"Messing Up Another Country's Customs:" The Exportation of American Racism During World War II
Allison J. Gough
In 1944 American world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis was in Britain on a morale boosting tour. At Salisbury in Wiltshire he decided to take in a movie. Upon entering the theater, however, he was informed by the manager that he would have to sit in a special section in the cinema which was reserved for black troops. As he recalled:
Shit! This wasn't America, this was England…the theater manager knew who I was and apologized all over the place… Said he had instructions from the Army. So I called my friend Lieutenant General John Lee and told them they had no business messing up another country's customs with American Jim Crow.1
In the eyes of many citizens of the countries that hosted American troops during WWII, and especially in the minds of African-American troops who viewed the war as an opportunity to escape the tentacles of segregation and Jim Crowism, messing up another country's customs is precisely what the U.S. military did. For the military acted as a conduit for the exportation of American racial attitudes during World War II. In the name of military efficiency and expediency, and with claims that the Army should not be an organ of social change, Jim Crow practices common in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and much of the deep South, were transplanted to theaters of war as disparate as the Pacific and Europe. As Walter White, Secretary of the NAACP, concluded after his 1944 tour of Great Britain, the US military was successful in "transplanting…racial emotions and patterns from Mississippi to the Midlands."2 The transplantation of these emotions and patterns was not confined to Great Britain, but as American mobilization accelerated they were transplanted to North Africa, the Pacific, the CBI and, as the liberation of Europe proceeded, to mainland Europe.
Yet, in 1943, the US Assistant Secretary of War, John McCloy, in an apologia for
War Department racial policies claimed that "the fact is that the Army has largely eliminated discrimination against the negroes within its ranks and has gone further in this direction than the country itself."3 In reality, however, the interwar army had upheld the general racial status quo in the U.S. and continued to do so during the war years. A 1925 war college study, ignoring evidence to the contrary from WWI, argued that African-Americans had neither the ability nor the character to fight to the equal capacity of their white peers. Moreover, a further 1937 study concluded, black soldiers lacked leadership skills and were not to be given such positions, especially in combat, since allegedly "Negro officers serving in the American Expeditionary Force during the World War were failures as combat officers." The World War II military, therefore, was racially segregated, with African-Americans largely although not wholly confined to service positions where they performed the most menial tasks. In military training camps in the United States, the Army encouraged, if not directly ordered, troops to maintain these patterns off base as well by demanding the "respect" of local customs and traditions. Thereby the army implicitly supported the banning of black troops from certain local recreation, transportation, hotel and dining facilities in the South and, under local scrutiny, ensured that similar segregation was maintained in mess halls, barracks, and USO's on base.
As the U.S. military mobilized for overseas service in 1942, Jim Crowism and segregation were part of the baggage that was packed along with sidearms, mess kits, and Betty Grable pinups. From North Africa to the Pacific the U.S. military maintained, or at least thought it expedient to maintain, customary racial patterns on bases. At Ditchingham Hall, Norfolk, England, for example, the ancestral home of Lord Wharncliffe, requisitioned by the RAF and handed over to the U.S. Military, Company A, 279th Quartermaster Service Battalion—an all-black unit—was housed in pup tents on the estate grounds while members of an all-white Engineering Company were stationed in the palatial manor house.4 Near Bombay, India, the 3509th Quartermaster Truck Company ate in segregated messes and was housed in segregated billets.5 In Tunisia, in 1943, there were no black combat troops, only truck companies and guard units for forward airbases, all of whose billets were segregated.6 On the island of Oahu, Hawaii, Bellows Airforce Base at Waimanalo used Kalaniana'ole Highway to segregate the sleeping quarters of the black 1320th General Engineers Service Regiment from white service regiments stationed at the same base. Such patterns typified organization on American military bases worldwide.
Throughout the war, the U.S. Army maintained that it was the lessons of history and the demand for military efficiency, not an innate belief in racial superiority, that necessitated the maintenance of a segregated military. Accepted military policy read that:
While segregation is essential to morale and harmony of both white and colored troops, segregation as practiced in the army is that of physical separation of military units and not that of inferior or superior groups.7
The military naturally could and did use this rationale to defend the system of segregation on bases in foreign theaters as they were legally sovereign U.S. territory. More importantly, however, this system and the attitudes that underlay segregation were superimposed on the civilian, off-camp world. Ironically then, while the World War has been viewed by historians as an opportunity for the projection of American democracy abroad, it also provided opportunities for the exportation of distinctly undemocratic ideas about the nature of race and the character of peoples of African descent.
For the purposes of this paper and the time constraints of this session, I will focus my comments on two case studies. The case studies examine activities in largely non-combatant theaters; areas of combat preparation and combat support. As Walter White, secretary of the NAACP noted, "as men approach actual combat and the dangers of death…and when German shells and bombs are raining about them, they do not worry as much about the race or creed of the man next to them."8 Moreover, given that black troops were overwhelmingly confined to non-combatant operations and to supply functions in World War II, it is in these areas that typical patterns of racial discrimination manifested themselves.
