A History of the Service of Ethnic Minorites in the U.S. Armed Forces

June 1, 2003
Rhonda Evans

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In debates concerning the U.S. military’s ban on the open
service of sexual minorities, critics and proponents alike have used the
integration of African Americans after World War II in defense of their
position. Critics of the ban suggest
that both groups have faced similar stigmatization as disparaged minorities,
and the success of military integration for African Americans in spite of an
absence of civilian support indicates that effective inclusion is possible for
gays and lesbians as well. However, for
proponents of the ban, perceived differences in the causes of stigmatization
and the specific circumstances surrounding Truman’s mandate underline the inappropriateness
of removing restrictions against sexual minorities.[1] Because analogies by their nature break down
at some point, it is instructive instead to look more broadly at the history of
the U.S. military for clues about how to properly contextualize the present
debate. The extensive focus on post-war
desegregation in some sense overshadows the multiplicity of challenges that the
U.S. armed forces has historically faced in managing and attenuating broad
socio-cultural differences. While
racism against African Americans has been the deepest and most repeated
challenge to the U.S. military, we should not underestimate the magnitude of
prior struggles and divisions that have created considerable organizational
challenges for military leaders.

From this country’s inception, its armed forces has had
to create effective and cohesive fighting units from a fractious and
heterogeneous population. Successive large waves of European immigrants
resulted in military units with mixed English proficiency; the loyalty of
immigrants during times of war has repeatedly been a source of considerable
anxiety; and the inclusion of racial and religious minorities in the military
has occurred against a wider social backdrop of ethnic hostility, harassment
and violence.[2] From a more expansive historical
perspective, it is clear that the U.S. military has repeatedly been forced to
attenuate the divisions, antagonisms and distrust that have troubled American
culture more broadly. This necessity
has stemmed from the unique position of the armed forces as both a defensive
and a “total” institution in American civic life. Military service in defense of the nation has historically been
viewed as an essential means for immigrants and other ethnic minorities to
prove their loyalty to the U.S. and gain entry into the American
mainstream. Drafts that include newly
naturalized citizens (as well as those who have declared their intent to become
citizens) and high rates of volunteer enlistments among ethnic minorities have
led to a military that draws upon service members from a wide variety of
racial, religious and national backgrounds. Further, the encompassing nature of the military environment is
transformative: in working to mold civilians into soldiers, the military
strives to forge a shared sense of purpose and inculcate service members with
collective values, norms and culture in the pursuit of common goals.

As with civil
society, accommodations of diversity and difference within the military have
not occurred without substantial contention, suspicion and even outright
hostility. Each war has required
adaptation to a distinct combination of manpower needs, enemy characteristics,
and broad societal divisions; personnel lessons learned during one war are
often discarded once the danger has passed. But two mechanisms have fostered integrative pressures in the U.S. armed
forces in spite of ethnic divisions and an often antagonistic military
culture. First, the military’s
subordinate position to the federal government has necessitated a
responsiveness to social pressures for inclusion. The president, Congress and civilian Pentagon leaders have at
times officially mandated greater military inclusiveness, and such mandates
have often occurred as part of larger efforts to employ war as a means to
attain political ends. Demands for
greater diversity have been promoted to counteract enemy propaganda, in
response to social movement agitation, and in conjunction with larger public
policy goals.

Second, manpower shortages due to the mobilization of
large forces have propelled military leaders to create a more diverse,
inclusive military in times of war. The
use of the draft inevitably fosters a more heterogeneous service than a
volunteer army. Further, as wars
progress, military officers have often been forced to overturn conventions of
exclusion or division as a result of the pragmatic logic of numbers. Battlefield attrition has encouraged greater
integration of previously segregated or underutilized troops as commanders
respond creatively to manpower shortages. The history of the U.S. military attests to its success in overcoming
skepticism and suspicion within its own ranks when compelled to do so by
political mandate or practical dictates. Despite repeated resistance, the U.S. military has throughout its
history created cohesive and effective fighting units out of a fractious and
diverse collection of civilians, integrating service members with vast
differences in cultural background, religious practices, language and belief
systems. In an effort to detail these
lessons of successful integration of diverse military personnel, this paper
will explore the U.S. armed forces’ personnel policies during the major periods
of the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam


The Civil War marked a decisive turning point in the development of the
young nation; it forged a country ruled by a more powerful federal government
out of the ashes of the old collection of states.[3] By the end of the war, after four years of
fighting and with casualty rates that approached 30%, service members and
civilians alike would find themselves transformed by the dislocations that the
war had wrought (World Almanac, 2000).[4] For
many, the war took them out of their home states for the first time. The geographic mobility of soldiers worked
to lessen their provincialism, and the ethnic diversity of front-line troops
would further dampen nativist instincts. It would primarily be a war of volunteers,[5] and the entrepreneurial nature of regiment formation in the early years of the
war profoundly shaped both the composition of troops and accommodations to
their diversity. The first modern war
on U.S. soil[6] brought the
incorporation of large numbers of immigrant soldiers, acceptance of the idea of
religious pluralism within the military, and the highly visible use of African
American troops. Social protest would
play a key role in the acceptance of Jewish chaplains in the Union Army. African American inclusion would be promoted
by Republican abolitionists for political reasons and encouraged by the
on-the-ground realities of the deadly war. And the question of whether former slaves could become competent
soldiers would be answered strongly in the affirmative. In the face of devastating losses, even
Confederates would be forced to concede the capabilities of black soldiers by
the end of the conflict.

Prior to the onset of the war, immigration had already radically
transformed the social landscape of the U.S. Between 1820 and 1860, over 5 million immigrants landed on America’s
shores – a sum that equaled fully half of the entire U.S. population before the
migration wave had begun (Parillo, 1997; Barkan, 1999). Irish and Germans accounted for the largest
number of immigrants, with the Irish alone comprising 49% of all immigrants in
the 1840s (Parrillo, 1997; see also Bergquist, 1999). This surge of immigration would lead to a bitter nativist
backlash. For many native-born
Americans, the large influx of immigrants posed a threat to the existing social
order, and by the 1830s a “native” American uprising began to coalesce. Advocating violence and destruction of the
property of Irish, Germans and African Americans, these outbursts would develop
into the Know-Nothing Movement of the 1850s. The movement was sufficiently popular to result in the election of 75
Congress members allied with the movement in 1854, along with a sizeable number
of city, county and state officials (Parrillo, 1997).[7] Closely linked to anti-Catholicism, anti-Irish
sentiment was particularly strong, and mobs at times torched Catholic churches
and convents (Parrillo, 1997; see also Wittke, 1956; Gleeson, 2001; Ignatiev,
1995). Nativists would “speak of the
Irish as a separate race, genetically fixed in their ignorance and moral
dissolution” (Meagher, 1999, p. 284). They occupied the bottom rung of the employment ladder, and nativism
within unions was rampant (Takaki, 1993, Ignatiev, 1995). In response, immigrants in urban communities
established ethnic enclaves and sought political access through machine
politics. The Democratic party would
reject nativism in support of ethnic voters (Ignatiev, 1995). The ethnic identity of national origins,
which was understood at the time in racial terms, provided a filter through
which Americans made sense of U.S. social life and its divisions.

Against this
backdrop of ethic transformation and the rapid absorption of foreign nationals,
the Civil War would pit old and new countrymen against countrymen, and it was
in the Union Army that foreign nationals maintained a decisive presence.[8] The Union Army has been called “an amalgam
of nations” (Wittke, 1956, p. 135) – out of a total of 2.2 million Union
soldiers that served during the war, more than 400,000 of them were foreign-born
(Wittke, 1956).[9] Immigrants as a whole responded positively
to the Union response to secessionist upheaval, and the foreign-born of every
nationality enlisted in proportions that exceeded their relative numbers in the
population at large (Rippley, 1976; see also White, 1990).[10] The harassment and discrimination that the
Irish faced in civilian life did not preclude their enlistment as
soldiers. The Union Army went to
considerable lengths to attract Irish immigrants in particular, including enrolling
eligible men as soon as they disembarked onto American shores. The Union even sent recruiters to Ireland,
and the Confederate Army countered by sending special envoys to Ireland to stop
the recruiting. The centrality of Irish
immigrants would be commented upon in The
New York Times in the early stages of the war:

the alacrity with which [the Irish] have rushed to the defense of free
institutions, and the valor with which they have illustrated our battles, have
done much to extinguish ancient prejudices and teach us what genuine and noble
human qualities underlie the surface-characteristics of the fine old Irish
stock. (The New York Times, August 11
1861, p 3)

