Race in the U.S. Military (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
The regular service of minorities, especially African Americans, in the U.S. military is a relatively recent phenomenon. Before the American Civil War, the U.S. military tradition was one of erratic, militia-based service and sanctioned prejudice. Therefore, minorities played a small role in U.S. military life. The American Civil War saw the first real attempt to incorporate blacks into the service on both sides of the conflict. However, they were largely used in noncombat roles, especially in the South, and though they played a marginally important part in the Union’s victory, their use was hotly debated and carefully segregated. This segregation continued well into the twentieth century and through two world wars.
The years immediately after World War II saw the first impetus for change. Various segregated black units and a few individual black servicemen, such as Dorie Miller, a U.S. Navy hero at the attack on Pearl Harbor, had distinguished themselves in battle, and this opened the debate on the desegregation of the armed forces.
On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman established a major precedent in the history of equal opportunity for all races when...
(The entire section is 1455 words.)
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