Beginning in 1942, African-Americans in numbers out of all proportion to the host black population passed through or were stationed in Hawaii and the British Isles. Between 1942 and 1945 some 130,000 African-Americans were stationed in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Another 30,000 were ordered to the Hawaiian Islands. These numbers represented an enormous demographic shift in both regions. The black population of Britain on the eve of World War II was probably somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000. The best estimate for the 1942 African-descended population of the Hawaiian Islands is around 200-300. In Great Britain the black population was concentrated largely around the ports of Cardiff, Swansea, Hull, Liverpool and London. Such concentration was not, however, the result of legal segregation. In Hawaii black residents were more dispersed, but there were small concentrations also in ports such as Honolulu.
The influx of such large populations into Britain and Hawaii was worrisome on many levels to all governments concerned, but for varying reasons. In pre-war planning studies, G-2, the US military intelligence branch, repeatedly advised that African-Americans not be stationed in Hawaii because they would worsen an already fraught local racial situation. Again in early 1942, Military Governor General Delos Emmons stated that the stationing of black troops in Hawaii was "most undesirable." Although Hawaii had the reputation as an ethnic paradise—even recent historical studies of the nature of Hawaii have perpetuated this image—such an image was as distorted as the modern postcards that picture modern Waikiki Beach as a wide, deserted swath of golden sand! Sharp tensions in fact existed between and even within the multiplicity of ethnic groups that behued the island landscape.9
Britain, on the other hand, had a relatively homogeneous population. But although at various levels of the British and American governments fears of racial intermixing and miscegenation led some to argue against the deployment of black troops to Britain, military necessity and the age old Anglo-American alliance prevailed over such concerns. Interestingly, what seems to have troubled certain elements of the British government most was that traditional U.S. racial patterns might be altered in a legally "colour blind" Britain and that this might upset American officials and imperil the Anglo-American alliance. Despite misgivings that treating African-Americans as equals might upset domestic arrangements in the U.S., in 1942 when black troops first arrived in Britain, the British government remained publicly aloof to the racial issue, officially vowing not to interfere with whatever racial arrangements the U.S. Army wished to make, but vowing to do nothing to aid or abet them.
In the early years of American engagement in the war, however, African-American troops viewed both the U.K. and Hawaii as veritable racial paradises. "There is not any colored people in Ireland, but the Irish people treat us as if we were one of them," wrote one Private of the 28th Quartermaster Regiment.10 The Irish are "fine people who have never heard of discrimination and stuff like that," wrote a corporal.11 "This is a great country here and the people are very friendly. I am living the happiest days of my life" rang the praises of another Corporal.12 This love affair with the United Kingdom was well documented in both the media and by American and British military intelligence. One ETO survey in fact reported an 80 percent approval rating of the British by African-American troops in late 1942.13
Similarly in Hawaii in 1942 African-American troops wrote of the open racial arrangements that inspired them. "I thank God often for letting me experience the occasion to spend a part of my life in a part of the world where one can be respected and live as a free man should," wrote a naval shipyard worker at Pearl Harbor. Even white civilian personnel stationed in Hawaii for the duration remarked on the seemingly distinctive nature of racial relations in comparison to the mainland. "Down here [in Hawaii]" wrote one, "they have let down the standards, there does not seem to be any race hatred, there is not even any race distinction…I don't want to expose our children too long to these conditions."14
The British government's initial refusal to interfere with American racial arrangements, as well as the territorial status of Hawaii which gave little power to local governance, soon scarred these seemingly paradisiacal landscapes and allowed the U.S. military to implant its racial arrangements and attitudes "abroad." Officially, the U.S. military condemned racial segregation off base as not in accordance with theater policy.15 On the other hand, the military also found it necessary to remind local populations to, ironically, be tolerant of American racial proclivities. For example, in a circular issued by the War Department to the British government and thence to British troops, the Secretary of War advised that:
It is necessary for British men and women to recognize the problem [of racial friction] and to take account of the attitude of white American citizens. British soldiers and auxiliaries should try to understand the American attitude to the relationships of white and coloured people…and that difficult problems do arise when people of different races live together.16
Moreover, the army, while decrying segregation, also publicly acknowledged that it was wrong to force anyone, black or white, to "violate any of his personal views as to social relationships by being compelled to associate with anyone undesirable to him."17 It is not surprising, therefore, that many African-American troops expressed consternation regarding their status as enlisted men deployed abroad. As one black Pfc. commented in a letter home to his family, there did not seem to be a hard and fast policy regarding African-Americans and orders regarding "off-limits" areas changed regularly and without notice. "GI Joe never knows about these [racial] directives …unless some body comes along with a little rank who does," complained one soldier about US military policy in England.18