Prior to the war, immigrants in some areas had faced
restrictions on their service in militias, and immigrants had formed their own
militia companies in response (White, 1999).[11] Every major foreign-born group in America’s
larger cities maintained distinct militia units, which were both social in
nature and a component of ethnic political organizing. When the Civil War began, many of the ethnic
militia companies were transferred directly into the Union Army, and new ethnic
regiments were also established (see White, 1999; Burton, 1998; Wittke, 1956;
and Kauffman, 1999).[12] The entrepreneurial approach to raising
troops through volunteer militias in the first eighteen months of the war
encouraged the emergence of ethnically oriented regiments, as potential
regiment and company leaders used local networks, ethnic rivalries and
rhetorical exhortations of nationalism to form military units with explicitly
ethnic identities (Burton, 1998).[13] These included such units as the “Steuben
Rifles,” “DeKalb Regiment,” “Ulster Guards,” “Irish Brigade,” “Wild Irish
Regiment,” “Irish Rifles,” Corcoran’s “Fighting Irish,” “Cameron Highlanders,”
“Garibaldi Guards,” “Swiss Rifles,” “Koerner Regiment,” “First German Rifles,”
and “Die Neuner” (Wittke, 1956;
Kauffman, 1999).[14]

While service in ethnic regiments stemmed largely from
neighborhood or network affiliations, religion and language also played an
important role. Among the Irish, ethnic
units had access to Catholic priests rather than Protestant ministers (Burton,
1998). Further, such regiments enabled
immigrants to serve in regiments dominated by languages other than
English. When the War Department
declared in July of 1861 that, “In the future, no volunteer will be mustered
into the service who is unable to speak the English language,” (cited in
Burton, 1998, p. 220) the order met with vehement opposition among immigrant
communities and led to a dramatic curtailment of enlistment among the
foreign-born. The War Department
quickly backed down from its original stand with a clarification that the order
did not apply to individuals serving in companies and regiments of foreigners
(Burton, 1998). The volunteer nature of
service at the outset of the war necessitated that leaders remain responsive to
concerns that could dramatically curtail enlistments. Thirty German regiments, in which German was the primary language
spoken, participated in the war (Rippley, 1976).

However, while ethnic units were highly visible during
the first eighteen months of the Civil War, the majority of immigrants fought
in integrated regiments.[15] Out of 216,000 Germans who fought for the
Union, only 36,000 served in ethnic units (Kaufmann, 1999; Burton, 1998). Interestingly, New York State fielded the
only regiment that was composed entirely of native-born Americans. As an expert on ethnic service has concluded
on integrated units, “Problems of bias and prejudice were minimal and relations
between the various groups were good” (Burton, 1998, p. 208). But the bloody toll of the war and the need
for new bodies would encourage the diffusion and desegregation of even those
who initially sought out ethnic units:

Long before the end of the Civil War, however, the many
German units were scattered, regrouped, or reorganized out of existence, and in
fact they were being reconstituted all along by incoming non-German recruits.
[…] Diffusion rendered it almost impossible to trace the performance of the
Germans in later war records (Rippley, 1976, p. 70).

Saving regiments from destruction
through attrition took priority over retaining an ethnic identity as the war
proceeded, and unit identities were diluted through the replacement of
casualties with native-born soldiers. In the last two years of the war, unique ethnic regiments “were
reorganized out of existence” (Burton, 1998, p. 111).[16] That this would further help to foster a
common American identity is evident in the words of Carl Shurtz, a German
ethnic politician, who noted after the war that, “The German spirit fades away,
and the American spirit triumphs” (Burton, 1998, p. 111).[17] Or as Civil War historian Hattaway (1997)
explains more generally, “Brave deeds, and above all a shared military
experience, bred a potent brotherly affinity” (p. 185).

As a result of
greater heterogeneity within units and among the population more generally, the
Civil War also marked a change from the Revolutionary War in the need to
accommodate individuals from different religions. Because many service members enlisted in their hometowns and with
people they knew, units often included multiple members of religious minorities. General Order Number 15 in 1861 provided for
chaplains chosen by vote in volunteer regiments. The concentration of Catholics in ethnic regiments and the later
segregation of African American troops also therefore promoted the inclusion of
minority chaplains. The Civil War would
mark the first time that large numbers of Catholic priests served as military
chaplains (Slomovitz, 1999; see also U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School,
2003), and the first African American and Native American chaplains also served
during the war (U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School, 2003; Brinsfield,
1999). By the end of the war, fourteen
African American chaplains and forty Catholic priests served with the Union
army. An additional 28 priests served
with the Confederates (U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School, 2003; Redkey,

Congress initially
mandated that chaplains for the Union be “regularly ordained ministers of some
Christian denomination” (cited in U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School, 2003;
see also Herspring, 2001; Budd, 2002). In contrast, the Confederate Congress made no distinction between
religions and opened the service of chaplains to “every minister of religion”
(cited in Rosen, 2000, p. 209).[18] A Jewish chaplain appointed by the 65th Regiment of the Fifth Pennsylvania Calvary was told to resign due to his
non-qualified status (Slomovitz, 1999; Herspring, 2001). In response, a broad-based movement in favor
of the inclusion of Jewish chaplains on constitutional grounds supported the
test case of the subsequent appointment of Rabbi Fischel to the same 65th Regiment. The movement endeavored to
obtain publicity, develop a petition campaign, and employ lobbying efforts, and
it gained support from the popular press (Slomovitz, 1999). One editor of the Boston Clipper reminded his readers that a rabbi opened the
congressional legislative session with prayer. He asked, “How was it that the same body could deny Jewish soldiers the
right to share the prayers of the same clergyman?” (cited in Slomovitz, 1999,
p. 16) As a result of these efforts,
hundreds of petitions were sent to Congress, and Rabbi Fischel, backed by the
Board of Delegates of American Israelites, lobbied the president directly for
the inclusion of Jewish chaplains. Lincoln was receptive to his arguments,[19] and in July of 1862 the law limiting service to Christians was amended
(Slomovitz, 1999; see also U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School, 2003). The first rabbis entered the chaplaincy
through positions at military hospitals; two rabbis served as hospital
chaplains during the war.[20] In April of 1863, a third rabbi began
serving as the chaplain for the 54th New York Volunteer Regiment
(Slomovitz, 1999).[21]

Although African
Americans had served during the American Revolution and the War of 1812, [22] their service during the Civil War was authorized only after considerable
controversy in both the North and the South. The centrality of slavery to the conflict created political concerns
over the use of African American troops. President Lincoln feared the loss of the border states over the issue,
and the moral justification for slavery as the benevolent guardianship of an
inferior people made black service a threat to the existing Southern social
order. As Georgian Howell Cobb argued
to the Confederate Secretary of War, “the day you make soldiers of them is the
beginning of the end of the revolution. If slaves will make good soldiers our
whole theory of slavery is wrong” (cited in Glatthaas, 1997, p. 203). A New
York Times article listed the following reasons given by Union opponents to
the use of African American soldiers:

1) That the negro will not fight. … 2) It is said that
whites will not fight with them, - that the prejudice against them is so strong
that our own citizens will not enlist, or will quit the service, if compelled
to fight by their side, - and that we shall thus lose two white soldiers for
every black one that we gain … 3) It is said we shall get no negroes – or not
enough to prove of any service. … 4) The use of negroes will exasperate the
South: and some of our Peace Democrats make that an objection to the measure. (New York Times, February 16 1863, p. 4)[23]


However, from the onset of
hostilities, African Americans themselves would agitate for the opportunity to
fight. Through the first fifteen months
of the war, the War Department received a barrage of entreaties for the right
to raise black troops or simply for people to fight themselves; editorials in
newspapers with a black readership trumpeted the cause, and political leaders
pressed for inclusion.

