World lead to segregated units for racial minorities, or

World
War II was one of the most racially charged wars in world history. Not just
between the Jews and Nazis, but even here at home in the United States, we
experienced much racism. This racism spilled into the military which lead to
segregated units for racial minorities, or those looked down upon by the United
States. After the war, the government pushed for integration of the military to
serve as a social model to the American public where racial tensions had
reached an all-time high.

            One of the most segregated races
during this time was the Japanese-Americans, who were highly discriminated
against since Japan was fighting against the United States in WWII. Even before
the war, Japanese-Americans were highly despised by the white Americans with
discrimination dating back to the late 1800s. After they were interned after
Pearl Harbor, there were two major groups of Japanese-Americans that were
connected to the military and stood out.

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First, there were those who wanted to
prove their loyalty to the United States and therefore decided to enlist in the
army. Some who enlisted, also thought being in the military would give them
citizenship rights, which was something that was denied to them when the first
immigrated to the United States. Those who enlisted were often put in the
segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the 100th
Infantry Battalion, which was the 442nd’s predecessor, both of which
were headed by white officers. Others who did not go into combat served as
translators or interpreters in the Military Intelligence Service. Even though
both of the units went on to become highly decorated, including their most
famous merit which was rescuing the Lost Battalion and going on several other
successful campaigns, the marine corps, navy, and air force all refused to
accept Japanese Americans besides a few exceptions.

While most Japanese-American men leaped at
the opportunity of joining the United States military, there were still some
who could not pledge loyalty to the nation who had betrayed and imprisoned them,
along with stripping them of their rights. These men became known as the No-No
Boys. They were given this name because they either answered “no,” gave
unqualified answers, or refused to answer questions 27 and 28, nicknamed the
“loyalty questions,” of the Application for Leave Clearance form. The
application was often called the “loyalty questionnaire” because it was used to
weed out those who were disloyal to the United States. No-No Boys are commonly
confused with draft resisters, which are Japanese-American people who refused
to serve in the military. Both of these groups were largely condemned by other
Japanese-Americans during WWII who stressed serving in the military to show
their loyalty to the United States.

African
Americans – Intro-Double V-Achievements/Tuskegee Airmen

            African Americans, although not as
much as the Japanese, were also discriminated and segregated against in the
military during WWII. Initially, most who enlisted were often given trivial
tasks like stewards or cooks. This all changed after the “Double V” campaign
was launched which opened up general service for African Americans. This led
the way for many African American achievements during the war, the most notable
being the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

            Before 1942, African Americans
served a minor part in the United States military, often given jobs in service
positions rather than combat. This all changed after the Pittsburgh Courier launched its “Double V Campaign.” This supported
a victory aboard against the Nazis, and a victory at home against racial
segregation and racism, a double victory, hence the name “Double V.” This
campaign was inspired by a letter written to the Courier by James Thompson who wrote, “Being an American of dark
complexion and some 26 years, these questions flash through my mind ‘Should I
sacrifice my life to live half American? Will things be better for the next
generation in the peace to follow?’…’Is the kind of American I know worth
defending?'” This struck a nerve with the Courier
leading to the “Double V Campaign.” After hearing about the situation with the
Nazis and the Jews in Germany, many black journalists and activists drew a
connection between the problem abroad and the problem at home and quickly
concluded the Nazi ideology had gotten its basis from American Jim Crow laws,
which was later confirmed by the SS’s official newspaper. After this, some
black journalists started comparing the Swastika and the Stars and Stripes,
saying they were both emblems of racial oppression, and saying Americans and
Nazis were more similar than people wanted to acknowledge.

            After the “Double V Campaign,” more
jobs within the military opened up for African Americans. More of them started
to enlist, with almost 1.2 million serving in the military by the end of the
war, including women. Many black individuals within all branches of the army
went on to become highly decorated, with African Americans becoming highly
distinguished and honored as a whole. The most honored and famous of these
people are the Tuskegee Airmen. These men became the first African Americans to
fly and manage airplanes in the military, which had been banned before. The
Tuskegee Airmen flew ground support missions and escorted bombers over Italy.
They flew more than fifteen thousand attacks during a period of about two
years. Many bomber crews often requested the Airmen to escort them on their
missions.

