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Back during World War II, between the years of 1940 and 1945 there was approximately 909,000 African Americans that went and enlisted into the United States Armed Forces. Shortly following their enlistment these members of our Armed Forces were placed into separate squadrons that were segregated between blacks and whites, to not mess up squadrons willingness to work with one another. Despite the willingness of these brave people to serve and die for their country, these people were being told that they were not going to be afforded the same opportunities as their white counterparts. Being told that they weren’t going to be allowed the opportunity of promotion during their time of service or allowed to same luxuries such as extra leave time, and extra resources for down time. On rare exception did an African American soldier get promoted during their service, one such person being Brigadier General Benjamin Oliver Davis Sr. who was the first African American to make it to that rank.
On September 11, 1941 there was a new squadron that was being prepared and created in the United States Military Air Division, and this squadron was to be only comprised of African American soldiers. This squadron consisted of 13 original members of the first-class aviation cadets, one of which was Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr., the son of Brigadier General Benjamin Oliver Davis Sr. Once the squadron was formed they were given the title of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, later to be known as the “Tuskegee Airmen” for being trained on the Tuskegee Airfield. These cadets trained extremely hard, since they had to prove that they had the same degree of flying professionalism as their white counterparts and fly the same missions with the same accuracy or better. During training the cadets made leaps and bounds to demonstrate that they were ready to deploy, and fight in the war over seas which on April of 1942 these fine piolets were finally ready and deployed. First these brave pilots were stationed in North Africa where they ordered to fly missions using a P-40 Warhawk which were much slower and had worse maneuverability than the planes that the Germans were flying.
This act of giving an older model play while still expecting them to do as good as their white counterparts is just one way that these African Americans were discriminated against during the war. After completing their missions to fly in North Africa, the Tuskegee Airmen were the moved and stationed in Sicily, Italy to meet up with the 79th Fighter Group and in 1944 they had successfully after a couple dog fights shot down a dozen German fighters in the space of only two days, which was a major accomplishment. Then in February of 1944 the Fighter Groups of the 100th, 301st, and the 302nd would join the 99th Pursuit Squadron and would then combine to create the 332nd Fighter Group. After the combination of these squadrons, the pilots of 332nd were now given the upgraded P-51 Mustangs and were tasked with flying as escorts for 15th Air Force’s heavy bombers when they went on raids deep into enemy territory. Finally, on April 26, 1945 the 332nd had flown their last mission, and during only two years of combat the Tuskegee Airmen had flown more than 15,000 individual sorties and had one of the best records among all the different Fighter Groups.
The brave pilots of the Tuskegee Airmen, once being honorably discharged with high honors, these brave people had to return to a country where the persecution of a person based solely on the color of there skin, and the way the looked was the same as they had just been fighting to get rid of within Europe, and Nazi Germany. Feeling that nothing had changed was and would be devastating for anyone that had risked their life to get rid of it somewhere else. Therefore, during the time, the Tuskegee Airmen were just leaving for their deployment, and exactly one month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor the most widely read black newspaper in America the “Pittsburgh Courier” had released a very large paper on February 7, 1942. In this paper the Pittsburgh Courier was urging all black people to give their all for the commitment to the war effort. At the same time, they were calling for the government to do all they could to make the rhetoric of the Declaration of Independence and all the equal rights amendments of the Constitution, real and fair for every citizen, regardless of their race. Having a double front battling an enemy both inside and outside the country the Pittsburgh Courier decided to call it “the Double V Campaign”. On that subject Newby II, (2004) states that “The injustice of the calling of men to fight for freedom while subjecting them to humiliating discrimination within the fighting forces…”.
One such story of discrimination and prejudice is that of the story of Isaac Woodard Jr. The story starts with Mr. Woodard being honorably discharged as a Sergeant in the United States Army on February 12, 1946. Just only a couple hours after being discharged from active duty service at Fort Gordon in Georgia, Mr. Woodard was riding a Grey Hound Bus to return home still wearing his military uniform. Stopping of at Aiken South Carolina, the bus driver contacted the local police department accusing Mr. Woodard for causing a disturbance over the dispute of a seat on the bus. Mr. Woodard was then forcibly removed from the bus by these two police officers and taken to a nearby ally way by the station, where these police officers the proceeded to beat Mr. Woodard with their nightsticks. During this altercation, Mr. Woodard had grab one of the nightsticks to protect himself and the police officer then pointed his firearm at him and said he would kill him if he did something like that again. In transit to the local jail, one of the officers asked Mr. Woodard if he was a civilian, because he was still wearing his military uniform, upon hearing a reply that he was a civilian the police officer the proceeded to beat Mr. Woodard again. Once reaching the jail and being placed in a prison cell the officers the proceeded to once again beat Mr. Woodard with their nightsticks and says they had “gouged out” his eyes. Upon later being confirmed the Mr. Woodard had received significant damage to his eyes could no longer see. Then having stayed one night in jail was forced to appear in front of a judge and was ordered to pay a 50 dollar fine for disorderly conduct. There are many such stories from all over, before and after the war, some even happening during, seeming that nothing could be done about it the people protested and pleaded to have their words heard.
Many more stories like Mr. Woodard’s would have happened in the military if not for President who on July 26, 1948 issued Executive Order 9981, which bans the segregation of the Armed Forces. He states in the Executive Order that “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion and national origin.” Executive Order 9981 changed the United States Armed Forces forever, but unfortunately, today we still have some racial discrimination within our Armed Forces. The matter of segregation has almost completely been settled to this, and the persecution of people will end when we all can look past our differences and except people regardless of their race, color religion and national origin. As we use these examples of many trials and tribulations as a reference on what we should be doing to help people, my hope is that people of future generations will not have this problem and relies that we are all just people. That we are all Human.
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