Historical Black Military Units
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Friday, 1 June 2007
Historical Black Military Units
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: black history

Black in the Revolutionary War 

Blacks fought on both sides of the Revolution.  some for the Britsh and some for the Colonies.

New Jersey's Militia Act of May 1777 permitted masters to enlist slaves as substitutes. New Hampshire opened the door to the recruitment of slaves to fill the state's Continental quota in the fall of that year, and Connecticut soon followed suit. In October 1780 an all black unit, the 2nd Company, 4th Connecticut Regiment, was formed. That company, some 48 black privates and NCOs under four white officers, existed until November 1782.

In January 1778, General Washington had given his approval to Rhode Island's plan to raise an entire regiment of black slaves. Over the next five years 250 former slave and freedmen served in the 1st Rhode Island Regiment. Massachusetts' all-black unit, the Bucks of America under Samuel Middleton, the only black commissioned officer in the Continental Army, probably also had its origins early in 1778. Similar to Rhode Island, the state bought and emancipated slaves willing to become soldiers. In October 1780, even Maryland accepted "any able-bodied slave between 16 and 40 years of age, who voluntarily enters into service . . . with the consent and agreement of his master." New York would begin to recruit slaves in March 1781.



The 54th Massachusetts Infantry


One of the first black units to join the Union forces in the Civil War, the Fifty-Fourth had the eyes of the nation upon it. The company, which was largely composed of freed black slaves from various northern states, earned its fame in the July 18, 1863, battle at Battery Wagner. It was assigned the challenge of leading the assault on this Confederate fort, which was located on an island near Charleston, S.C.

Although the unsuccessful attack resulted in heavy casualties, the courageous act of one member of Company C brought the Fifty-Fourth widespread attention. During the battle, the unit managed to briefly capture a small section of the battery. The unit's leader, Col. Robert Gould Shaw, however, was fatally wounded in the process. Seeing that the color sergeant was down, Sgt. William H. Carney risked his life to take the flag and lead the troops to the parapet, upon which he planted the colors. When the soldiers were given the order to retreat, Carney again took the flag while facing heavy fire, before falling back. He was severely wounded by two bullets during the battle but survived to become the first African American to be presented a Congressional Medal of Honor, on May 23, 1900.


Buffalo Soldiers


After the Civil War, Congress authorized the creation of six segregated black regiments to serve in the peace-time army, under white officers. The Ninth and Tenth Cavalries and the 38th through 41st Infantries—all composed of African-American soldiers—were thus formed.

The new cavalries were mainly stationed in the Southwest and the Great Plains, where it was their responsibility to build forts and maintain order in a frontier overrun by outlaws and occupied by Native Americans battling land-grabbing intruders. The black troops earned the nickname "Buffalo Soldiers"—as much for their ability in battle as for their dark skin—from the Cheyenne Indians.

The men of the Ninth and Tenth Cavalries further proved their abilities in the Spanish-American War and in guarding the Mexican border. Members of both regiments fought in Cuba, participating in the battle at San Juan Hill. The Tenth also served under General John J. Pershing in the expedition against Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. In 1941, the two regiments merged to form the Fourth Cavalry Brigade, which was led by the army's first African-American general, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., and would exist for only three years before all horse cavalry regiments were disbanded.

The Tuskegee Airmen 

By the beginning of World War II, African Americans were putting increased pressure on the government to make conditions more equal for blacks in the armed forces. Still reluctant to integrate the military, the government took a step forward in 1941 by creating the first all-black military aviation program, at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. The action received a great deal of criticism from black Americans who were outraged by their continued segregation.

In May 1943, the first group of Tuskegee-trained pilots was sent to North Africa to join the Allied forces. They were headed by Capt. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., who would later become the first African-American Air Force general. The accomplishments made by the 99th Fighter Squadron, especially in it's collaboration with the all-white 79th Fighter Group in October 1943, helped pave the way for integration in the Air Force.

The 761st Tank division (Patton's Panthers)

On the battlefields of World War II, the men of the African-American 761st Tank Battalion under General Patton broke through enemy lines with the same courage with which they broke down the racist limitations set upon them by others—proving themselves as tough, reliable, and determined to fight as any tank unit in combat.

