Thursday, November 12, 2009

Black Soldiers

This picture was taken in 1917 and shows a group of Black Soldiers training for World War I. I am not sure to what extent Black Soldiers were used in World War I.


  1. The US was deeply segregated during these years. There were four Black regiments when war broke out: 9th & 10th Cavalry and 24th & 25th Infantry. The Army had a quota for Black troops and at the end of one week once war broke out stopped accepting Black recruits as they had so many. Many saw this as a chance to "prove" themselves to White society and a step towards equality.

    When the draft was instituted, many boards (all White) wanted to see more Black serve than Whites.

    Blacks could not serve in the Marines and were limited to "custodial" duties in the Navy & Coast Guard. In the Army Blacks served as cavalry, infantry, signal, medical, engineer, and artillery units, as well as serving as chaplains, surveyors, truck drivers, chemists, and intelligence officers. Very few were in combat units.

  2. Well, I guess it was better if they weren't in combat - they had a better chance of surviving.

    I'm sure they served with honor, no matter what their duties were.

    I like the boots on their uniforms.

  3. Or are those spats? Anyway, they certainly looked sharp.

  4. Smart Girl, they are called Leggings.

  5. President Truman was the person who ordered integration of the military (accompanied by all of the same rumblings we hear today about allowing gays to serve), but things were still pretty grim on the home front.

    I was working in Cardiology at Hopkins Hospital the day Marion Anderson died, and left my desk to sit in the waiting room with an elderly black patient who seemed to be particularly distressed by the news. He'd been one of "my" patients for abou a year, so I knew his pretty well. He told me he had seen Miss Anderson when he was on tour in France, and had "fallen in love with her on the spot". He mentioned all of the museums, etc., that he had visited in Europe "because we weren't allowed to go into those places over here, you know."

    I put my hand on his arm. "Mr. Smothers, did you ever wonder why you came home?" "Many times, child. Many times." And then he sighed and put his hand on mine. "But then, I wouldn't have met you."

    I had to go to the exam room to pull myself back together.

  6. I like this photo. The soldiers are all in step, looking good. It took me a few minutes to see that there are eight soldiers in the photo and not seven.

  7. A couple of them look a bit tired. It may have been towards the end of a long and hot march.
    Anon when I was in the military they were known as gaiters

  8. All carrying the 1903 Springfield Rifle, which eventually introduced the .30-06 rifle cartridge (.30 caliber, 1906), which became the standard rifle cartridge for the U.S. armed services until the late 50's, and is today one of the most common hunting rounds.

    The Springfield remained standard issue for Army and Marines until the late 30's, when the Garand M1 Rifle was adopted, but plenty of Springfields stayed in service through WWII.

    Leggings lasted in the Army until, I think, sometime before or after the Korean war.

  9. For some insight into the experience of African Americans in WW1, let me introduce you to Lt. James Reese Europe, famous leader of the 369th Infantry "Hell Fighters" Band.

    I first heard of him in Ken Burns' documentary "Jazz".

    He was the leader the most popular AA band in the 'teens, and toured with Vernon and Irene Castle 1914 to 1915. He volunteered for WW1 and was commissioned a Lt. He and his AA unit (mostly musicians) were in the trenches, then the brass felt they would be more useful as morale builders. 369th U.S. Infantry "Hell Fighters" Band was incredibly popular with military and civilian audiences alike.

  10. Anon:

    Thanks. They really look good.

    Lady Anne:

    Great story.

  11. I really enjoyed reading about Lt. Europe! There will another CD added to the Rice Paddy Musical Library in the near future.

    Hubby and I were both astounded that a "Negro" was an officer in WWI.

    Thanks for the responce to my story about Mr. Smothers. He was one of my favorite patients, and I guess I was one of his favorite people, too. Dear, sweet man.