In a move that seems designed to avoid accountability at a senior level, the buck was passed instead to unit commanders, U.S. civilians, and to the civilian hosts, who were instructed to make the most suitable arrangements for their men based upon the local situation and to use their "own best judgment."19 What this meant in reality was that public facilities--bars or pubs, Red Cross clubs, Co-Ops, dance halls, swimming baths and even whole towns were effectively segregated. Utilizing claims that recreation resources in particular were scarce on the small islands of Britain and Hawaii, local commanders often adopted a rotating pass system thus creating "black Tuesdays" or "white Wednesdays" at the Co-Op or the Rose and Crown pub. Similarly, to avoid "overcrowding," certain towns were effectively placed off-limits to troops of either race or the pass system was so arranged to ensure that rotations to small towns were either predominately white or predominately black.20 Although not officially permitted to ban troops from public entertainment, indirect pressure was brought to bear on civilian organizations to avoid functions where troops might mix. Thus the Deputy Theater Provost Marshal of the ETO reported on 12 April 1944 that he had visited the Red Cross in Cambridge and had "advised Miss Shankland that it would be best not to have dances unless mixing could be avoided."21 And while the U.S. military did not order—and indeed could not order—public recreation to be segregated on racial grounds, it did suggest that social events be scheduled for specific "organizations."22 In other words, dances would be held for specific units which, were of course, racially segregated.23 Moreover, as in the U.S., African-American troops found that socials, dances, swimming pools, beaches, and even Red Cross accommodations in Britain and Hawaii were often completely closed to them or that alternatives, while separate, were definitely not equal.24 A poignant letter to the London Times from a business owner in Oxford—a town reserved for white troops—highlights the reality of living in Jim Crow Britain:
Sir, I am the manager of a snack bar in Oxford and have had a rather unfortunate state of affairs which is beginning to exist in this country, brought very forcibly to my notice. The other night a coloured United States soldier came into our establishment and very diffidently presented me with an open letter from his commanding officer explaining that 'Pvt_____is a soldier in the U.S. Army, and it is necessary that he sometimes has a meal, which he has on occasions, found difficult to obtain. I would be grateful if you would look after him.25
While separate but not quite equal was an enshrined convention of the South, one of the more potentially explosive conventions was of course the prohibition of "fraternization" of black men with white women. The demographics of Britain in particular provided opportunities for the breaking of this most deeply imbedded and most violently protected taboo. And given the proclivities of men separated from hearth and home, this was the taboo that had first come under assault. Those same men who had written of the openness of Ireland and England, for example, wrote that what made them particularly happy were the women. "All the girls are crazy about us" wrote an enthusiastic Pfc. "Get a load of this. I am loaded down with these Irish girls," boasted another Corporal. Even white soldiers commented on the abilities of black troops to secure the attentions and affections of the local female population: "They shipped in some of them black boys and the people act as if they never saw any of them before. The gals go for them in a big way here, they think they're cute," wrote one jealous white Sergeant. "The negroes are over here. I do not know how it settles with the Irish and English people as a whole with them around but I do understand that many of the girls are satisfied with them," was the insightful comment of another white GI.26
Military and civilian records—and even my own Grandmother—testify to the initial popularity of black troops with Britons. Reports abound of the ease with which black troops engaged local women to attend their dances, and in far greater numbers than the women attended similar events organized by and for white GI's. Back at Ditchingham Hall, Norfolk, one of the incidents that alarmed the wife of a local Brigadier, a Mrs. Carr, and led to an investigation at the Hall, were the large numbers of women hanging around the camp and, in the words of Mrs. Carr, being "hauled" in to Ditchingham, some from as far away as Wellingborough, approximately 100 miles distant, where the 279th Quartermaster Service Battalion had previously been headquartered.27
Such activities were, of course, bound to elicit, at the very least, feelings of jealousy. "Already we have found a little trouble for ourselves," wrote one white Corporal of the 19th Engineers:
It seems that several outfits of colored troops preceded us over here and have succeeded pretty well in salting away the local feminine pulchritude, what little of it there is. They have all the natives convinced that they are 'full blooded American Indians' and the girls really go for them in preference to the white boys.28
One thing I noticed here and which I don't like is the fact that the English don't draw any color line. I've seen nice looking English girls out with American Negro soldiers as black as the ace of spades….I have not only seen the Negro boys dancing with the white girls, but we have actually seen them standing in doorways kissing the girls goodnight.29
