An anecdotal history of the African-American members of the “Greatest Generation.”
Morehouse, whose father was a white officer in command of an all-black infantry division, began this project to record the stories of the “invisible” soldiers segregated in the US Army during WWII. After interviewing 50 black veterans and consulting a variety of archival materials, she describes the 1940s army as “a microcosm of American society . . . segregated and thoroughly racist.” It was official War Department policy to prevent white soldiers from being commanded by black officers—and there were precious few of them, at any rate. By 1942 the army had activated two full divisions of black soldiers—the 93rd and 92nd Infantry (the latter the famous “Buffalo Soldiers”). Virtually all were sent to Fort Huachuca, a remote base in Arizona where, for endless months, they trained in the desert and mountains, enduring the physical hardships common to all new recruits. Many among the white brass felt black soldiers were not sufficiently disciplined for combat, so the training continued with no apparent possibility that the soldiers would see ever action. When morale sagged, about 18,000 were transferred to Louisiana for more training—this time in the heat and humidity of swamps populated by snakes and vicious razorback hogs. Eventually, the War Department yielded to pressures from black leaders, and black units went to the South Pacific and to Italy, where many served with distinction (the Buffalo Soldiers earned 102 Silver Stars). When the war ended, most black servicemen found that little had changed in segregated American society, but the cohesion and confidence they had formed (and the educational benefits offered by the GI Bill) enabled them to become the foundation of “the modern black freedom movement.” Morehouse enlivens her text with many narratives told by the veterans themselves.
A worthwhile addition to social and military history. (13 b&w photos, 3 maps)