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WWII African American KIA Stats

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    Posted: 05 Mar 2010 at 00:58
Out of 292,131 US KIA in WWII, merely 708 of those were African American. This is despite the fact that 1.2 million Americans serving in WWII were African American. Quite a surprising find, I must confess. This is according to some casual wiki browsing I was engaging in:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties#Notes_2

Why were African American KIA in WWII so disproportionately low compared to the rest of the military?


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2010 at 01:51
Most of them, probably, were kept as supply and logistic units that did not take part in action.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2010 at 01:56
Originally posted by Sarmat Sarmat wrote:

Most of them, probably, were kept as supply and logistic units that did not take part in action.


This seems to me a logical explanation. But this then raises the question of why this demographic was so rarely employed in direct combat roles.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2010 at 02:06
Another thing that is interesting to note, in the Vietnam War the opposite scenario was the reality, where disproportionately large numbers of African Americans made up combat soldiers and battle casualties.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2010 at 02:30

AFAIK even in WWII there were limitation on the employment of African Americans in action. Almost all of them served in service branches of the active army and only about 4% of all the drafted African Americans saw action in combat units.

In WWI that percent was even lower, perhaps.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2010 at 02:31
The explanation is easy. Subtle racism, the stereotype that Blacks were unreliable, and lacked necessacy discipline and skills for active army duties.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote es_bih Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2010 at 04:14
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:


Originally posted by Sarmat Sarmat wrote:

Most of them, probably, were kept as supply and logistic units that did not take part in action.
This seems to me a logical explanation. But this then raises the question of why this demographic was so rarely employed in direct combat roles.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Birddog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2010 at 05:52
In Stephen E Ambrose book Citizen Soldiers, in Chapter 14 Jerks, Sad Sacks, Profiteers, and Jim Crow he writes about African American soldiers serving in ETO. The US Army at the start of WW2 was segergated. In ETO their were no all African American infantry units. There were 9 Artillary Battalions, some AA battalions, half a dozen Tank and Tank Destroyer battalions. Ambrose said some did well, some were average and some poor.
 
It wasn't unitl the Bulge and the manpower shortage that African American's started to find their way into combat units. These soldiers were mostly already in Europe serving in support rolls, but many volunteered to join the infantry, some dropping in rank for the oppertunity. The army decided not to send them into the line as indivual replacements (like white soldiers were), they were formed into platoons with a white officer and Senior NCO and sent into the line and attached to white infantry companies. These African American platoons did not get into the line until March 1st 1945. By time the campagin in ETO had ended most African American soldiers were just part of their companies and even shared barracks with white soldiers, something that would never had happened in 1940 in the US army.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sparten Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2010 at 06:56
They were simply put, not very good. The quality of the intake amongst the Black American recruits was pretty low and less than competant officers were attached to them. They were last priority in pretty much everything and it showed in combat performance.
 
Not always was the case, the "Negro" regiments of the post civil war ear, like the 10th Cavalry were considered elite regiments and the 92nd division in WWI (an all negro to use the contemporary term) was one of the best formations the US Army had.
 
Seemed an anamoly WWII.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2010 at 09:38
How are the statistics divided among other US ethnic groups?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gruvawn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2010 at 15:51
Originally posted by Reginmund Reginmund wrote:

How are the statistics divided among other US ethnic groups?


me too. i'm especially curious about native americans and japanese.
don't believe everything you think. : )
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Birddog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2010 at 21:21
I need to look it up, but I believe there was a all Japanese unit that served in ETO (they were deliberately sent to Europe). If I remember correctly it served with distinction.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Mar 2010 at 21:39
That Japanese unit served in Italy.
 
But, there were also some Japanese in the Pacific theater in later years of the war, which where employed as military interpreters.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Mar 2010 at 00:01
Constantine, the myth that African-Americans made up a disproportionate percentage of the Vietnam Era Army, and suffered a higher number of casualties has been debunked for decades now. Interesting to see that it still survives. As for WWII, the subject of this thread, the U.S. had two Black divisions, one in the European/North African theater, where they were not employed as a division, and one in the Pacific, which was. They also had the myriad units noted in another post. A very fine history of this experience was published by the Army as part of their WWII History. If I recall correctly, it was entitled: "The Employment of Negro Troops" It included some descriptions of some very ugly incidents of racism, to include the Arkansas State Police beating up some White officers of a Negro (sic) unit with virtual impunity. I'll try to find it on the web. The Army also had a Black parachute Battalion, the 555th PIB, whose officers were African-American. They never got into combat, but were used as 'smoke jumpers' putting out fires in the west started by Japanese balloon delivered incendiary devices. After the war, the Army moved to disband them. General James Gavin, commanding the 82nd Airborne Division, asked that they be assigned to the division, where they became the 3rd Battalion (Black Panthers) of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. I believe it was 1948 when Truman ordered the Armed Forces integrated, but the policy was slow to be implemented. When the Korean War started, a single Black Airborne Ranger Company was raised, which included many veterans of the "triple nickel" 555. However the performance of both Black and Puerto Rican units in Korea convinced the Army that segregated units were a recipe for mediocrity, and Truman leaned on the military to speed up the integration process. In the meanwhile, the 2nd Airborne Ranger Company (all Black) deployed to Korea where it jumped into combat at Munsan-ni along with the all-White 4th Airborne Ranger Company, both in support of the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. 