The importance of
military service to an African American struggle for enfranchisement informed
much of this political activity. As
Frederick Douglass stated at the time, “…let [an African American] get an eagle
on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is
no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship in
the United States” (cited in Glatthaar, 1997, p. 211). But it would be with their feet that
Southern slaves would create both the greatest pressure and the sharpest
incentives for African American military service. The refusal of Major General Butler in May of 1861 to return
escaped slaves under the fugitive slave laws was supported by the War
Department; Butler put them to work instead as laborers for the Army. [24] In August, Congress passed the First
Confiscation Act, which enabled federal officers to seize Confederate property,
including slaves, to be used “in aid of the rebellion” (cited in Glatthaar,
1997, p. 204; see also Smith, 2002; Ramold, 2002). The trickle of African Americans to federal encampments soon
became a flood,[25] and in July
of 1862 Congress awarded freedom to all slaves entering federal lines and made
them subject to the draft under the
Second Confiscation Act (Smith, 2002). As
Glatthaar (1997) notes, “By acting on their own behalf, slaves also challenged
Federal authorities to reexamine their approach to the war. The unanticipated black response compelled
Northern officials to adapt their policies to meet wartime exigencies” (p. 206; see also Glaathaar, 1990).

Congress also
authorized the president to use African Americans in any military service “for
which they may be found competent,” and Lincoln used the opportunity of the
final[26] Emancipation Proclamation to authorize the general enlistment of black troops
in 1863 (Glatthaar, 1997, p. 210; Smith, 2002).[27] Approximately 179,000 African Americans
served in segregated units as combat soldiers in the Civil War, and another
20,000 held noncombatant positions. African American soldiers comprised approximately one-tenth of total
Union Army forces, while black sailors accounted for approximately 16% of total
naval strength[28] (Ramold,
20002; Smith, 2002; see also Walker, 1999; and Young, 1982).[29] Further, 200,000 additional African Americans
labored for the Union in other capacities (Walker, 1999; Young, 1982;
Glaathaar, 1997; Hattaway, 1997). African American service members participated in 41 major battles and
449 smaller engagements during the Civil War. Higgenson, the Colonel of the 1st South Carolina Colored
Volunteers, a unit comprised almost entirely of former slaves, describes the
first time he commanded a mix of black and white regiments on regular military
duty. While he was originally concerned
about mishaps, he explains:

It is almost impossible for us now to remember in what a
delicate balance then hung the whole question of negro enlistments, and
consequently of Slavery. Fortunately,
for my own serenity, I had great faith in the intrinsic power of military
discipline, and also knew that a common service would soon produce mutual
respect among good soldiers; and so it proved. (Higgenson, 1870, p. 123)

Twenty-three African American
service members would win the Congressional Medal of Honor for their efforts
during the war (Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for
Civilian Personnel Policy/Equal Opportunity, 1991; U.S. Army, 2003).[30][31]

The effective,
albeit delayed, use of African Americans in the military conflict dealt a harsh
blow to the Confederate states. African
American soldiers replenished depleted troop strength in the Union military,
deprived the Confederacy of needed labor as slaves deserted to Federal lines,
and contributed to Southern demoralization by overturning the established
racial order. By early 1864, a small
number of high-ranking Confederate officers began to view continued slavery as
one the South’s primary sources of military weakness. In addition to the diminishment of essential labor power as a
result of Union actions, continued support of slavery precluded desperately
needed assistance from European nations. While these Confederate officers advocated the arming of African
Americans for use as Confederate soldiers, Confederate law at the time precluded
black military service (Glatthaar, 1997; see also Smith, 2002). As the situation grew desperate, the
Confederate Congress passed legislation allowing for the service of African
Americans.[32] However, the war ended before the
Confederate Army could raise African American troops for combat (see Glatthaar,
1997; Young, 1982).


When the U.S.
finally entered World War I in April of 1917, its military consisted of a small
force of 500,000 (Cooke, 1999).[33] Both the desperate need for assistance at
the front lines and President Wilson’s desire to use U.S. military power to
enable him to help shape the peace led to rapid mobilization and a dramatic
increase in the size of the armed forces (see Weigley, 1999).[34] In May of 1917, Congress passed the
Selective Draft Act, which established mandatory conscription, and by the war’s
end eighteen months later, the armed forces totaled more than 3.5 million
service members.[35] The rapid incorporation of new service
personnel forced military leaders to address issues such as the assimilation of
large numbers of immigrant soldiers, the professionalization of religious
support, and the acceptance of Native American service members. They would successfully handle such concerns
despite deeply divisive pre-existing ethnic antagonisms that were exacerbated
by “Americanization” campaigns among the civilian population during the
war. The U.S. armed forces made a
crucial contribution to the defeat of the German army, and in the process it
established itself as a truly modern military organization that would emerge as
a 20th century global power.

Prior to the war, the U.S. experienced the largest influx
of immigrants in its history – the period between 1880 and 1920 ushered 23
million immigrants into the U.S. This
wave would draw much more heavily from Southern and Eastern Europe than the
previous surge, with approximately 9 million immigrants entering the U.S. from
these areas (Enloe, 1980; Ford, 2001; and Barkan, 1999).[36] More than four million Italians and three
million Russian immigrants arrived in the U.S. during this period, and
approximately 43% of the Russian immigrants were Jewish (Parrillo, 1997;
Barkan, 1999).[37] By 1917, the Jewish population in the U.S.
had grown to nearly 3.5 million (Fredman and Falk, 1942; see also Shapiro,

In the years leading up to the war, anti-immigration
attitudes once again festered and found expression in the “Americanization”
movement (Parrillo, 1997). Anti-Irish
sentiment was attenuated by the hostility directed at more recent immigrants,
which was legitimated through racialized discourse of the inherent biological
superiority of lighter skin and hair.[38] Italians were perceived to have criminal
tendencies and be prone to violence (Sensi-Isolani, 1999). “Italians were ‘swarthy’ … and to the eyes
of Americans they bore other physical signs of degradation, such as low
foreheads” (Alba, 1985, p. 67). In
1911, a former Army Chief of Staff organized the Guardians of Liberty in upstate New York; it was dedicated
to keeping Catholics out of office “because they would supposedly take their
order from Rome” (Parillo, 1997, p. 447). An anti-Catholic magazine, The
Menace, attracted over 5.1 million readers, and a total of 61 anti-Catholic
periodicals were in circulation prior to World War I (Parrillo, 1997). Anti-Semitism also became firmly established
in mainstream American civilian life. In the early 20th century, newspapers and magazines ran anti-Semitic
cartoons and editorials. Life magazine writers called New York
City “‘Jew York’ and attacked the ostensible Jewish clannishness, pushiness,
and domination of the theater…” (Parillo, 1997, p. 451). Inter-ethnic and inter-religious marriages
were rare, as were joint organizational activities (Parrillo, 1997). Responding in part to inter-group tensions,
immigrants formed separate ethnic communities, establishing their own churches
and synagogues, schools, and community and assistance organizations (Parrillo,

At the turn of the
century, the Army began to transform itself to prepare for the possibility of external
conflict and an increased U.S. presence abroad. An Army War College was established, officer education was
improved, and the regular forces increased four-fold (Abrahamson, 1999). The Army began to employ managerial
leadership practices to promote the establishment of a military organization
with rationalized personnel policies. Using newly popularized “scientific management” techniques, leaders
sought to create an efficient military bureaucracy out of the more informal
organization that preceded it (Ford, 2001, p. 8). Military leaders recruited civilian reformers from the
Progressive movement to assist in these efforts, thereby facilitating the rapid
growth of a new civilian-military culture (Ford, 2001). Professionalizing developments notwithstanding,
military education for officers in the period preceding the war reflected some
of the most reactionary elements of the popular discourse on race and
immigration. Teachers at West Point
preached the racial superiority of the “Nordic race” of northern Europeans and
promoted the belief in the “harsh and cruel struggle for survival through
racial conquest and domination” of Social Darwinism (Bendersky, 2000, pp.
25-26). Faculty lectured against the
amalgamation of “superior” and
“inferior” races, for whom “extinction not absorption is the ultimate fate”
(Bendersky, 2000, p. 26). Military
leaders also expressed doubt about the loyalty of Jews and their willingness to
assimilate (Bendersky, 2000).

