Executive Order 9981: Desegregation of the Armed Forces (1948)

"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."

Memorial Day: The African American Solider - Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

Understanding of Traumatic Stress

The Center aims to help U.S. Veterans and others through research, education, and training on trauma and PTSD.

Check out: National Center for PTSD (via U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

(Source: Frontlines)

Memorial Day: The African American Solider - Desert Storm

General Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff (1989 - 1993)

Memorial Day: The African American Solider - Vietnam War


Da Nang Harbor, Republic of Vietnam


Mineman Second Class Franklin Marshall, a Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team member, conducts a search for mines, especially those attached to ship’s hulls, circa April 1966.

The E.O.D. Team is responsible for harbor security. Several merchant ships are in the distance.

(Photographed by Ernie Filtz)

(Official U.S. Navy Photograph, U.S. National Archives.)


Memorial Day: The African American Solider - Korean War

Machine gun crew during Korean War. (1950)

(Source: Truman Library)

Memorial Day: The African American Solider - World War II (African American Nurses Abroad)

European Theater of Operations, Nurses in England, 1944.
Copyprint. NAACP Collection, (LOC) Courtesy of the NAACP

"Even though an extreme shortage of nurses in World War II forced the federal government to seriously consider drafting white nurses, defense officials remained reluctant to recruit black nurses throughout the war. Allowing black nurses to care for whites was considered a violation of social norms. Nevertheless, the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses, led by Mabel Staupers, and rights groups like the NAACP, loudly protested racial policies in the Army Nurse Corps and the military in general. These groups achieved some success. This photograph documents the arrival of the first African American nurses in England."

Memorial Day: The African American Solider - Civil War

In the fall of 1862 there were at least three Union regiments of African Americans raised in New Orleans, Louisiana: the First, Second, and Third Louisiana Native Guard. These units later became the First, Second, and Third Infantry, Corps d’Afrique, and then the Seventy-third, Seventy-fourth, and Seventy-fifth United States Colored Infantry (USCI). The First South Carolina Infantry (African Descent) was not officially organized until January 1863; however, three companies of the regiment were on coastal expeditions as early as November 1862. They would become the Thirty-third USCI. Similarly, the First Kansas Colored Infantry (later the Seventy-ninth [new] USCI) was not mustered into service until January 1863, even though the regiment had already participated in the action at Island Mound, Missouri, on October 27, 1862. These early unofficial regiments received little federal support, but they showed the strength of African Americans’ desire to fight for freedom.

29th Regiment from Connecticut at Beaufort, S.C., 1864. Attributed to Sam A. Cooley.
Copyprint (LOC)

Memorial Day: The African American Solider - World War I (The 369th - “Harlem Hellfighters”)


Among the first regiments to arrive in France, and among the most highly decorated when it returned, was the 369th Infantry (formerly the 15th Regiment New York Guard), more gallantly known as the “Harlem Hellfighters.” The 369th was an all-black regiment under the command of mostly white officers including their commander, Colonel William Hayward.

Participation in the war effort was problematic for African Americans. While America was on a crusade to make the world safe for democracy abroad, it was neglecting the fight for equality at home. Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) established that the 14th Amendment allowed for separate but equal treatment under the law. In 1913 President Wilson, in a bow to Southern pressure, even ordered the segregation of federal office workers. The U.S. Army at this time drafted both black and white men, but they served in segregated units. After the black community organized protests, the Army finally agreed to train African American officers but it never put them in command of white troops.

Memorial Day: The African American Solider - Buffalo Soldiers

"Nearly sixteen months after the end of the Civil War, Section 3 of an Act of Congress entitled "An Act to increase and fix the Military Peace Establishment of the United States" authorized the formation of two regiments of cavalry composed of "colored" men. The act was approved on 28 July 1866. On 21 September 1866, the 9th Cavalry Regiment was activated at Greenville, Louisiana, and the 10th Cavalry Regiment was activated at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Under the competent leadership of Colonels Edward Hatch and Benjamin Grierson, first Regimental Commanders of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments, respectively, both regiments were trained and equipped and began a long and proud history."