Here is a link:  http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/11-4/  The study was authored by Dr. Ulysses Lee.


Edited by lirelou - 06 Mar 2010 at 00:06
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Apr 2010 at 01:06
Originally posted by lirelou lirelou wrote:

Constantine, the myth that African-Americans made up a disproportionate percentage of the Vietnam Era Army, and suffered a higher number of casualties has been debunked for decades now. Interesting to see that it still survives. As for WWII, the subject of this thread, the U.S. had two Black divisions, one in the European/North African theater, where they were not employed as a division, and one in the Pacific, which was. They also had the myriad units noted in another post. A very fine history of this experience was published by the Army as part of their WWII History. If I recall correctly, it was entitled: "The Employment of Negro Troops" It included some descriptions of some very ugly incidents of racism, to include the Arkansas State Police beating up some White officers of a Negro (sic) unit with virtual impunity. I'll try to find it on the web. The Army also had a Black parachute Battalion, the 555th PIB, whose officers were African-American. They never got into combat, but were used as 'smoke jumpers' putting out fires in the west started by Japanese balloon delivered incendiary devices. After the war, the Army moved to disband them. General James Gavin, commanding the 82nd Airborne Division, asked that they be assigned to the division, where they became the 3rd Battalion (Black Panthers) of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. I believe it was 1948 when Truman ordered the Armed Forces integrated, but the policy was slow to be implemented. When the Korean War started, a single Black Airborne Ranger Company was raised, which included many veterans of the "triple nickel" 555. However the performance of both Black and Puerto Rican units in Korea convinced the Army that segregated units were a recipe for mediocrity, and Truman leaned on the military to speed up the integration process. In the meanwhile, the 2nd Airborne Ranger Company (all Black) deployed to Korea where it jumped into combat at Munsan-ni along with the all-White 4th Airborne Ranger Company, both in support of the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. 

Here is a link:  http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/11-4/  The study was authored by Dr. Ulysses Lee.


lirelou, many thanks for your, as usual, insightful and interesting contribution to this topic. My source for the disproportionate involvement of African Americans in the Indochinese campaigns is Marylin B. Young's The Vietnam Wars. I was wondering whether you had read her work or have any commentary on her reliability as an historian.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote es_bih Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Apr 2010 at 01:09
Originally posted by Sarmat Sarmat wrote:

The explanation is easy. Subtle racism, the stereotype that Blacks were unreliable, and lacked necessacy discipline and skills for active army duties.

True. One good example is Patton... he gritted his teeth when he had to use one black unit... he didn't have doubts of their training, but that they were intellectually inferior and couldn't perform. 


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote es_bih Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Apr 2010 at 01:11
Originally posted by Reginmund Reginmund wrote:

How are the statistics divided among other US ethnic groups?

The Italians and Germans enlisted in very high numbers... as did others, but of the ethnic groups that weren't necessarily as integrated as they are now they're of note. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Apr 2010 at 01:26
Sarmat, Your point on Patton's view of Black is always possible, but I find it unusual for a Cavalryman, given the percentage of the pre-war WWII Army Cavalry units that were Black. (During the Indian Wars, there were 10 Cavalry Regiments, of which 2 (the 9th and 10th) were black. Among the officers associated with them was Gen John J. "Black Jack" Pershing, so nick-named because of his long servide with a Black Cavalry Regiment. In the early 1900s, five more regiments were added, and then just prior to WWI, ten more, for a total of 25 Cavalry Regiments. So by the time of WWII, Black Regular Cavalry Regiments were a much smaller percentage of the Cavalry force. Still, both the 9th and 10th were held in high regard. It is possible that Patton held such ideas, being a Virginian at heart (though from a California branch of a Virginia family). Just for my own educational purposes, do you have a cite? I was under the impression that he held the 9th and 10th Cavalry in high regard, but no so the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments (also Black).