With the onset of
World War I, nativist and racist prejudices were further fueled by antagonism
towards German immigrants and their descendents, since Germany was now
classified as a state enemy.[39] Considerable skepticism concerning the war’s
aims and isolationism among U.S. residents at the outset also led to a second
pro-war mobilization on the home front, as the administration attempted to
foster public support through the establishment of the first governmental
propaganda office (Schaffer, 1999; Nagler, 1999).[40] [41] The propaganda efforts would spiral out of
control, leading to a domestic climate that Higham describes as “call[ing]
forth the most strenuous nationalism and the most pervasive nativism that the
United States had ever known” (cited in Nagler, 1993, p. 191). Prior to U.S. involvement in the war, many
domestic German-language papers had espoused the German cause, arguing that the
imperial power of Great Britain was more threatening than German action
(Bergquist, 1999; see also Wittke, 1936). Even though the vast majority of German-language periodicals immediately
pledged support when the U.S. entered the war, German Americans quickly became
targets of harassment, business boycotts, violence, and vandalism (Bergquist,
1999; Luebke, 1990).[42][43] State Councils of Defense banned the use of
German language in public places and changed German-named street signs. German books and German-language newspapers
were burned in multiple cities (Rippley, 1976; see also Nagler, 1997; (Luebke,
1990).[44] In efforts to prove their loyalty to the
U.S., many German citizens and businesses anglicized their names and distanced
themselves from their cultural institutions and organizations (Luebke, 1990).[45]

However, the
demands of war would quickly challenge the generalized anti-immigrant sentiment
in the services, as the demand for service members necessitated the broad use
of the foreign-born. Unlike during the
Civil War, the government recruited most soldiers for the American
Expeditionary Forces (AEF) through the draft.[46] This would result in the conscription of a
diverse cross-section of American men that included large numbers of immigrants
and other ethnic minorities. The
military placed Americans from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds,
as well as a number of foreign-born soldiers, into integrated units during
World War I. Brigadier General Harvey
Jervey would explain that, "It is not the policy of the United States Army
to encourage or permit the formation of distinctive brigades, regiments,
battalions or other organizations composed exclusively or primarily of members
of any race, creed, political or social group" (cited in Canaday, 2001). A French solder in 1917 described the heterogeneous character of
American troops in Europe:

You could not imagine a more
extraordinary gathering than this american [sic] army, there is a little bit of
everything, Greeks, Italians, Turks, Indians, Spanish, also a sizable number of
boches.[47] Truthfully, almost half of the officers have German origins. This doesn’t seem
to bother them… Among the Americans are sons of emigrated Frenchmen and sons of
emigrated boches. I asked one son of a
Frenchman if these Germans were coming willingly to fight their brothers and
cousins, he squarely answered me: ‘yes!’” (cited in Ford, 2001, p. 3)

With the Selective
Draft Act (40 Stat. 76) of May 1917, Congress expanded the draft to include
non-enemy residents who were not naturalized but who had declared their intent
to become citizens (Enloe, 1980; Cooke, 1999).[48][49] The General Staff estimated that one-fourth
of the draftees were either non-English-speaking immigrants or functionally
illiterate (White, 1999). Almost
500,000 immigrants would be inducted during World War I, and as many as 75% of
them lacked English proficiency (Ford, 2001). However, given the political debates about the draft, naturalized
citizens and declared immigrants were expected to serve regardless of language
skill. This provided the military with
a considerable organizational dilemma given the need to train soldiers quickly
for relocation to Europe, and many immigrants initially proved unable to
effectively respond to training commands. The military responded by establishing the Foreign-speaking Soldier
Subsection (FSS) (Ford, 2001).

While the FSS was
established under the Military Intelligence Section for the purpose of handling
alien service members, the unit would soon be reorganized under the Military
Morale Section to focus on improving the quality of life of foreign-born
soldiers more generally. Leaders of the
FSS embraced the attitudes of the Progressive movement toward the inclusion of
immigrants and worked to adapt military training to better suit immigrants’
needs. The agency helped to create
“development” battalions for those without a strong command of English. Training in these battalions included drills
in soldiers’ native languages, as well as intensive English classes. The battalions were grouped according to
native language, and the army sent promising bilingual or multilingual soldiers
to Officers’ Training School so that they could lead the training battalions.[50] The program was such a success that the
Italian and Slovak companies at Camp Gordon, which included men that had
previously been deemed unfit for combat, exhibited the highest fitness reports
in the camp (Ford, 2001). The War
Department applauded the “extraordinary” effectiveness of the program, and
troops were trained within a six week period to make them “valuable fighting
units” (cited in Ford, 2001, pp. 85 and 80).

Once training was
complete, immigrants from the development battalions were divided by platoon
and sent as replacement troops to the front, preferably with officers from
their battalion. While the use of
development battalions was driven by the need for efficiency in the creation of
an effective fighting force, the division of these groups into platoons stemmed
both from a recognition of the negative consequences of isolation for
individuals immersed in English-only units and a desire to exert an
“Americanizing” influence on recent immigrants.[51] It was believed that sending over larger
ethnic battalions would encourage groups to associate only amongst themselves
and would erode newly-acquired language skills. Conversely, in the language of a military report on development
battalions, an ethnic platoon would act as a “colony” within the larger
“melting pot” of the company; they would provide a “foundation” for
“Americanization,” while “keep[ing] up [the immigrants’] morale much better
than if put among people of entirely different customs” (cited in Ford, 2001,
p. 87).[52] Ford
(2001) contrasts the nativistism rampant in U.S. civic culture with these
efforts by the military:

This new influx of Old World soldiers challenged the
cultural, linguistic, and religious traditions of the American Army and forced
the military to reexamine its training procedures. The military invited Progressive reformers and leaders of various
ethnic groups to assist them in formulating new military policies. As a result, these policies demonstrated a
remarkable sensitivity and respect for Old World cultures while laying the
foundations for the Americanization of these immigrant soldiers. (Ford, 2001,
p. 1)

U.S. armed forces also coordinated actions with civic social welfare, religious
and ethic organizations to facilitate the integration of immigrant soldiers
into military life. These efforts were
part of broader organizational attempts “designed to socialize and ‘morally
uplift’ the soldiers to create an effective military” (Ford, 2001, p. 10). In conjunction with the War Department’s Commission
on Training Camp Activities, organizations such as the YMCA,[53] the Salvation Army,[54] the Knights of Columbus and the Jewish Welfare Board established recreational
social facilities on military bases. With the help of thousands of social welfare workers, such organizations
helped run English, civics and citizenship classes for immigrant service
members. They provided books, athletic
equipment, music, theater and other entertainment to service members, as well
as the services of clergy members and places for religious worship. Ethnic community leaders offered
foreign-language newspapers to immigrant service personnel and helped translate
war materials and hygiene literature. The YWCA also employed “international hostesses” that could speak the
languages of immigrant troops. These
secretaries acted as facilitators and counselors in helping foreign soldiers
with family and other adjustment problems (Ford, 2001; Budd, 2002; Slomovitz,

Unlike the voluntarism of the Civil War, the rapid
formation of regiments through the military bureaucracy required a more
professionalized approach to the appointment of chaplains during World War
I. The needs of soldiers during the war
would lead to the institutionalization of the chaplaincy within the military
for the first time, and a May 1917 act mandated the inclusion of one chaplain
per regiment and one chaplain per 1,200 soldiers in coast artillery. The number of chaplains increased five-fold
in the Navy and 1500% in the Army during the war (Budd, 2002).[55] The Army established a chaplains’ school at Fort Monroe with five weeks of
training that focused on how to minister and function in a military environment
(Budd, 2002). The military officially
acknowledged the religious diversity of its service personnel and worked to
provide access to a wide variety of religious materials and support staff. A Staff Chaplain’s Office was established
overseas with Episcopalian, Catholic and Congregationalist leaders. Three umbrella organizations representing
the three main religious branches - The Jewish Welfare Board, The National
Catholic War Council and the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in
America – coordinated with the War Department to meet the religious needs of
service members. They helped screen and
nominate candidates for chaplain, supplied religious items for military
personnel, trained civilians for work on military bases and provided religious
support (Budd, 2002).[56]

While religious animosity was a staple of civilian life,
it did not cause insurmountable problems for the army or its developing
chaplaincy. Catholics accounted for
approximately 42% of all military personnel, while Jews comprised nearly 6%.[57] Jewish chaplains had not served in the
peacetime army, in part because the military argued that there were
insufficient numbers of Jewish soldiers.[58] But the large number of Jewish service
members enlisted through the draft led to a reconsideration of the policy and
the inclusion of Jewish chaplains. Twenty-five rabbis served in active duty during the war, and Chaplain
Voorsanger, known as the “Fighting Rabbi,” would be promoted to senior chaplain
of the 77th Infantry Division (Slomovitz, 1999; see also Fredman and
Falk, 1942; Corby, 1992). Soldiers
would not be segregated according to their religion, and chaplains in the field
were expected to help soldiers of all religious faiths (Franklin, 2001; Ford,
2001). Rabbi Lee Levinger wrote of the
experience of a military rabbi during the war:

