americans_wwii_147.jpg)
145. “Auxiliaries Ruth Wade and Lucille Mayo (left to right) further demonstrate their ability to service trucks as taught them during the processing period at Fort Des Moines and put into practice at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.” December 8, 1942. Oster. 111-SC-16246. (african_americans_wwii_145.jpg)
152. “Lt. Florie E. Gant…tends a patient at a prisoner-of war hospital somewhere in England.” October 7, 1944. 112-SGA-Nurses-44-1676. (african_americans_wwii_152.jpg)
158. “Cmdr. Thomas A. Gaylord, USN (Ret’d), administers oath to five new Navy nurses commissioned in New York…” Phyllis Mae Dailey, the Navy’s first African-American nurse, is second from the right. March 8, 1945. 80-G-4836. (african_americans_wwii_158.jpg)
There were also Black women pilots as well. Many of you may know of the valiant courage under fire that was exemplified by the Black men of the Tuskegee Airmen fame, but, how many of you know of Ms. Janet Harmon Waterford Bragg? She was one of the few Black women pilots who became a pilot through the Tuskegee Airmen pilot program. In addition to being denied entrance into the WASPS, where one White woman (Vice President of the Ninety-Nines) stated that she “did not know what to do with a Black woman”, Ms. Bragg was also denied her licence by the first examiner because as he put it, he had never given a Black woman a licence to fly, and he was not going to start doing it then. Ms. Bragg later went on to receive her licence from another instructor.
I’m not afraid of tomorrow because I’ve seen yesterday, and today is beautiful.” – Janet Bragg (1991) In 1939, when the National Airmen’s Association of America was formed, two women were among the founding members, both determined young African- Americans eager to learn and enter the still evolving world of aviation. One was Willa Brown, the other Janet Bragg. Born Janet Harmon in Griffin, Georgia on March 24, 1907, she gained her interest in aviation while still in her formative years. “As a child I always wanted to fly . . . I used to watch the birds – – how they would take off and land,” she said in an interview with the Arizona Historical Society in 1989. One day in 1933 in Chicago, she saw a billboard across the street with a drawing of a bird building a nest with chicks inside. The caption on the billboard read: “Birds learn to fly. Why can’t you” That day she knew where her future lay. A registered nurse who received her degree and training from Spellman College and MacBicar Hospital, both Black institutions respectively, Bragg enrolled at Curtis Wright School of Aeronautics in 1933. Despite constant harassment by fellow students, she completed her course work and helped build an airport and hangar in Robbins, Illinois. She bought the hangar’s first plane.
Like many African Americans during a time of rigid segregation, Bragg continued to meet opposition in her pursuit of a career in commercial and military aviation. She was denied entry into the Women’s Auxiliary Service Pilots (WASPs), being told by Ethel Sheehy, then vice president of the ’99s and Women’s Flying Training Detachment executive officer, that she didn’t know what to do with a Black woman. Undaunted, she flew to Tuskegee, .Alabama to train with Charles Alfred “Chief” Anderson and his instructors in the civilian program so that she could be given an exam for her commercial pilot’s license. However, the white examiner denied her this right after she landed from her trial flight. He exclaimed to Anderson that, “Well, I tell you Chief, she gave me a ride I’ll put up with any of your flight instructors. I’ve never given a colored girl a commercial pilot’s license, I don’t intend to now-.” The same year (1942), however, she was awarded her license by another examiner after 30-40 minutes of flight.
Even more left out of the picture, are the thousands of Black women “Rosie the Riveter” workers back home in America doing their part to help the war effort along. The White face of Rosie the Riveter is well-known, but, as seen here, the Rosies came in many racial groups. But, there were many Black women who helped in the production of armaments for the war. Many Black women left the menial life of domestic servitude to earn better salaries, provide for their families, and help the men fighting overseas in Europe, North Africa and Asia.
Women workers at quartermaster depot. The tradition of Betsy Ross is being kept alive in this quatermaster corps depot where this young woman worker assists in the creation of American flags for military activitities. Philadelphia Quartermaster Corps. (SOURCE)
New Britain, Connecticut. Women welders at the Landers, Frary, and Clark plant. (SOURCE)
D-Day. V-E Day. V-J Day. Battle of the Bulge. Pacific Theater. So many battles that still wear a whiteface.
The dedication that many Black men and women showed during WWII is exemplary. That they fought two enemies—–overseas, and back in America—-is a true testament to their courage and bravery. Patriotism has no color.
REFERENCES: BOOKS GOOGLE:
“THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ROSIE THE RIVETER: INVISIBLE WORKING WOMEN“, BY SUE DAVENPORT
“THE 761ST “BLACK PANTHER’ TANK BATTALION IN WORLD WAR II: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN ARMORED UNIT TO SEE COMBAT”, by Joe Wilson, Jr. Excerpt from Chapter 26: “A Dream No Longer Deferred”. Published by McFarland & Company, Inc., 1999:
“In the town of Gunskirchen, Austria, stands a monument to the victims of the Holocaust, whom the 761ST helped to liberate……”
The Road to Victory: The Untold Story of Race and World War II’s Red Ball Express by David P. Colley (Paperback – Jan. 2001) (2)