A three page photo-essay found on the yellowing pages of a 1943 issue of Click Magazine introduced American readers to the flying Black Panthers of the U.S. Army Air Force; a fighter squadron composed entirely of African American pilots, trained "at the new $2000,000 airfield in Tuskegee, Ala.". The four paragraphs that tell their story are accompanied by eight portraits of the pilots and snap-shots of the assorted ground crew, mechanics and orderlies - all Black.
"They undoubtedly will reach a combat area this summer. One squadron, the 99th, has arrived overseas already. [These] pilots, whose insignia is a flame-spewing black panther, are rarin' to join them. They want to roar a personal answer to the Axis 'race superiority' lies."
This article partially explains the excitement of being a Tuskegee Airman and flying the Army's most advanced fighters and partially explains what it was like to be a black man in a segregated America:
"I'm flying for every one of the 12,000,000 Negroes in the United States. I want to prove that we can take a tough job and handle it just as well as a white man."
Here are a few fast facts about the African-Americans who served in the U.S. Army during the Second World War (it should be noted that the record keeping in 1945 was not nearly as accurate as they had hoped; the number of Black servicemen and women was way off compared to what is known today. Pentagon figures today number W.W. II African-American service at 1.2 million).
Those councilors who advised FDR on all matters African-American were popularly known as "the Black Brain Trust"...
Here are two Yank Magazine articles from the same issue that report on the all-black combat units that fought the Germans on two fronts in Europe: one organization fought with the Seventh Army in France and Germany, the other fought with the Fifth Army through Italy:
"Hitler would have a hemorrhage if he could see the white boys of the 411th Infantry bull-sessioning, going out on mixed patrols, sleeping in the same bombed buildings, sweating out the same chow lines with the Negro GIs."
Click here to read about the African-American efforts during the First World War.
Here is a segment from a longer article that tells the sad story about racial segregation in the U.S. Armed Forces. The small portion that is attached here tells of a secret group of fifty army researchers who were dispatched to the European front and
"interviewed thousands of [White] soldiers about their attitudes toward Negro platoons fighting experimentally within their divisions."
Their findings proved that to these front-line respondents, the experimental platoons were truly their equal. In 1948 this research was showed to President Truman, who signed Executive Order 9981, thus bringing to an end racial segregation within the ranks of the U.S. Military.
The U.S. Navy was the biggest offender
Colonel Chauncey Hooper was a World War I veteran; of African-American stock, he had served with the "Harlem Hellfighters" (the 369th Regiment, 93rd Division). When 1943 came along, he could be found as an army colonel in Hawaii, lording over a regiment of "colored" New Yorkers calling themselves "Hooper's Troopers". This article is by no means about Hooper as much as it concerns the high number of Harlem Jazz musicians who served under his command
Dorie Miller was an African-American hero during the Second World War, click here if you would like to read about him.