Submitted by Naseem Aamini, Washington Post
The Washington Post’s DeNeen Brown shares the experiences of three black veterans, as they reflect on the 70th anniversary of President Harry Truman’s order to desegregate the armed forces. It was an order Truman felt morally compelled to authorize to stop lynchings, particularly, of black servicemen. The veterans reflect on the military’s transition to full integration and how it would prove as difficult as integration in the rest of society.
- Black troops have fought with valor in every war since the American Revolution. Still, [Retired Lt. Gen. Julius Becton Jr.] Becton said that during World War II, they were treated unfairly by U.S. forces and even their prisoners of war. “During my training in 1944, when I was in an all-black unit at MacDill Army Airfield,” near Tampa, Becton recalled, “some of the service areas were run by Italian prisoners of war. . . . I could walk into the shoe repair, and even though I had been the first in line, I would be the last person served because the fellow behind the counter, although he was a POW, he was white.” – WATCH INTERVIEW HERE
- [Retired Sgt. Sam] Graham felt as though Truman’s order had no immediate effect on his time in the service, where he constantly faced racism. “Mr. Truman, he took a stand, and he meant well,” Graham said. “But it was the commanders — it was up to them, and they fought it tooth and nail.” Graham remembers being called names by white soldiers. “There were always remarks made,” Graham said. “But what are you going to do? I was used to it.” For black soldiers, racism was rampant. “The things we had to overcome as black soldiers in a white Army,” he said. “You could either adjust to it or fight and wind up in the stockade.” – WATCH INTERVIEW HERE
- Five years after Truman’s executive order, Charles Felder joined the Marines at 17. Felder grew up in Montgomery, Ala., where he saw racism that still makes him cringe. Felder said that his uncle, a World War II veteran, tried to talk him out of joining the military. “He hated the military,” Felder said. “He was a mechanic. He told me about an incident in Italy. They got up in the mountains in the Alps. The trucks constantly ran out of gas. They attached 55-gallon cans of gasoline to the backs of the black soldiers. That is the way they made it up the mountains.” – WATCH INTERVIEW HERE
FULL STORY: https://wapo.st/2v1kjmd