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Executive Order 9981 - President Truman Orders an End to Segregation in the Military

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  • Executive Order 9981 - President Truman Orders an End to Segregation in the Military

    OTD in 1948

    While the services dragged their feet segregated units ended by the end of the Korean War.

    https://www.archivesfoundation.org/d...-armed-forces/

    Executive Order 9981: Ending Segregation in the Armed Forces


    On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed this executive order establishing the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, committing the government to integrating the segregated military.

    In 1940, the US population was about 131 million, 12.6 million of which was African American, or about 10 percent of the total population. During World War II, the Army had become the nation’s largest minority employer. Of the 2.5 million African Americans males who registered for the draft through December 31, 1945, more than one million were inducted into the armed forces. Along with thousands of black women, these inductees served in all branches of service and in all Theaters of Operations during World War II.

    During World War II, President Roosevelt had responded to complaints about discrimination at home against African Americans by issuing Executive Order 8802 in June 1941, directing that blacks be accepted into job-training programs in defense plants, forbidding discrimination by defense contractors, and establishing a Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC).

    After the war, President Harry S. Truman faced a multitude of problems and allowed Congress to terminate the FEPC. However, in December 1946, Truman appointed a distinguished panel to serve as the President’s Commission on Civil Rights, which recommended “more adequate means and procedures for the protection of the civil rights of the people of the United States.” When the commission issued its report, “To Secure These Rights,” in October 1947, among its proposals were anti-lynching and anti-poll tax laws, a permanent FEPC, and strengthening the civil rights division of the Department of Justice.

    In February 1948, President Truman called on Congress to enact all of these recommendations. When Southern Senators immediately threatened a filibuster, Truman moved ahead on civil rights by using his executive powers. Among other things, Truman bolstered the civil rights division, appointed the first African American judge to the Federal bench, named several other African Americans to high-ranking administration positions, and most important, on July 26, 1948, he issued an executive order abolishing segregation in the armed forces and ordering full integration of all the services.

    Executive Order 9981 stated that “there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.” The order also established an advisory committee to examine the rules, practices, and procedures of the armed services and recommend ways to make desegregation a reality. There was considerable resistance to the executive order from the military, but by the end of the Korean conflict, almost all the military was integrated.
    I joined the National Guard in 1976. For 2 years I was in everyone in the unit was white...segregation? No, just location in West Virginia and the type of unit.

    When I was discharged in 1978 to take an ROTC scholarship every unit, office and organization I have been in has be integrated and that has proven to be a strength as we reflect the population we come from in the US.
    Last edited by Albany Rifles; 26 Jul 21,, 17:59.
    “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
    Mark Twain

  • #2
    Originally posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    While the services dragged their feet segregated units ended by the end of the Korean War.
    In the station lists of the time you'll find "negro units" marked that way until mid-1954. Puerto-Ricans too.
    The WAC a whole lot longer, until the 70s.

    What it doesn't mention in the article is that following WW2 desegregation was first "tried out" during demobilization - by demobilizing certain platoons in some units and other platoons in other units, and then slapping the remains together into new units. Before Executive Order 9981 as preparation a survey was done among officers in units that had been integrated that way, in which an overwhelming 90-95% answered that they did not see any negative results coming from the integration.


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    • #3
      Great points Kato. I know the World War 2 memorial in my town here in rural Southside Virginia lists the war dead by races. There is one column of 5 names, and then a another column under the word Colored of 3 names.

      The military is a reflection of our society and there were, and continue to be, issues with racial prejudice intolerance in some quarters. Things were quite bad in some places in the late 60s/early 70s, especially in Vietnam's rear areas, but hard work by a lot of people have improved matters to some extent within the military. Of course I am a late middle age white guy so I am not targeted. But I do know that the race of a person doesn't seem to matter that much, at least in the chunks of the Army I have worked in.
      “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
      Mark Twain

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Albany Rifles View Post
        I know the World War 2 memorial in my town here in rural Southside Virginia lists the war dead by races. There is one column of 5 names, and then a another column under the word Colored of 3 names.
        That's actually quite common in particular in the South i think. And if not separating it like that then in smaller towns e.g. listing the units of each soldier, which would of course include a "Colored" for some of them.

        I see it somewhere along the lines of "at least they were mentioned". Jewish soldiers fallen in WW1 for example were left off of memorials in Germany - there was a jewish veteran organization that had to build separate memorials for them (one about an hour from me is still standing).

        Originally posted by Albany Rifles View Post
        But I do know that the race of a person doesn't seem to matter that much, at least in the chunks of the Army I have worked in.
        That's also something where in my opinion the military doesn't reflect society as much.

        The corporal they put in charge of my squad in basic training was the grandson of a US soldier stationed in the area after WW2. Which meant, well, Puerto-Rican. And Black. And you could really see it. No one ever bothered even mentioning it, since after all it doesn't matter. The only thing he ever got teased for in a friendly way was the fact that he was smaller than any of us and about half the weight of the corporal from the next squad over who he was sharing his room with.
        Given that i know other people with the same or a similar background living in the area and the problems they've faced occasionally i'm fairly sure that outside the military this guy did have his own share of problems.
        Last edited by kato; 03 Aug 21,, 17:11.

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