African Americans have fought in every war in American history, from the Revolution to the present. Their participation, their courage, and their will to fight has always contributed mightily to the successes on the battlefield.
They have always fought for the flag and the country, just as all American soldiers have, but they were always, fighting for something else, too, for the fulfillment of the promise due to all Americans, their full rights as American citizens.
The following three videos give a brief historical insight into the service of Black soldiers from WWII to Vietnam. With each successive experience of war, they proved themselves to be not only brave, but profoundly effective fighters.
Each war brought new recognition and greater access to the common goods of all American citizens.
From the beginning of the country, they have always been fighting for cause of liberty, but they carried a burden too, the burden to prove that they could fight. Their love of liberty was born out of the realities of the terrible institution of slavery and its aftermath, segregation and Jim Crow laws. And though they fought for all the same ideals that so many Americans have fought and died for over our 242-year history, they still did not enjoy the fullness of liberties that other Americans did, simply because of racial prejudices.
In the first video from WWII, you will see the arrival of the totally segregated 92nd Infantry Division, otherwise known as the Buffalo Soldiers, in Italy in August of 1944.
You will get a brief account of that arrival and hear some individual stories of soldiers in that unit. Their white commanding general, Gen. Edwin Allman, did not want them. He wrote, “I shall see to it that you see combat and your share of injuries.”
The 92nd fought against some of the most hardened and battle tested German units in Hitler’s armies on their way up the Italian peninsula. In one case, a unit of the 92nd was in a fierce battle with an overwhelmingly superior number of Germans. The enemy was advancing steadily against them and were coming so close that a Lt. Fox gave the coordinates for an artillery barrage that would drop those shells right on the 92nd’s own position.
Fox’ commanding officer, Maj. Ottis Zachary, refused to order the barrage. With the Germans now literally upon them, Lt. Fox shouted the order to fire into the field radio.
The barrage came in with pinpoint accuracy and fierceness. None would survive. After the battle, a priest reported that Lt. Fox’ body was found surrounded by more than 100 dead Germans. This is only one story among thousands that could be told. The 92nd proved to be a powerfully effective and highly decorated unit in WWII.
Click below to see the African American soldiers who fought in the Korean War.
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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.