He was first of all a Chaplain in the
United States Army and second a representative of his own religious body. That means that all welfare work or personal
service was rendered equally to men of any faith… Wherever I went I was called
upon by Jew and non-Jew alike, for in the service most men took their troubles
to the nearest chaplain irrespective of his religion. (cited in Slomovitz,
1999, pp. 55-6)

Unlike African
Americans, who continued to serve in segregated units,[59] Native Americans would also be fully integrated into the U.S. military during
the war. Despite calls to create
separate Indian units to preserve Native American culture and promote the
distinct “cult of the warrior”(cited in Britten, 1997, p. 39), the War
Department expressed a commitment to the assimilation of Native Americans that
was the official policy of the federal government through the Bureau of Indian
Affairs.[60] From the classification of Native Americans
as wards of the state in 1871, federal officials had become convinced that the
key way to resolve the perceived “Indian problem” of continued primary tribal
affiliation was through the eradication of distinct tribal cultures. This attitude would be maintained in the
deployment of Native American service members:


…[O]n the eve of World War I the Chief
of the War College Division of the General Staff stated that anything that
‘inclines them to think in Indian terms only and to hold themselves as a class
apart with interests distinct from those of other citizens is undesirable and
contrary to the object of the institution and to the best interests of the
United States’” (White, 1990, p. 78; see also Britten, 1997).[61]


While the social
motivation behind the military response to Native American inclusion may be
questioned, their war service helped to alter popular conceptions to include
Native Americans as participants in American life. More than 6,500 Native Americans were drafted and an additional
3,500 enlisted. Approximately 20% of
the entire adult Native American male population served in World War I, even
though up to one-third were not U.S. citizens at the onset of World War I
(Britten, 1997; see also Holm, 1996).[62][63] The Provost General would note that “the
ratio of Indian registrants inducted was twice as high as the average of all
registrants” (cited in Britten, 1997, p. 59). Native Americans fought in every major offense in the war involving
Americans, from Chateau Thierry to Meuse-Argonne, and their participation was
often glorified in the national media. As Britten (1997) explains, “Through service in the war, Indian soldiers
demonstrated a degree of patriotism and loyalty that surprised many
non-Indians” (p. 51). In the last two
months of the war, unit commanders began using the special language skills of
Native Americans to facilitate protected communications. Multiple units used Choctaw, Osage,
Comanche, Cheyenne and Sioux soldiers to transmit messages in their native
languages (Britten, 1997; Holm, 1996). At least ten Native Americans won the Croix de Guerre for valor, and 150
other soldiers were decorated for meritorious service (Britten, 1997). Citizenship was conferred on Indian veterans
in 1919, and their efforts in the war contributed to the granting of U.S.
citizenship to all Native Americans in 1924 (Bernstein, 1991; Holm, 1996).[64] 


While ethnic divisions based
on nationality would recede from the levels of hysteria experienced during
World War I, racial antagonisms would come to the fore during the Second World
War. The threat to the country’s safety
evidenced by the attack on Pearl Harbor fomented fears concerning the loyalty
of “enemy” aliens and found expression in the internment of those with Japanese
heritage. Questions concerning the
martial abilities and military divisiveness of African American soldiers would
once again be raised, as would doubts about the faithfulness and reliability of
Japanese American and Native American service members. But while the unprecedented scale of war
mobilization would heighten such concerns, it would also provide powerful
evidence that fears concerning the inclusion and loyalty of racial minorities
were misplaced. Japanese Americans
contributed one of the most effective fighting units of the war, despite
experiencing widespread and virulent racism; Native Americans once again
enlisted in record numbers; and limited experiments with African American
desegregation in the Army and Navy proved successful. The war period would come to reflect divisions within society
more generally, as demographic changes and pressures for greater inclusiveness
vied with anxieties over loyalty, safety and fighting effectiveness. The successful war mobilization both
increased opportunities for racial minorities and laid the groundwork for the
broader struggles for full equality that would follow in the coming

Prior to the war, the
racialized discourse of the military colleges fostered an admiration for German
military and civilian culture, as well as a belief in the scientific
justification for racial hierarchies (Bendersky, 2000, p. 267). As Bendersky (2000) explains, a racialized
worldview legitimated by a scientific imprimatur continued to characterize
officer education through the 1930s, even though such theories had fallen out
of favor among the social science mainstream:

As in WWI, such officers looked askance upon the large
percentage of ethnics, recent immigrants as well as second generation as the
country mobilized its manpower for war. Where did their loyalties lie? Would
they fight? What would be the impact on unit cohesion and effectiveness of the
very presence of these heterogeneous groups? (p. 295)

Once the war
commenced, however, the officers’ culture of racial hegemony would be opposed
by the more liberal ethos of administration officials and the ethnic diversity
of draft inductees. The Roosevelt Administration
worked on multiple fronts to encourage a more inclusive military. The War Department would oppose the racist
ideology of military commanders, instructing officers that “effective command
cannot be based upon racial theories” (cited in Bendersky, 2000, p. 300). It further characterized Nazi theories of
inferior and superior races as “nonsense” (cited in Bendersky, 2000, p.

September 1940, the first peacetime draft in American history was established
in preparation for possible U.S. participation in the war.[65] The original language for the Selective
Service Act would have enabled the president to assign African Americans
throughout the Army and induct them in unrestricted numbers. However, the Secretary of War requested that
Congress amend the language. The
resulting compromise maintained segregated service for African Americans but
prohibited explicit racial discrimination against military volunteers and
draftees. The legislation stated that,
“any person, regardless of race or color, between the ages of 18 and 36, shall
be afforded an opportunity to volunteer for induction in to the land or naval
forces” (cited in Moore, 1999, pp. 131-2; see also Morehouse, 2000; Nalty and
MacGregor, 1981).[66] To meet the requirements of the legislation,
the military was expected to induct African Americans in percentages
proportionate to their numbers in the general population and to provide
opportunities for service in all of the military specialties (Patterson, 1940;
Nalty and MacGregor, 1981). While the
language of the Selective Service Act was specifically written to promote the
service of African Americans, it would affect the treatment of other ethnic
minorities in the military as well.

the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the status of Japanese Americans rapidly
deteriorated. They became an ambiguous
racial category, and all Japanese Americans were classified as enemy aliens
(Moore, 1999). More than 110,000
Japanese Americans, many of whom were second or third-generation Americans,
were ordered to leave the West Coast and placed in internment camps by the War
Relocation Authority.[67] The call for internment occurred even though
there had been no acts of Japanese American sabotage and no evidence of
saboteurs, and two-thirds of the Japanese residents interned were American
citizens (Cashman, 1989; Takaki, 1998; Tateishi, 1984; see also The New York Times, August 16 1942 and
Tamura, 1999). The evacuation resulted
in financial ruin for many of these families; mortgages were foreclosed, they
were forced to sell property at bargain prices, and they lost their savings and
their jobs (Parrillo, 1997; Takaki, 2000; Tamura, 1999).[68] The
Los Angeles Times opined that, “a viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the
egg is hatched – so a Japanese American, born of Japanese parents – grows up to
be a Japanese, not an American” (cited in Takaki, 2000: 145-146). The relocation and internment occurred even
though the Office of Naval Intelligence found that there was no security need
for the mass internment of Japanese Americans. [69] Almost all of the suspected German, Italian
and Japanese residents had already been taken into custody, and “the proposed
mass evacuation of the Japanese for security reasons could not be justified”
(cited in Takakai, 2000, pp. 144-145; see also Tateishi, 1984).[70] FBI Director Hoover argued as well that the
internment could not be defended on security grounds and concluded that the
claim of military necessity was based “primarily upon public and political
pressure rather than factual data” (cited in Takaki, 1993, p. 380).

