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Black Soldiers in the AEF

Discussion in 'United States' started by Dan Morton, Jan 23, 2016.

  1. Dan Morton A Fixture

    Country:
    United-States
    Excerpts from Wikipedia:

    Two million US soldiers were in Europe at the time of the Armistice. Over 350,000 of these were African Americans.
    [IMG]

    African American Officers of 366th Infantry regiment, 92nd Infantry Division, en route home from World War I service.
    African Americans were drafted on the same basis as whites and made up 13% of the draftees. By the end of the war, over 350,000 African-Americans had served in AEF units on the Western Front. However, they were assigned to segregated units commanded by white officers. One fifth of the black soldiers sent to France saw combat, compared to two-thirds of the whites. They were 3% of AEF combat forces and under 2% of battlefield fatalities.[12] "The mass of the colored drafted men cannot be used for combatant troops", said a General Staff report in 1918, and it recommended that "these colored drafted men be organized in reserve labor battalions." They handled unskilled labor tasks as stevedores in the Atlantic ports and common laborers at the camps and in the Services of the Rear in France.[13] The French, whose front-line troops were resisting combat duties to the point of mutiny, requested and received control of several regiments of black combat troops.[14] Kennedy reports "Units of the black 92nd Division particularly suffered from poor preparation and the breakdown in command control. As the only black combat division, the 92nd entered the line with unique liabilities. It had been deliberately dispersed throughout several camps during its stateside training; some of its artillery units were summoned to France before they had completed their courses of instruction, and were never fully equipped until after the Armistice; nearly all its senior white officers scorned the men under their command and repeatedly asked to be transferred; the black enlisted men were frequently diverted from their already attenuated training opportunities in France in the summer of 1918 and put to work as stevedores and common laborers."[15]
    The 369th, 370th, 371st, and 372nd Infantry Regiments (nominally the 93rd Division, but never consolidated as such) served with distinction under French command with French colonial units in front-line combat. The French did not harbor the same levels of disdain based on skin color and for many Americans of an African-American descent it was a liberating and refreshing experience.[citation needed] These African-American soldiers wore American uniforms, some dating from the time of the Union Army, with French helmets and were armed with French Model 1907/15 8mm Lebel Berthier rifles manufactured by Remington Arms rather than the M1903 Springfield or M1917 Enfield rifles issued to most American soldiers.[16] One of the most distinguished units was the 369th Infantry Regiment, known as the Harlem Hellfighters. The 369th was on the front lines for six months, longer than any other African-American regiment in the war. One hundred seventy-one members of the 369th were awarded the Legion of Merit.[17] One member of the 369th, Sergeant Henry Johnson, was awarded the French Croix de guerre,[18] and posthumously the Medal of Honor.[19]

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