While these competitive instincts were natural and widespread in the ETO—the biggest complaint of British troops and civilians about "yanks," white or black, after all was that they were "overpaid, overfed, oversexed and over here"!—for black troops, such behavior had potentially violent and even deadly consequences. As the same corporal of the 19th Engineers added ominously to the end of his letter, the fact that local girls favored black troops over white "irks the boys no end, especially those of the outfit that come from the south. No doubt there will be some bloodshed in the near future." Similar sentiments prevailed in Hawaii:
Boy the niggers are sure in their glory over here…they almost expect white people to step off the streets and let them walk by…They are going to overstep their bounds a little too far one of these days and these boys from the South are going to have a little necktie party.30
And if punishment for violating social conventions could not be exacted abroad, then avenging the purity of white women would have to wait until the return home: "Wait till Georgia gets those educated Negroes back there again," was a common sentiment voiced by a Private from the 53rd Quartermaster Regiment.31
By late 1942, violations of these conventions and attempts to maintain white southern racial standards had fostered many of what the U.S. Military euphemistically termed "incidents" in Britain and Hawaii. In Britain the first major altercation occurred in Antrim in October 1942 when one black GI was killed by white troops because of interracial dating. In Leicester, England, in 1943, white paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne division attacked black GI's escorting white women to the local pubs and dances, claiming proprietary rights over the young ladies.32
Altercations provided justification for the U.S. military's attempts to segregate off base facilities, as many confrontations occurred at bars and dances where black and local women would meet. By the end of 1943, paradise was sullied by the importation of unwelcomely familiar patterns of segregation and discrimination. In addition, however, troops in both Hawaii and Britain testified to a cooling of the relationships between themselves and the local populations as, in the words of one journalist, an "icy wall…barred them from community life."33
Increased segregation and the perceptible change in attitude on the part of their host cultures was in part caused by sheer weight of numbers as white troops poured into the islands, often peddling their racial prejudices and transferring them to their overseas hosts. As one black soldier complained in Britain, "Most of the white officers up to generals have know [sic] respect for a colored soldier, except trying to poison the minds of English against us. I call it sabotourering [sic] their own people." 34 Black troops and their supporters alleged a campaign by white troops to poison the minds of local people to black troops. In Hawaii, some white GI's told locals that African-Americans were "savages" and one step away from monkeys. In Britain, white troops were accused of entering British homes and spreading rumors of disease and immorality amongst African-American GI's.35 American troops described their comrades in arms as "unhygienic" and "smelly," of being of a "lower type and lower intelligence," and of being cowards and "lazy idlers."36 While the U.S. military officially condemned such allegations, they accommodated the prejudices of some of their white personnel by bowing to pressure to expand segregation to the civil realm. Meanwhile, the military was circulating to its commanders a memorandum of advice regarding the leadership and management of black troops which merely reinforced the prejudices of enlisted men and justified separation:
Colored soldiers are akin to well-meaning but irresponsible children…Generally they cannot be trusted to tell the truth…or to act on their own initiative except in certain individual cases…That among the peculiar characteristics of the colored race--…[under the] influences such as excitement, fear, religion, dope, liquor, they can change form with amazing rapidity from a timid or bashful individual to brazen boldness or madness or become hysterical…The colored man does not look for work…The colored individual likes to 'doll up', strut, brag and show off. He likes to be distinctive and stand out from the others.37
With incredible aplomb, many African-American troops weathered these insults and attacks and, through their grace and humor, tried to turn such slander to their advantage. Popular stories in both Hawaii and Britain maintained that African-Americans, because of their genetic closeness to apes, had tails. This led groups of local women at a dance in Honolulu to brazenly lift the coat tails of black soldiers in an attempt to ascertain the validity of this charge and to throw cushions under the behinds of troops to cushion them. Troops of the 369th Coast Artillery—the famous Harlem Hellfighters—responded to this by "dropping drawers all over Hawaii." Britons, on the other hand, had been told that African-American troops could not talk but merely bark. This led to amusing exchanges on the highstreets of several Cotswold towns with black troops barking at local citizens, and locals barking back, as part of the joke.
The transposition of Southern racial attitudes was, of course, no laughing matter and significantly demoralized African-American units, contributing to relatively high AWOL rates. "I would like to get away from this damn place. It gets worse everyday," wrote one soldier stationed in Northern Ireland. And on the other side of the globe, a soldier stationed in Honolulu wrote, "The old settlers here tell me this place was once a paradise for Negroes. Since the war, a Negro finds things very unpleasant here."38 While the host populations in Hawaii and Great Britain may not always have internalized these slanderous attacks, the exigencies of war led them to at least accommodate American attitudes.