Prior to the war, the
military had maintained a two-tiered racial classification system in which
Asian service members were classified as Caucasian and served in units
comprised predominately of white Americans (Moore, 1999). In the wake of Pearl Harbor, the
classification of all Japanese Americans as enemy aliens precluded their
service in the military, and the military stopped inducting Japanese Americans
in March of 1942 (see Tamura, 1999; PBS Hawaii, 2003). Because the draft had been instituted before
the onset of hostilities, however, the Draft Act’s anti-discrimination
provision applied to Japanese Americans who had already been drafted. In Hawaii, 1,500 of the 3,000 residents
drafted since 1940 were of Japanese descent; in total, 4,000 Japanese Americans
served in the armed forces during the period of military exclusion (Duus, 1987;
and Tamura, 1999). When Japanese
American citizens were classified as enemy aliens, the Japanese American
Citizens League (JACL) began agitating to allow Japanese Americans who were not
already in the armed forces to volunteer for the war effort. Writing about Japanese Americans in Hawaii,
Duus declares, “The nisei[71] students knew that if they did not make clear that they were willing to fight,
their position would be very difficult after the war” (1987, p. 51; see also
Crost, 1994). In May of 1942, those
Japanese Americans serving in the 298th and 299th Hawaiian National Guard regiments were separated out into the Hawaiian
Provisional Infantry Battalion, renamed the 100th Battalion and
trained for 16 months at Camp McCoy in Wisconsin and Camp Shelby in
Mississippi while the military determined what to do with them (Duus, 1987;
Hawaii Nikkei History Editorial Board, 1998).[72]

battle over the full inclusion of Japanese American citizens into the military
would pit civilian leaders against military officers, and military officers
against each other. In June of 1942,
the Secretary of War sent the director of the National Selective Service System
a memo indicating that, with the exception of intelligence work,[73] “…the War Department will not accept for service with the armed forces
Japanese, or persons of Japanese extraction, regardless of citizenship status
or other factors” (cited in Cashman, 1989, p. 54). One month later, an army staff committee, upon receiving
conflicting advice from military leaders, determined that the loyalty of
Japanese Americans could not be assured and that they were distrusted by
others; the committee therefore opposed the inclusion of Japanese Americans
into the Army (Duus, 1987).[74] However, leaders of the Japanese American
Citizens League continued to press for the inclusion of Japanese American
volunteers, and American Civil Liberties Union chapters began sending protests
to the War Department (Duus, 1987). Roosevelt asked for a review of the policy, and both the head of the
Office of War Information and the Chief of Staff recommended their inclusion
for reasons of overarching support to
the war effort. The head of the Office
of War Information pointed out that Japan had used internment in its propaganda
campaign and was calling the war a racial war caused by racial
discrimination. Both he and the Chief
of Staff concurred that the inclusion of Japanese American troops would help to
offset Japanese propaganda and improve America’s image with its allies (Duus,
1987). As a result of pressures from
the highest levels of the administration, the War Department capitulated. “The recommendations the staff committee had
presented a month before were completely overturned,” and a plan was instituted
to form a new Japanese American regiment with the 100th Battalion at
its core (Duus, 1987, p. 57).

calling for volunteers to the new regiment, Roosevelt stressed a non-racial
vision of the country and of military service. He declared:

No loyal citizen of the
United States should be denied the democratic right to exercise the
responsibilities of citizenship, regardless of his ancestry. The principle on which this country was
founded and by which it has always been governed is that Americanism is a
matter of the mind and heart; Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of
race or ancestry (cited in Duus, 1987, p. 58).

In Hawaii, where residents had not been interned, rates
of volunteers quickly overwhelmed initial estimates. While the military had requested 1,500 volunteers, 10,000
Japanese Americans from Hawaii immediately volunteered. Conversely, rates among internees on the
mainland were lower than anticipated; only 5% of men of draft age in internment
camps volunteered for service. The
large number of Hawaiian volunteers offset the smaller number from the
mainland, and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was established (Duus, 1987; Tamura, 1999; Hawaii
Nikkei History Editorial Board, 1998). In January of 1944, the Secretary of War extended the draft to include
Japanese American citizens, including those in internment camps.[75] Three thousand six hundred Japanese
Americans joined the Army as volunteers or draftees (Tamura, 1999).

In June
of 1943, the 100th Battalion was merged with the newly formed 442nd Regimental Combat Team (Takaki, 2000; Tamura, 1999). The battalion was sent to North Africa and then to Europe where,
during the invasion of Italy, 300 of the 1,400 men were killed and 650 were
wounded. The battalion liberated
Bruyeres and Biffontaine, rescued the “lost battalion” of the 141st Infantry and drove the Germans from Italy (Siemieniec, June 5 2000). They became the most decorated unit of their
size and length of service in U.S. Army history (Tamura, 1999; White, 1990, p.
253; Takaki, 2000’ Tateishi, 1984; Hawaii Nikkei History Editorial Board, 1998;
Siemieniec, June 5 2000). The battalion earned 18,143 individual decorations –
including one Congressional Medal of Honor, 7 Presidential Unit Citations, 560 Silver Stars, 4,000 Bronze stars, and
9,486 Purple Hearts (Siemieniec, June 5 2000).[76] The intelligence work of Japanese Americans
serving under the Military Intelligence Service was also highly praised. General Charles Willoughby, Chief of
Intelligence in the Pacific, “estimated that Japanese-American military
contributions shortened the war by two years” (Takaki, 1993, p. 387). As Tamura (1999) posits, “The heroic efforts
of Nisei soldiers during World War II transformed public sentiment toward
Japanese Americans from hostility to admiration and their status from pariah to
model citizen” (Tamura, 1999, p. 326).[77]

While Japanese Americans
served in segregated units, Chinese-Americans did not: over 12,000
Chinese-Americans served in integrated units during World War II (Yung,
1999). Prior to the war, Chinese
immigrants had faced virulent discrimination on the West Coast. Like Japanese immigrants, every aspect of
their lives was restricted. They were
prevented from working in the professions and trades; assigned segregated
schools; refused service in public places; and prohibited from buying land,
residing in white neighborhoods, and bringing their families into the U.S.
(Yung, 1999). The war thus constituted
a major turning point for Chinese-Americans, “providing them with unprecedented
opportunities to improve their socioeconomic and political status and become
full participants in an all-American war effort” (Yung, 1999, p. 127). In part, this opportunity would stem from
governmental efforts to clearly differentiate between “enemy” aliens and
immigrants from an allied nation. United States officials also sought to counter Japanese propaganda about
anti-Asian racism in the U.S. (Cashman, 1989). Chinese-American community leaders quickly acted to take advantage of
the more favorable political climate, forming the Citizens’ Committee to Repeal
Chinese Exclusion to lobby Congress to overturn the law that forbade the
naturalization of Chinese immigrants. The 1943 act allowed Chinese immigrants to become naturalized citizens,
although it also introduced a restrictive yearly quota of 105 new immigrants
(Cashman, 1989; see also Yung, 1999). Following the war, the War Brides Act enabled the wives and children of
Chinese immigrants to enter the U.S. as non-quota immigrants (Yung, 1999).

in World War I, the loyalty of Native Americans in a time of external threat
would once again be called into question. In 1943, the Saturday Evening Post reported that a Nazi propaganda broadcast had “predicted an Indian uprising in
the United States” should Native Americans be “asked to fight against the Axis”
(cited in Holm, 1996, pp. 103-104). The Post reported that the broadcast
asked, “How could the American Indians think of bearing arms for their
exploiters?” (cited in Holm, 1996, p. 105). Since 1934, the Bureau of Indian Affairs had reversed its previous
policies of forced assimilation. It
allowed tribes to set up governments, established a revolving loan system, and
ended the policy of trying to eradicate tribal cultures (Holm, 1996, p.
109). Nonetheless, formal and informal
discrimination against American Indians persisted even as they joined fighting
units in the war. Native Americans
would serve in integrated units in the military at a time when they experienced
intense housing discrimination, were forced to live in “Indian Ghettos,”
received lower pay in defense industries than white co-workers, and faced
discrimination in public accommodations (Takaki, 2000).

spite of the severity of discrimination and mistreatment, Native American
support for the war was impressive. Native Americans would eventually respond with a one hundred percent
registration rate, “setting the standard for the rest of America” (Franco,
1990, p. 1). The Osages, Poncas, and
Lakotas declared war independently on the Axis. More than twenty-five thousand Native Americans served during
WWII – a higher percentage, per capita, than any other ethnic group (Holm,
1996). Native Americans drew
particularly difficult assignments, frequently serving as scouts on long-range
reconnaissance missions and in commando-type units. They were also heavily represented in infantry and marine
divisions. The War Department continued
its policy of avoiding separate units for Native Americans, with the exception
of some training platoons (White, 1990).[78] The Marine Corps trained Navajo “Code
Talkers” as communications specialists that sent messages pertaining to enemy
troop movements in the Navajo language to evade enemy intelligence (Bernstein,
1991). [79] In response to concerns about language
difficulties and culture shock, the military also allowed the establishment of
several all-Indian training platoons to facilitate adjustment. Once soldiers’ command of English improved,
they joined mixed regiments (Bernstein, 1991). In August of 1942, units at reception centers were authorized to teach
minimal reading and vocabulary needed for military training, and Native American
instructors taught non-English speaking Indians (White, 1990). The high rates of Native American enlistment
would eventually lead the Saturday
Evening Post editor to write, “We would not need the Selective Service if
all volunteered like Indians” (cited in Takaki, 1993, p. 388).

