September 2

September 2, 1945 – World War II Ends

Tuskegee airmen 2

Photograph shows several Tuskegee airmen. Front row, left to right: unidentified airman; Jimmie D. Wheeler (with goggles); Emile G. Clifton (cloth cap) San Francisco, CA, Class 44-B. Standing left to right: Ronald W. Reeves (cloth cap) Washington, DC, Class 44-G; Hiram Mann (leather cap); Joseph L. “Joe” Chineworth (wheel cap) Memphis, TN, Class 44-E; Elwood T. Driver? Los Angeles, CA, Class 44-A; Edward “Ed” Thomas (partial view); Woodrow W. Crockett (wheel cap); at Ramitelli, Italy, March 1945. (Source: Tuskegee Airmen 332nd Fighter Group pilots.)

World War II ended on September 2, 1945. African American soldiers participated heavily in one of the largest wars of the twentieth century. It was this war that transformed the U.S. Military into a force heavily made up of African Americans. There were only a few thousand African Americans serving in the military prior to WWII and over one million would be serving at the conclusion of the war. Despite racism and segregation at home, African Americans were willing to sacrifice their very being for this nation.

12th AD Soldier 1945

12th Armored Division black soldier of the 12th Armored Division stands guard over a group of Nazi prisoners, April 1945.

It was after the end of the war that the military was officially integrated.   On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981 to end racial discrimination in the United States Armed Forces.  The segregation of the military eventually evolved from this order. A. Phillip Randolph and Grant Reynolds can receive much of the credit for expediting the end to military segregation by establishing in 1947 the Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service and Training which was later named the League for Non-Violent Civil Disobedience Against Military Segregation.  This organization pressured President Truman to end racial discrimination in the military. Truman may also have been influenced by a need for the African American vote.

A.-Phillip-Randolph

A. Phillip Randolph (November 1942)

President Truman stated in Number (1) of Order 9981 :

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.

 

Millions of African Americans found the military as a way out of  poverty and a way to push aside the weights that prevented them from succeeding in life.  The military was not perfect then or now, but it became one of the first employment opportunities where African Americans could be awarded based upon the merits of their character and work and not held back because of their skin color.