Red, black-white and blue: negroes and whites fight in line side-by-side
March 20, 1945
Editor's note: This article appears as it did in the March 20, 1945 London edition of the Stars and Stripes. We have left the text exactly as it appeared there in order to preserve Morrison's perspective on the war as it was seen through his eyes.
White and Negro infantrymen are fighting shoulder to shoulder in the same units against the German enemy.
This break with traditional U.S. Army policy of separation of units according to color became a reality with the assignment of Negro platoons to rifle companies of infantry divisions of the 1st and 7th Armies.
Long contemplated, the mixing of white and colored doughboys in the same fighting units is no experiment in race relations but an answer both to the-needs of the military situation and to repeated requests by Negro service troops for an opportunity to get into the war as combat men.
Negro recruits for infantry training were drawn from thousands of Com Z troops who applied in response to an appeal by Lt. Gen. John C. H. Lee, Com Z commander. Lee offered Negro troops who had had infantry training the privilege of joining veteran front-line divisions as reinforcements in order to help and deliver the knock-out blow.
Appeal Response TerrificThe response to this appeal was terrific. Thousands of applications were received from men in port battalions who for many months had been unloading material for combat troops and GIs in truck companies who had hauled the stuff frontwards. In one company of one Negro engineer GS regiment, 171 men out of 186 volunteered.
Four first sergeants accepted reductions to privates in order to qualify. Out of a QM Laundry Co., 100 men out of 260 wanted to fight, but only 36 were allowed to go. The number of applicants reached such proportions that the original quota for Negro trainees was quickly exceeded and many hundreds, had to be rejected. About 2,500 were accepted and given a six-week refresher infantry course with emphasis on weapons training.
At present, Negro reinforcements have joined a number of 1st Army infantry divisions and many are already in action. “They look good to me” one captain commented. “As far as I’m concerned, they aren’t colored, they aren’t white, they’re riflemen.”
“They will be used as a rifle platoon and handled as any other platoon in my battalion” said one battalion CO, Maj. James C. Tarkenton, Mackeys, S.C. One company’s white doughboys talked readily. “I don’t give a damn what color a man is as long as he’s up here helping to win this war,” said Pvt. Harold Cothran, Greenwood, S.C., an assistant squad leader. “I can get along with anybody and will,” commented Pvt. Don Tadsen, Clinton, Iowa.
Give Different ReasonsThe Negro doughboys gave different reasons for wanting to get into the infantry. “I came into the Army to fight, not to labor, that’s why I volunteered for this,” said Pfc George Freeman, Dunn, N.C., a BAR man.
Pfc Leroy W. Kep, Atlantic City, N.J., formerly worked in an ordnance ammunition company. Now he’s a BAR man and proud of it. “We’re all in this thing together now,” he said. “White and Negro Americans in the same companies. That’s how it should be. That’s why I volunteered. Most Negro troops are in service outfits. We’ve been giving a lot of sweat. Now, I think, we’ll mix some blood with it”