The war would have a
monumental effect on Native American life as tribes mobilized for the war
effort. It has been estimated that by
1945, nearly 150,000 American Indians participated in the industrial,
agricultural, and military aspects of the war, which constitutes more than half
of the total Native American population. More than 40,000 left their home communities to work in war-related
industries (Holm, 1996). For the first
time, many earned decent wages. Average
incomes among Native Americans increased by 250% between 1940 and 1944
(Bernstein, 1999). The resulting
mobility of Native Americans during the war, for both military service and
domestic defense-related work, fostered greater pan-Indian contact and increased
interaction with the dominant culture. Among soldiers, wartime experiences promoted respect and ties of
friendship between Native American and white soldiers:

Because [Indian and white]
soldiers from different worlds shared essentially the same wartime experiences,
they came to accept one another as equals and friends. One Indian prisoner of
war recalled, ‘I would say that all of us who were in the Japanese prison camps
and survived … were closer to each other than even our own brothers could be.
The long days of suffering, starving and seeing our buddies die binds us
together with bonds of steel’. (Bernstein, 1991: 58)

During the
war, Native American soldiers received one Medal of Honor, 30 Distinguished
Flying Crosses, and 70 Air Medals. Native American service members were awarded more than 200 medals and
citations for meritorious performance (Takaki, 2000; Bernstein, 1991).

African Americans, the right to fight in the war would constitute another
battle in the long struggle for full participation in American life. Prior to the war, A. Philip Randolph[80] established the March-On-Washington Movement and threatened a mass march to
protest discrimination against African Americans in the defense industry (see
Sitkoff, 1997). In response, the
president signed Executive Order 8802, making racial discrimination in defense
industries illegal (see Nalty and MacGregor, 1981).[81] Once the war began, African American leaders
viewed “military service as an exchange for first-class citizenship” and
counseled African Americans to set aside grievances in support of the war
(Moore, 1999, p. 133; Sitkoff, 1997). The “Double V” campaign promoted
“Democracy at Home and Democracy Abroad,” arguing that active service in the
war effort would enhance the status of African Americans at home (cited in
Morehouse, 2000, p. 9). President
Roosevelt pressured military leaders to include African Americans in all areas
of military service, but the “separate but equal” compromise contained in the
Selective Service Act created an awkward and unwieldy solution.

officials absolutely resisted calls for equal access to all military
specialties, and the Army General Staff “warned that social experimentation
could undermine the war effort” (Nalty and MacGregor, 1981, p. 103). However, the Secretary of War’s Commission
on Negro Affairs pressured branches to accept black infantry and other combat
units (Nalty and MavGregor, 1981). President Roosevelt was able to force Army Air Forces (AAF) to include
African Americans in all-black air squadrons and non-combat units,[82][83] and he joined with Secretary of the Navy Knox to ask naval officials to prepare
a plan for increased inclusion of African Americans (RAND, 1993).[84] The naval experience in particular
underlined the supremacy of full inclusion over segregated service. By 1942, the Navy began to allow African
Americans to serve in some of the general service positions at ammunition
depots and ports, but they were not allowed to serve at sea. This division led to morale problems, as
African Americans resented being confined to unskilled labor at the docks and
white sailors resented the fact that the African Americans did not have to
serve in combat zones (RAND, 1993).[85] The Navy established the Special Programs
Unit in 1943 to study the problem, and it concluded that African American
sailors should serve aboard twenty-five supply ships to determine the
feasibility of a broader desegregation effort. Evaluations on naval supply ships from 1944 and 1945 under wartime
conditions found high morale, good performance, and little incidence of racial
friction (RAND, 1993, p. 173). The
experiment was so effective that the Navy desegregated all supply ships in
April of 1945 (RAND, 1993).

Army engaged in a similar experiment of desegregation of African American
troops out of military necessity. In
the winter of 1944-1945, infantry troops based in Europe were so short-handed
that Eisenhower reassigned black soldiers out of non-combat units and trained
them as riflemen. [86] Forty-five hundred African Americans
volunteered and twenty-five hundred were accepted for the assignment, serving
as members of black platoons working with white platoons with the First and
Seventh Army until the conclusion of the war with Germany. Field reports indicated that black platoons
performed well and worked closely with whites in combat and garrison
duties. The field reports revealed that
“No incidents of racial violence or non-cooperation between white and black
soldiers occurred in combat situations” (RAND, 1993, p. 174). Although occasional tensions did flare up in
recreational situations, “… other
reports pointed to examples of blacks and whites voluntarily sharing work
assignments and participating on the same sports teams” (RAND, 1993, p. 174). In July of 1945, the Army surveyed 250 white
officers and non-commissioned officers who had served with integrated companies
during the war. Seventy-nine percent of
officers and 60% of NCOs characterized race relations as good or very good in
these units; 62% of officers and 89% of NCOs recommended the continued use of
racially mixed companies. The survey
further indicated that race relations were best in those companies that faced
the heaviest combat. Successful
performance under difficult circumstances improved cohesion in integrated
companies (RAND, 1993).

Korea, Vietnam and Beyond

Cold War era would be marked by efforts to contain communism through military
engagement abroad and by the struggle for racial desegregation and full
equality at home. The U.S. armed forces
during this period operated at the intersection of these two broad endeavors,
foreign and domestic. The military
became the first federal organization to be officially desegregated under
Truman’s executive order in 1948 (White, 1999a). However, initial antagonism and foot-dragging by military
officials extended the actual process of integration, and complete
desegregation would not occur until after the close of the Korean War. Army leaders in particular believed that the
successful integration of combat units at the end of World War II provided
insufficient data to warrant implementing desegregation policies without
safeguards (see RAND, 1993). However,
once again, manpower necessities would provide on-the-ground evidence of the
benefits of integration, as shortages during the Korean War led to the
successful integration of African Americans into previously segregated
units. Evidence from the war finally
proved definitive, and leaders from all branches of the armed forces came to
accept that segregation was costly, inefficient and a waste of the talent and potential of its service

As with civilian society, the
official embrace of desegregation in the military was not sufficient to ensure
equal opportunities for African Americans and other racial minorities in job placement
and career advancement; more work beyond desegregation remained to fulfill the
promise of inclusion at all levels of the military. As the Vietnam War was fought, civilians and military personnel
alike struggled over the unfulfilled promise of full equality. And as in U.S. culture more generally, the
civil rights demands for African Americans would be taken up and extended by
Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans in their own efforts to promote
racial equality in the military. After
the war’s conclusion, the armed forces would make supporting the needs of a
ethnically diverse work force a high priority. The demands of attracting a skilled workforce for a voluntary army has
heightened the importance of effectively addressing the challenges posed by
increasing diversity in the armed forces. Debates have moved beyond questions of inclusion and exclusion to
embrace the goal of parity in retention, promotion and military career
opportunities. The U.S. military has
been widely commended as a workplace leader for its active promotion of diversity and efforts to eradicate
systematic discrimination within its ranks.


In November 1947, A. Philip
Randolph and Grant Reynolds, with the support of other prominent black civil
rights leaders, founded the Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service and
Training. They developed a three-point
plan for desegregating the military: 1) encourage young black men to refuse
military registration; 2) retain lawyers to defend men against charges of draft
evasion; and 3) establish a marketing campaign around the slogan, “Don’t Join a
Jim Crow Army!” (Coleman, 2000, p. 11). The two leaders met with President Truman and testified before the
Senate Armed Services Committee in March of 1948. Supported by the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, they
pressed for Truman to desegregate the military. Truman responded with Executive Order 9981 in 1948, which
mandated “equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed
services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin (cited in
Geselbracht, 2003).[87] While the executive order was aimed at
African Americans, it would have profound effects for other minorities as
well. In issuing the executive order,
the president committed the armed forces to an ethos of ethnic integration at
all levels (see Enloe, 1980).