A town councilor told me 'Personally I have no feeling of race prejudice. I've been led to believe, however, that our relations with American white troops will be better if we conform to what I understand to be American practices of discrimination.39
The liberty that African-American troops had first felt upon deployment abroad, now evaporated, dissolved by the wave of racism that swamped the British and Hawaiian isles. "Nowhere to go except to a show," complained a Pvt. in Northern Ireland. "I am not going to town at night. It is too dangerous. Our white soldiers make our life miserable and I do not want to come into a fight. In case that something should happen the colored fellow so and so would not get any justice."40
Reading reports of the Adjutant General's office of the numerous racial incidents in Hawaii and Britain, it is hard to disagree with that Private's sad conclusions about the likelihood of justice for African-American soldiers. Although troops themselves and civilian civil rights organizations lobbied the War Department to investigate violations of army policy regarding discrimination and to review courts martial cases of African-American troops, the records convey the impression that these investigations were cursory and little more than window dressing. It was a rare occasion indeed when judgments against African-American troops were reversed or that investigators found evidence of discrimination on racial grounds. Indeed, official reports time and again conclude that African-Americans, especially officers, were overly "racially sensitive"!41
The lack of justice for African-Americans was particularly evident in the large number of rape indictments and convictions of black troops in both foreign and domestic theaters. One attitude imported into Hawaii and Britain was the myth of the black rapist and the sexual aggressiveness of black soldiers: that black men were biologically encoded to desire white women and to fulfill those urges through violence.42 Sex crimes committed by American military personnel abroad were tried under American military jurisdiction. During wartime there was only one penalty for rape: death. African-American troops and civil rights organizations claimed that a double standard operated in indictment and judgment in rape cases. The vigor with which rape cases against African-Americans in foreign theaters were pursued cannot merely be explained by the official desire to maintain the friendly relations of important allies but rather should be viewed as an extension of the Southern desire to maintain social power and those patriarchal and proprietary privileges over women that American society—and, it was believed, God—had bestowed upon white men.43
One of the more infamous wartime rape trials occurred in England when Leroy Henry, a T/5 of the 3914th Quartermaster Gas Supply Company, was found guilty of raping a 33 year old Englishwoman at Combe Down near Bath and sentenced to death by hanging. The conviction, made by a jury of one black and seven white officers, provoked outrage, not merely for the imposition of the death penalty, but for the dubious evidence on which the conviction was secured. Very briefly, according to the complainant, Henry had appeared in middle of the night knocking on her cottage window and asking for directions back to Bristol. After repeated pleadings, the woman, who was allegedly in bed with her conscious husband at the time, for decency's sake, "put on her knickers" and housecoat and escorted the soldier to the Bristol road. This all occurred at around 11pm at night and apparently with the husband's permission. On their way to the Bristol road, Henry allegedly threw the complainant over a five foot wall into a field where he raped her. Although the medical examiner found evidence of intercourse, he found no evidence of struggle, force or defensive wounds. Moreover, several witnesses claimed that Henry and the complainant had a prior, long-standing "relationship" and that the complainant had in fact offered her favors to Henry—and to many others—for money and food.44 On the evening in question, there had apparently been an altercation regarding the rate of remuneration for her services, Henry claiming that the prearrangement had been for one British pound, and she for two. Rape charges, it seemed, were pressed by the complainant in retaliation for refusing to honor the agreed-upon price.45
It is also worth noting that one did not necessarily have to be accused of rape to be sentenced for relations with white women. In New Caledonia, two black soldiers were sentenced to life imprisonment for having sex with a white prostitute. In New England, an un-named white lieutenant commanding a black anti-aircraft company posted a notice declaring that any type of association between black troops under his command and white women would be regarded as rape.46
Although initially British public opinion seemed to dismiss ideas that black troops were any more sexually aggressive than whites (and charges against black troops were often attacked by the general public), as the war proceeded American stereotypes seem to have taken hold and were one factor in the declining relations between the public and black troops. One reason for this was publicity given to such cases in the U.S. press, and by white American troops who used these occasions as proof of their previous declarations about the essential "animalistic" nature of African-Americans. Adding fuel to this fire was the U.S. military itself who, partly as a response to requests, publicly and vocally investigated cases of black rape and collected statistics regarding the alleged dichotomy between black and white rates of rape.
Similar patterns are evident in Hawaii where, at first, dances and dating between black troops and local women—white, Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino—proceeded largely without comment and indeed were pursued with enthusiasm by local women. By late 1943 and 1944, however, the temperature in Hawaii had definitely changed. A particularly brutal case of rape on the island of Maui led to a distinct cooling off in relations between the local population and African-American troops. But even before this, the importation of white racism had done its damage. "Gee, I was very frightened…Funny isn't it how I am about them. One would be that way after hearing lots of nasty things about them," remarked a Japanese woman from Honolulu. "I am very scared of these Negro soldiers here in Honolulu," wrote one Chinese woman, "They make my skin shrivel and myself afraid to go near them." "...Quite a lot of raping cases" here, wrote another woman, "…The colored soldiers are causing quite a lot of trouble here."47
Evidence from both Hawaii and the British Isles also suggests that the decline in relations between the host population and African-American troops was on the one hand due to the detrimental impact that American patterns of discrimination had on minority populations of the "occupied" islands. On the other hand, however, evidence suggests that an extension of these patterns of discrimination benefited other groups within the host society. For example, in Britain it was reported that in London "black Britons are incensed" as they were cursed at, and made to make way on the side-walk by white American soldiers. These injuries tended to manifest themselves as opposition to all "Yanks," regardless of color. At the same time, a black soldier in northern Ireland made the following, instructive observation:
We Negro soldiers have tried hard to show what our people can do ever since we have been here, but it is so hard. We don't mind doing our share, but the Paddies do everything to make us look like dogs to the English people. Not only the privates, but the officers. It seems like the big shots who run this army don't care and all the little paddies know it. I know an awful lot of our boys are getting awful mad and mean about this, and there is going to be lots of trouble. …You wouldn't believe the lies they have told everybody about us. They go in gangs and beat you up and then if our boys have to cut some of them to keep from getting hurt they say Negro soldiers are bad.48
This GI's comments suggest typical patterns of displacement that occur when a new social or ethnic group enters a landscape ridden by ethnic discrimination: upward social mobility of an oppressed group is obtained through the transferal of discrimination onto the newly arrived group.49
These two case studies are suggestive of the opportunities that global war provided for the expansion of national racial norms. The degree to which these racial norms were internalized by host populations around the world is, however, difficult to ascertain, complex, and beyond the scope of this paper. However, given the number of "brown babies" that were born around the world as a result of inter-racial relations on the one hand, and the nearly unanimously hostile response by the governments of host countries to the status and rights of these babies on the other, one might conclude that any answer to this question has to analyze both individual and collective response and to take into consideration the abyss between public policy and private sentiment. It is clear, however, that the U.S. military was willing to accommodate the prejudices of both the U.S. public and its personnel when it came to the organization of its military and that host governments were willing to accommodate the prejudices of the U.S. military in order to win the war.