            Now to move on to the most
overlooked minority in WWII, the Navajo. After Japan kept cracking the United
States code communication, they quickly learned they would need a way to talk
to each other that the Japanese would not understand, and therefore began to
reevaluate their attitudes toward Native Americans. When Philip Johnston, a
former Army engineer, suggested using the Navajo language, which Germany had
failed to infiltrate and learn between WWI and WWII, the government decided to
test the idea. The recruitment of the Navajo highlighted how racist attitudes
towards minorities were quickly suppressed when they became useful towards the
war. Along with Germany not being able to crack their language, the Navajo were
also recruited because their language was complex and mostly unwritten which,
all the more, made it harder to crack. This code proved to be instrumental in
the Allied wins of Iwo Jima Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, and Okinawa.

            Even though the Navajo were such a
big part of WWII they were sworn to secrecy, and the code remained top secret
for years. It wasn’t declassified until two decades later, and the Navajo weren’t
given credit until in 2000 when New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman introduced a
bill that resulted in the code talkers receiving congressional medals, and in
2001 when President George W. Bush presented the original 29 code talkers with
Congressional Gold Medals.

            After the years after the war ended,
the government began the process of integrating the military. In 1947, the
Committee on Civil Rights recommended using the military “as an instrument of
social change” (Military Integration Timeline 3) by ending segregation and
integrating the military. The following year, President Truman signed Executive
Order 9981, which called for equal treatment of black military members. It
states “that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all
persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or
national origin” (Feng 1). This was largely ignored by the military until, in
1949, Defense Secretary Louis Johnson issued a policy asserting President
Truman’s integration order. This officially started the long process of
integrating the army which integrated training camps first, and then went on to
integrate combat units. This went on until the last segregated unit was
disbanded in 1954, after the end of the Korean War (Military Integration
Timeline 7). Throughout the Korean War, the military was going through the
integration process. For example, in an interview conducted Howard White, a
Korean War veteran, he states in his unit there were, “15 blacks to 250
whites…there weren’t very many no, there weren’t many blacks in the army back
then.” This shows that the government still had a lot of work to do when
integrating the army. While the integration mainly affected African Americans,
Japanese Americans also served in war during the integration process.

            Along with the country, the military
has become more racially and ethnically diverse. 40 percent of active-duty
members are minorities, which is up from twenty-five percent in 1990 (Parker et
al. 7). African Americans have been represented in a greater percent than their
percent of the national population. Blacks make up seventeen percent of the active-duty
military, while they only make up only thirteen percent of the national
population. Hispanics have rapidly grown in the military with them representing
twelve percent of all active-duty members, which is three times the amount from
1980. Hispanics have also gone from making up nine percent of the active-duty
members to making up twelve percent in the last eleven years (Cilluffo 8).

            While they have made major strides
in diversifying the lower ranks of the army, the military still lacks diversity
at the top level of command. A congressional report about the Pentagon found
that “with some exceptions, racial and ethnic minorities and women are
underrepresented among senior noncommissioned officers,” and that “the
demographic composition of the officer corps is far from representative of the
American population and…officers are much less demographically diverse than the
enlisted troops they lead” (Nation 2). As of 2009, the Army was the most
diverse branch of the military with only ten percent of its generals being a
minority (Nation 4). This shows the military still has much work to do in the
area of racial diversity, especially at its top levels.

            Racial bias within the military has
definitely decreased since the 1940s. After integration during and after the
Korean War, racial bias has definitely gone down in the years afterward.
Unfortunately, although racial bias has gone down through the years, the
military still lacks diversity towards the top. While it has made numerous
strides to diversify itself, the military still has ways to go when it comes to
complete integration. 

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