September 14


African Americans Allowed Into All US Military Branches

First Tuskeegee Class
Maj James A. Ellison reviews first class of Tuskeegee Airmen, returning the salute of Mac Ross, one of the first graduates. A BT-13 is visible on the left. (1941)
African Americans were allowed to join any branch of the US Military when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Selective Service Act on September 14, 1940. Although allowing African Americans to join any branch of the military may have been a small part of the overall controversy of creating a military draft system, it would eventually have a major impact upon African Americans role and service in the military. The discussion of a draft service for the country was quite controversial, but the possibility of the country becoming involved in the second world war made it a necessity in the opinion of many legislators.
"Leading petty officers of one of the Navy's new Logistics Support Companies... This company is undergoing combat traini - NARA - 535537
"Leading petty officers of one of the Navy's new Logistics Support Companies... This company is undergoing combat training by Service Force Advance Base Section at a station on Oahu Island prior to their departure for duty in a combat area." May 10, 1945

Senator Robert F. Wagoner of New York proposed an amendment to the Selective Service Act that would open the doors to any branch of military service for African Americans and other minorities.
Robert F Wagner
Robert F. Wagner, U.S. Senate portrait
Congressman Hamilton Fish, (a former officer of World War I's African American 369th Infantry) proposed a similar amendment in the US House. Both amendments passed.
Hamilton Fish III
Hamilton Fish III (1888 - 1991), a U.S. Representative from New York

Words That Matter

Stephen Ambrose

The world's greatest democracy fought the world's greatest racist with a segregated army.”

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