An important postscript to this—and again, beyond the scope of this paper, but part of my wider study—is that the expansion of these systems and attitudes into foreign realms became a catalyst for the militancy of African-Americans. Many of what were described as racial "incidents" by the U.S. military should, I argue, be reinterpreted as acts of protest against an unjust racial system. From refusing to move off the pavement in downtown Honolulu for a white GI to violating sexual norms by engaging in relationships with women from Wellingborough, African-American troops were forming the intellectual and organizational background for the modern civil rights movement. As one black soldier stationed in Northern Ireland in August 1942 put it, "I began to wonder whether I had been sent overseas to fight against our white soldiers or against the Nazis."50 The attempt to internationalize social restrictions based upon race thus ultimately inspired a movement to expand civil rights.
Biographical Note: Allison Gough is Assistant Professor of History at Hawaii Pacific University.
1 Quoted in Graham Smith, When Jim Crow Met John Bull, (London: I.B. Taurus, 1987), pg. 109.
2 Ibid, 167.
3 John McCloy to Elliston, August 5th 1943, National Archives and Records Administration (hereafter NARA), RG107 (Office of the Secretary of War) Asst Sec of War, Formerly Security Classified Correspondence of John J McCloy, 1941-45, Box No 15 254-291.2, file 291.2: Race, Alphabetical.
4Investigation of Depot Q and Ditchingham carried out by Lt Col JF Hurley, IGD, EBS, IG on 13 Nov 1943, NARA, RG 498, Box 32, Records of HQ ETO US Army WWII Adjutant General's Section Administration Branch, General Correspondence 1944-1945 291.2—310, File Number 291.2 (formerly Secret).
5 "Participation of Negro Troops in the Post-War Military Establishment," 28 Aug 1945, NARA, RG 493, Box 57, Records of US Army Forces in the CBI Theaters of Operations AG General Correspondence, Files 211-300.
6 War Dept outgoing Message to AGWAR from Ike, 23 May 1943, NARA, RG 492, Records of the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, United States Army, Records of the Special Staff, Adjutant General, Hq Records Formerly Classified General Correspondence (Decimal) 253 thru 292.84, Box No 1379, File 291.2—Race.
7 Memorandum for General Eisenhower: The Colored Troop Problem, from John McCloy to Eisenhower, April 2nd 1942, NARA, RG 107, (Office of the Secretary of War) Asst Sec of War Formerly Security Classified Correspondence of John J McCloy, 1941-45
Box 36, File 291.2-"Race."
8 Walter White, "Observations in the North African and Middle Eastern Theatres of Operation," Memo to the War Department, NARA, RG 107, Box 38, File ASW 291.2-"Negro Troops."
9 The pre-war census lists the Japanese as the largest racial group on the islands at approximately 30% of the population. Caucasians account for approximately 25% of the population and "others" compose the remainder of the population: Chinese, Portuguese, Puerto Ricans, Koreans, Filipinos, Samoans, and Native Hawaiians. Beth Bailey and David Farber in their book, The First Strange Place, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992) although questioning the claims of the haole (white) elite that Hawaii was an ethnic paradise, challenge this assertion only on the grounds that whites discriminated against the non-white population. Then, as now, ethnic relations in Hawaii were much more complicated—not simply "black and white" so to speak. It would therefore be a huge generalization to talk about "Hawaiian's" reactions to black African descended peoples. Each ethnic group possessed their own cultural views and taboos regarding skin color and ethnic derivation. Bailey and Farber's book, while an invaluable addition to a much limited literature on the history of Hawaii, is an oversimplification of the great complexities of living in the islands.
10 "Morale Report, September 1-15 1942," Owen L Crecilius, Base Censor Office #1 to Commanding General, ETO, USA, 16 September 1942, NARA, RG 498, Records of HQ ETO US Army WWII Adjutant General's Section Administration Branch, General Correspondence 1944-1945, 291.2-310, Box 32, File 291.2.
13 Smith, pg. 134. 11% expressed no opinion.
14 See Bailey and Farber, First Strange Place, Chapter 4.
15 "Racial Problems" Jacob L. Devers, Lt Gen, US Army to CG, SOS, ETO USA, 25 October 1943, NARA, RG 498, Box 32, File 291.2. "The only real solution to the racial problem would be an absolute segregation of the races, which is impossible," "The Racial Problem in Britain," by Edwin R. Carter, SOS Chaplain, US Army, a report to the Adjutant General, ETO USA, n.d. RG 498, ibid.