The main problem in the use of Black troops in WWII was that Roosevelt had to acknowledge the 'peculiar' Jim Crow attitudes in the South, where the majority of troops were training. Roosevelt, of course, was an ultra-liberal, but Southern votes were important. My mother always insisted that it was Eleanor Roosevelt who really campaigned for the Blacks. Whatever the attitudes at the home front during the war, many veterans returned home feeling that African-American had done their part, but there were always the vocal racist minority who denigrated their part in the war effort. My impression, growing up in that era, was that much of the support for civil rights came from WWII veterans who felt that African-Americans had earned their place at the American table.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote es_bih Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Apr 2010 at 01:34
That was my point actually and it is a fact... he even is quoted saying so. Lets snap out of that conservative la-la land shall we lirelou? Wink
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Apr 2010 at 01:43
Es-bih, Well, I suppose compared to you, I am conservative. Long experience dealing with facts as opposed to impressions has, I suppose, made me somewhat conservative. Not bad for someone who started out in life as a democratic socialist, eh? Still, "la-la land"? I should hope not.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Apr 2010 at 02:14
Constantine, I have not read Marylin Young's book. I did consider purchasing it, but after reading the most positive view of it (all 5 star), decided not to bother. The comments gave me the impression that the book is now out of date. To take just one example, treating the NLF as a viable, Southern mass movement is understandable up to 1975, but post 1975 developments in Vietnam have shown the NLF for the Agent of the Party that it always was. Ditto for arguing Ho Chi Minh's nationalism. You can still find westerners in Vietnam passionately arguing that point, while just a few kiloleters away a guide is leading Vietnamese through a Ho Chi Minh museum, emphasizing his role as a genuine Communist internationalist, and oh yes, he was always first and foremost a Vietnamese. Duiker and others have provided evidence that Ho did not even return to Vietnam until he had the Comintern's permission to do so. I think David G. Marr, William J. Duiker, Sophie Quinn-Judge, and Dixie Bartholomew-Feis, have relegated Marylin Young's history in the "also good" bin. Marr's is really about Vietnam, as opposed to the U.S. waged Vietnam War, Duiker and Quinn-Judge do a fine job of nailing down the real Ho Cho Minh (but still leaving some interpretations open), and Bartholomew-Feis illustrates what the real cooperation between HCM and the OSS really consisted of.  

We're off topic in re: African-Americans in WWII, so I'll quit here.
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Lirelou, many thanks for your detailed response. You have provided illumination as well as a direction for my further reading. Let's allow the thread to get back on track.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Apr 2010 at 14:39
Originally posted by es_bih es_bih wrote:

The Italians and Germans enlisted in very high numbers... as did others, but of the ethnic groups that weren't necessarily as integrated as they are now they're of note. 
 
Funny how it's those two groups. Was there perhaps an element of wanting to free their respective homelands from a political system they didn't agree with, that motivated German- and Italian-Americans in particular?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Apr 2010 at 15:16
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

Out of 292,131 US KIA in WWII, merely 708 of those were African American. This is despite the fact that 1.2 million Americans serving in WWII were African American. Quite a surprising find, I must confess. This is according to some casual wiki browsing I was engaging in:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties#Notes_2

Why were African American KIA in WWII so disproportionately low compared to the rest of the military?




Answer's simple. They were deemed phycially inferior and served only in ordnance and support functions.  For example, it was thought that their night vision was below that of other races.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SPQR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 May 2010 at 00:13
Originally posted by Birddog Birddog wrote:

I need to look it up, but I believe there was a all Japanese unit that served in ETO (they were deliberately sent to Europe). If I remember correctly it served with distinction.


442 Regiment

link for the 442nd Infantry Regiment that mostly consisted of Japanese-Americans that served with distinction, 21 of its member earned the medal of honor making them the most decorated regiment in the history of the US armed forces.

Edited by SPQR - 01 May 2010 at 00:15
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Thanks SPQR. I thought I'd heard good things about them.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote es_bih Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 May 2010 at 06:01
Originally posted by Reginmund Reginmund wrote:

Originally posted by es_bih es_bih wrote:

The Italians and Germans enlisted in very high numbers... as did others, but of the ethnic groups that weren't necessarily as integrated as they are now they're of note. 
 
Funny how it's those two groups. Was there perhaps an element of wanting to free their respective homelands from a political system they didn't agree with, that motivated German- and Italian-Americans in particular?

It was more so that many saw themselves as Americans doing a duty for their country; especially with the second generation soldiers. At least from what I have seen and read. There may have been some of them that joined in to free their "homelands" of ideologies they don't believe in, but most landed in America prior to those ideologies taking hold of those two countries. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 May 2010 at 04:45
Originally posted by es_bih es_bih wrote:

It was more so that many saw themselves as Americans doing a duty for their country; especially with the second generation soldiers. At least from what I have seen and read. There may have been some of them that joined in to free their "homelands" of ideologies they don't believe in, but most landed in America prior to those ideologies taking hold of those two countries. 


Es-bih. That would fit my Aunt Gerry's profile completely. A first generation Italian-American, she joined the Navy in 1942. What really surprised me was that her parents, being straight from the old country, let her go. She came back from the war with a husband, also a Navy vet, my mother's brother. She's the last one in our family from that generation still alive.
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