Desegregation Plus 60
As noted by fellow blogger Dorian De Wind, it was sixty years ago this week one of the more significant events in American history began when President Harry S. Truman signed an executive order which directed that all United States armed forces should be integrated. This historic order was issued on July 26, 1948.
At first there was some dispute over whether or not the order actually did what it said. Some ‘off the record’ military officers tried to tell the press that it did not mean troops would be integrated. But both Army Chief of Staff Bradley and President Truman said otherwise. As of July 29, 1948 it was clear that this was what would happen, though it took some time for the process to be completed.
At the time the decision was also politically controversial, coming in the middle of a tight Presidential campaign. In 1948 tje Democratic party was divided between several factions including a racially prejudiced Southern branch that walked out of the party over the incident. Today these kinds of people have been reduced to the margins, with both parties rejecting them but at the time it was a real brave move by Truman.
For most of us it is amazing to think that while we were fighting for freedom in Europe that our own troops were forced to fight in segregated units. This despite the fact that many black troops were among the bravest on the battlefield, taking on jobs that white troops were unwilling to consider (often involving the transport of tons of munitions under harrowing circumstances).
In a fitting act for this anniversary week, the Army recently corrected a prior injustice, reversing a decision in which black troops were court martialed for a crime they did not commit. Sadly there are still some injustices out there, including the imfamous Port Chicago incident.
In his column Dorian expressed the hope that we will move forward in resolving the issues of gay and lesbian Americans having the ability to serve openly. I echo those wishes wholeheartedly.
However it is also important to correct the mistakes of the past with regard to black troops. Hopefully in the near future we can see all of the blots removed from the historical and future record.