Beginning in 1944, they engaged the enemy for 183 straight days, spearheading many of Patton's offensives at the Battle of the Bulge and in six European countries. No other unit fought so long and so hard without respite. The 761st defeated more than 6,000 enemy soldiers, captured 30 towns, liberated Jews from concentration camps, and made history as the first African-American armored unit to enter the war. PATTON'S PANTHERS is the true story of the Black Panthers, who proudly lived up to their motto (Come Out Fighting) and paved the way for African-Americans in the U.S. military—while battling against the skepticism and racism of the very people they fought for.


The 24th  Infantry regiment:

The Army has rewritten the official history of the all-black 24th Infantry regiment to say racism was at the root of its failures in the Korean War. The regiment was ordered disbanded in 1951 as inept and untrustworthy - igniting a controversy that has continued to this day.

In an effort to set the record straight, the U.S. Army Center of Military History conducted an eight-year investigation that included interviews with more than 400 men who served in the 24th before and during the 1950-53 Korean War.

The study's release coincided with a week of official events in Washington commemorating the end of the Korean War on July 27, 1953 - including the formal dedication of the Korean War Veterans Memorial.

The Army suffered by far the largest share of the more than 33,000 U.S. battle deaths in the war against communist North Korea and its Chinese and Soviet backers. The 24th Infantry regiment fought well in some battles but collapsed in others.

"What is clear is that if the 24th went into battle much as the other regiments in the Eighth Army did - poorly trained, badly equipped and short on experience - it carried baggage none of the others possessed, all the problems of trust and lack of self-confidence that the system of segregation had imposed," the historians wrote in an executive summary of the study.

"Although infrequent, enough instances of genuine bigotry occurred to cement the idea in the minds of black enlisted men that their white officers were racially prejudiced," it said, adding that the mistrust and resentment that built up "ate incessantly into the bonds that held the unit together."

Thus, when the 24th was thrust into battle in July 1950 near Sangju, South Korea, against the North Korean army the lack of cohesion and confidence among the enlisted men was a primary reason the unit fell apart, the historians wrote. When men began to flee the front lines, their white commanders did little more to than return them to their units.


The 2nd Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne)

The 2nd Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) was activated from Fort Benning, Georgia on 06 October 1950. Personnel, all four-time volunteers, were drawn from the 3rd Battalion, 505th Airborne Infantry Regiment and the 80th Anti-aircraft Artillery Battalion of the 82nd Airborne Division. All of these brave and outstanding patriots had to volunteer four times in order to join this elite unit; first they volunteered to join the Army, second they volunteered to become paratroopers, third they volunteered for combat. The parent organization for this unit was Company “A”, 2nd Ranger Battalion, which was deactivated following World War II. The 2nd Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) was a very special unit - one might characterize the men of this unit as the best of the elite.

The Company went through a highly concentrated, rigorous course of training at Fort Benning, Georgia and shipped out to Port of Embarkation, Camp Stoneman, California, arriving by train on 07 December 1950 nine years to the day after Pearl Harbor Day. The company staged for overseas shipment and boarded the USNT General Butner at San Francisco, California on 09 December 1950. Enroute to Korea, the Company stopped briefly at Honolulu, Hawaii, then sailed on to Yokohama, Japan, arriving on 24 December 1950 - Christmas Eve. The Company entrained at shipside for movement to Camp Zama, Japan, where final preparations were made for shipment to Korea.


Black in Vietnam: 

PITTSBURGH - A pair of combat boots. A wristband woven from boot laces with several bullets dangling. A photo of black servicemen standing outside a makeshift African temple.

The items are part of "Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the Vietnam Era," a new exhibit at the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center that examines the black experience in Vietnam in the context of the era's domestic social fabric.

Samuel W. Black, curator of the center's African American Collections, conceived the exhibit, in part because his older brother, Jimmy McNeil, served two years in Vietnam.

Black was 4 years old when his brother was sent to Vietnam. He died in 1971, unrelated to the conflict, and Black said he really never knew what his brother's experience was.













Posted by rbaz at 6:21 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 11 July 2007 12:31 PM CDT
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