16 "United States Negro Troops in the United Kingdom," NARA, RG 498, File 291.2, Records of HQ ETO US Army WWII Adjutant General's Section Administration Branch, General Correspondence 1944-1945 291.2—310.
17 "Survey Concerning Friction Between Colored and White Troops," Brigadier General B.O. Davis to CG ETO thru CG SOS, 25 October 1942, NARA, RG 498, File 291.2.
18 ? Mann to Truman Gibson, 19 October 1944, NARA, RG 107 Box 39, File ASW 291.2—"Negro Troops—Combat."
19The policy of delegating authority could and was used to senior command's benefit. If attacked for promoting segregation or discrimination, the War Department or Commanding Officers of each theater could and often declared that such policies were obviously in contradiction to theater policy and were "failures of local command," a favorite escape clause. Under pressure from troops who contacted civilian civil rights organizations such as the NAACP and Urban League, orders of unit commanders regarding segregated recreational facilities were sometimes overturned as being counter to the official policy of the theater. "Policy on Negroes," Lt General Eisenhower to CG, USANIF, 16 July 1942, NARA, RG 498, File 291.2.
20 For example, "in order to prevent overcrowding at dances and other entertainment facilities the commanders adjacent to Newton Abbot approve the number of passes that the town can accommodate. The town is not off limits at any time but Negro troops and white troops are given passes on alternate nights so that on any particular night the soldiers on pass in that town are predominately Negro or white." "Report of Trip," Deputy Theater Provost Marshal to Deputy Theater Commander, ETO USA, 12 April 1944, NARA, RG 498, Records of HQ ETO US Army WWII Adjutant General's Section Administration Branch, General Correspondence 1944-1945 291.2—310, File 291.2. Similarly, in the Liverpool-Manchester area, Northwich, as a result of the pass system, became almost exclusively used by black troops while white troops went to Chester. "Inter-Racial Relations" 18 December 1943, ibid.
21 "Incident at Cambridge," Deputy Theater Provost Marshal to Deputy Theater Commander, 12 April 1944, NARA, ibid.
22 "Because the facilities and hostess personnel for dances are limited and overcrowding defeats their proper enjoyment, such entertainment will be sponsored by unit organizations under arrangements mutually agreed by the several commanders. The mixing of commands or races at dances will not be permitted except by guest invitation approved by the commander of the unit sponsoring the evening's entertainment." "Inter-National and Inter-Racial Relations," 11 October 1943, NARA, RG 498, File 291.2.
23 "Report of Trip" Deputy Theater Provost Marshal ETO to Deputy Theater Commander ETO, 8 May 1944, NARA, RG 498, File 291.2. The Provost Marshal reported that he found mixed dances at public dance halls in the Birmingham and Wolverhampton areas and "I discussed this with troop commanders and the IGS at LUCKY and UNICORN. In the future dances by organizations will be arranged." Theater Commanders also suggested that dances be by "invitation only," again effectively creating a segregated recreation system.
24 African-American troops often complained that facilities to which they were assigned were in the "least desirable" areas of town. Oftentimes, towns assigned to black troops were much more distant than those for white troops or, for various reasons, transportation was insufficient or unavailable. It is also worth noting that American military authorities in the ETO suggested that black troops be removed from rural deployments in Britain and be stationed only in port areas—areas, they argued, where the local population had more experience in dealing with peoples of African descent. This would have effectively ghettoized the black population in Britain—American and British—into urban, commercial areas.
25 London Times n.d. in "Newspaper Clipping" from D.A. Davidson, Brigadier General, US Army to CG, HQ ETO USA, 6 October 1942, NARA, RG 498, File 291.2.
26 Anonymous Corporal, 71st Quarter Master Battalion.
27 Investigation of Depot Q and Ditchingham," Lt. Col. J.D. Hurley, 13 November 1943, NARA, RG 498, File 291.2.
28 "Morale Report (ColoredTroops) September 1-15, 1942," NARA, RG 498, File 291.2.
29 "Special Report, Colored Troops, 16-31 August, 1943, NARA, RG 107, Box 36, File 291.2.
30 Censorship Reports, Box V9375, File LL-3, pg. 14, also quoted in Beth Bailey and David Farber, The First Strange Place, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992, pg. 134.
31 "Morale Report (Colored Troops) September 1-15, 1942," NARA, RG 498, File 291.2.
32 The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 1960's is often referred to as the "Second Civil War." However, in the words of both black and white troops themselves, arguably, this second war had started during WWII. "If you were here you would think that the war was between the white and colored soldiers of America," wrote a black Staff Sergeant. And white troops agreed: "The civil war has started among the American troops in Ireland" wrote a white Pvt. Of the 53rd QM Regiment, "Morale Report (Colored Troops) 1-15 September 1942, NARA, RG 498, File 291.2.
33 "Negro Troops, England, Bulletin," 11 May 1944, NARA, RG 107, Box 37 File ASW 291.2 D thru F.
34 "Morale Report (Colored Troops) September 1-15 1942, NARA, RG 498, File 291.2.
35 John B Corbin to Secretary Stimson, March 4 1943, NARA, RG 407, Box 1071, File 1/1/43-3/31/43.
36 C.E.M. Joad, "What Are Your Views About the Colour Bar?" Sunday Dispatch 26 September 1943.
37 "Leadership of Colored Troops," NARA, RG 498, Box 32, File 291.2. Note the resurrection of the "positive good" pro-slavery argument which viewed slaves as children and their masters as paternalistic caretakers. Indeed, the memo continued to advise commanders of black troops to act precisely in this capacity to their unsophisticated charges. This memo was circulated to all commanding officers or black units and officers assigned to or concerned with black troops. Later, however, the document was recalled and all copies ordered burnt because of the possibly inflammatory stereotypes included in the document.
38 "The Negro Problem in the 14th N.D." pg.9.
39 Negro Troops, England, Bulletin," 11 May 1944, NARA, RG 107, Box 37, File ASW 291.2, D thru F.
40 "Morale Report (Colored Troops0 1-15 September 1942, NARA, RG 498, File 291.2.
41 Several wartime studies, conducted by both military and civilian investigators concluded that the average African-American enlistee was far more "race conscious" than his predecessor in the Spanish-American War or World War I. The sociologist Samuel Stouffer, who published a four volume series on the social psychology and adjustment of the U.S. soldier to WWII, conclude that African-American enlistees "acted like members of an oppressed minority." He further argued that the "group norm" amongst African-Americans was to "protest." These conclusions should not surprise us as the average black enlistee in WWII was significantly different from those whom had fought in WWII: more educated, better paid, and with a history of organizing—at least against the oppression of the financial crisis of the depression. Moreover, the black community had been enjoined, not to "close ranks" and put racial complaints aside as in WWI, but rather to fight for the "Double V:" victory over fascism abroad and victory over discrimination at home. Of course, as the U.S. military deployed overseas, the fight against American racism was also fought abroad.
42 Interesting because Army reports used to support keeping blacks out of combat cited their lack of aggressiveness.
43 In Australia, four black soldiers and a merchant seaman were convicted and sentenced to be hung for an attack upon an American Red Cross worker Editorial, Chicago Defender, n.d., in NARA, RG 107 Box 37, File ASW 291.2, A thru F.
44 London Tribune June 4th 1944. The one black officer, according to the trial transcripts, was the only member to raise questions about the complainant's testimony. Even so, the decision of the court was unanimous. This and other such cases prompted calls from black organizations in the U.S. and even from the Public Relations office of the war department for the appointment of black judge adjutant generals in each theater of operations. See Carrier Sheet HQ, ETOUSA, 1 July 1944, G-1 to Public Relations Office. The suggestion was rejected by as Provost Marshal investigations allegedly revealed that blacks received the "same justice" as whites in the military.
45 The Henry case provoked a flurry of correspondence in the ETO not on questions of racial justice and the military but regarding limitations on the press. The Deputy Theater Provost Marshal expressed a sentiment that many of his colleagues were in full sympathy with when he wrote to the Deputy Theater Commander of the ETO "If the British newspapers would agree to the same censorship as our own papers on rape cases only, it would be very helpful. It is recommended that steps be taken by proper authority to contact editors of British papers with a view to having them accept censorship in rape cases." 1 June 1944, NARA, RG 498, File 291.2.
46 The New England Lieutenant did not fail to remind his men in the notice that the penalty for rape in wartime was death. The sentences of the two men in New Caledonia were subsequently reduced to eight and ten years.
47 Censorship Reports, Box V9377 pg 16 and V9375 pg. 13 also quoted in Beth Bailey and David Farber, The First Strange Place, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992, pg. 162. These patterns are evident in other theaters of war also. The military perceived the problem of black rape to be emergent enough to circulate a restricted document "Let's Look At Rape" to all black personnel and their officers in the ETO in 1944. The circular is both graphic and simplistic with cartoonish images of nooses and assaulted women decorating the six page pamphlet. The pamphlet also reports that of the 179 French women who had "complained" of being raped by American soldiers between D-Day and October 15th, 161 of the alleged rapists were black. "Let's Look at Rape," NARA, RG 498, File 291.2.
48"A Negro Corporal" to Roland Hayes, n.d. quoted in Roland Hayes to Eleanor Roosevelt November 8th 1943, RG 498, Box 32, Records of HQ ETO US Army WWII: Adjutant General's Section, Administration Branch, General Correspondence 1944-1945, 291.2—310, File 291.2—Race.
49 American military sources also identify a class dimension to the prejudices expressed by Britons in particular, often commenting how altercations were more likely to occur between African-American troops and members of the male working class. The veracity of these claims still need to be explored.
50 Quoted in Graham Smith, When Jim Crow Met John Bull, (London: I.B. Taurus and Company, 1987), pg 140.
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