Even before Truman issued
his order, Navy and Air Force leaders had concluded that segregation imposed
undue administrative burdens and decreased combat efficiency. Post-war evaluations of naval policies
concluded that desegregation promoted smooth-functioning units, based on the
successful integration of supply ships during World War II. In February of 1946, the Chief of the Bureau
of Naval Personnel mandated the eradication of all racial restrictions in job
assignments, housing and mess facilities. However, the Navy continued to maintain a ceiling on the number of
African Americans who could serve (Mershon and Schlossman, 1998). The post-war Air Force contained one
all-black tactical unit, the 332nd Fighter Wing, which faced chronic
shortages of pilots and specialists. It
was viewed as cost-ineffective, and Air Force leaders considered integrating
pilots into other units. A planning
group was formed in 1948 to investigate this option, although many Air Force
officials opposed the desegregation proposal; Truman’s 1948 order broke the
stalemate (RAND, 1993). The Air Force
moved in 1949 to screen all African American service members for re-assignment
to formerly all-white units or discharge, although some African American units
would be retained. The Acting Deputy
Chief of Staff for Personnel reported that the first year of the program
proceeded “rapidly, smoothly and virtually without incident,” and the success
of the program created its own impetus for further integration (cited in
MacGregor, 1981, p. 405). The initial
integration attempt was closely monitored, and “the frequent progress reports
that Air Force headquarters insisted upon revealed no serious incidents” (RAND,
1993, p. 169; MacGregor, 1981, p. 405). The naval desegregation process was complete by 1952.

In contrast to the
leadership support within the Navy when Truman’s order was announced, the Army
lacked an internal coalition that advocated integration. In
response to the executive order, Army staff officers announced to the press
that the policy did not officially preclude segregation. The Army Chief of Staff further reported
that desegregation in the Army would occur only when it happened in American
society more generally (Geselbracht, 2003). In March of 1949, the Secretary of the Army testified before the Fahy
Committee[88] that the
Army “was not an instrument for social evolution,” while the Secretaries of the
Navy and Air Force pledged their support for integration at the same hearings
(cited in Geselbracht, 2003). Over
eight months, the Fahy Committee, which was in charge of overseeing the
desegregation plans, struggled against the Army’s insistence on “protective measures,”
such as quotas and special assignments (cited in Coleman, 2000, p. 13). By March of 1950, the Fahy Committee, the
Department of Defense and the armed forces reached a tentative agreement on
plans for the elimination of the formal legal structure of segregation,
including the removal of all Army quotas on the service of African
Americans. Prior to the removal of
restrictions, black recruits comprised 8.2% of the Army trainees. By July of 1950, 25% of the trainees were
African American. It thus became
effectively impossible to continue segregation (Coleman, 2000; Geselbracht,

With the onset of the Korean War in 1950, the size of the
Army doubled in five months.[90] By June of 1951, the service included 1.6
million military personnel (MacGregor, 1981). In contrast to the segregated service of Japanese Americans during World
War II, Korean Americans served in integrated units during the war; there was
no serious opposition to their inclusion, or to the integrated service of Asian
Americans more generally. For African
Americans, on-the-ground integration would emerge more gradually. The all-black units of the 25th Infantry
Division’s 24th Regiment; the 2nd Infantry Division’s 3rd Battalion,
9th Infantry Regiment; the 3rd Infantry Division’s 15th
Infantry Regiment; and the 64th Tank Battalion would all serve in Korea
(Coleman, 2000).[91] When faced with severe personnel shortages
during the war in 1950 and 1951, several field officers integrated troops and
found that they functioned well. On the
ground, commanders assigned individual black soldiers to white units that had
faced heavy casualty losses. Military
leaders deemed the performance of these individual units “praiseworthy, with no
report of racial friction” (cited in MacGregor, 1981, p. 434).

The existence of segregated and integrated units
operating under nearly identical conditions during the war provided an
opportunity for academic researchers to study the use of black troops in Korea
under circumstances as close as possible to a controlled scientific experiment
(see RAND, 1993). The researchers
determined that integration “had no discernible detrimental effects on task
performance, including combat effectiveness” (RAND, 1993, p. 175). Eighty-nine percent of the officers serving
with integrated units reported levels of teamwork equal to or greater than
white units. Racial integration was
shown to enhance combat effectiveness for African Americans, since they
displayed greater morale and combat behavior in mixed units. Eighty-four percent of the officers stated
that the integrated units were as aggressive or more aggressive than white
units during attacks. Further, the
researchers found no evidence that white soldiers were resistant or unwilling
to taking orders from African American officers (RAND, 1993).

The study also
found that sixty-nine percent of white officers who had served with integrated
units during combat felt that African Americans and whites made equally good
soldiers, while only thirty-four percent of those who had served with all-white
units agreed with that view. Shared
experience in the performance of military tasks enhanced mutual trust and
respect among racial groups that previously had experienced little
interaction. The researchers concluded,
as had the earlier 1945 Army study of integrated infantry companies, that there
was a strong correlation for white soldiers between experience with racial
integration and an acceptance of it (RAND, 1993). By the late 1950s, Army leaders had gradually come to accept, as
had Air Force and Navy leaders before them, that racial integration positively
influenced morale and performance, rather than endangering them. Segregation was costly, wasted human talent,
and fostered destructive social dynamics and racial conflict, because it
prevented members of different races from developing mutual understanding and
trust (RAND 1993).[92]


In 1961, the same year that
Kennedy sent 2,000 military advisors to Vietnam,[93] the Administration began to focus on desegregation beyond the limits of
military bases and on racial discrimination more generally (Anderson, 1999;
United States Army Research, 1988).[94] In an effort to address continued
segregation of off-base housing and recreation facilities, President Kennedy
and Secretary of Defense McNamara forbade civilian organizations that practiced
racial discrimination from using military property. In 1963, the Department of Defense issued its first equal
opportunity directives, which declared that racial discrimination damaged
morale and unit effectiveness. The directives
made base commanders responsible for the off-base discrimination against
African American service members and mandated that commanders apply off-limits
sanctions to civilian organizations that practiced segregation. The Department of Defense also established
civil rights offices to monitor the treatment of minorities and to implement
more equitable treatment (Mershon and Schlossman,
1998; United States Army Research, 1988; Nalty and MacGregor, 1981).[95] These policies signaled a shift in both the
commitment of the military to racial equality and its role in the civil rights

gave the military a limited but significant role in the bitter national
struggle over ending racial discrimination in privately owned public
accommodations – at a time when no federal law or court decision had yet
determined such discrimination illegal, and when many southern states were
strenuously and sometimes violently opposing desegregation. (Mershon and
Schlossman, 1998, p. 295)

However, efforts of the
Administration would be outstripped by the racial unrest and polarization that
washed over American society more generally, as civilians and soldiers alike
came to acknowledge that desegregation did not inevitably lead to full social
equality. The Vietnam era, which was
“rife with domestic factionalism, conflict, and extreme politicization,” was
one of the most turbulent in American history (Holm, 1996, p. 113).[96] The years of 1964 and 1965 were marred by
urban riots. In 1964, midsummer riots
that began in Harlem spread to Brooklyn, Rochester, Chicago and Philadelphia
(Walker, 1999). In 1965, the largest
uprising occurred in the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles, in which 34 people
died and 900 more were injured. The
National Guard had to be called in by local officials, and 3,500 people were
arrested. In 1967, the year in which
Martin Luther King announced his opposition to the Vietnam War, the United
States experienced the worst summer of racial riots in modern U.S. history. More than 40 riots and 100 incidents
occurred nationwide in cities such as Newark, New York, Washington, D.C.,
Atlanta, Cleveland and Chicago. Martin
Luther King’s assassination in 1968 incited a further week of riots in 125
cities (Walker, 1999). The National
Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (1968), which was established to
determine the cause of the civil unrest, concluded that, “White racism is
essentially responsible for this explosive mixture which has been accumulating
in our cities…” (p. 203). They cited
continued widespread discrimination, segregation, and the exodus of white
Americans from cities (The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders,

As the rest of
society was confronted with race riots and protest, so too was the military
subject to racial tension. African
American and white soldiers exhibited increased racial sensitivity, resulting
in voluntary social segregation, as a result of the extreme racial polarization
in American society more generally (RAND, 1993).[97][98] There were clashes at Marine installations
in 1969, uprisings on Navy ships in the early 1970s, and a riot at the Travis
Air Force base in 1971 (RAND, 1993; see also Katzenstein and Reppy, 1999;
Astor, 1998). Admiral Zumwalt, the
Chief of Naval Operations, came to recognize that desegregation had not
precluded “personal slights, affronts, and indignities of a peculiarly
humiliating kind,” and he viewed the lack of minority-oriented personal
products, books and records at naval exchanges and libraries as “symbolic of
the Navy’s pervasive uncaringness for its minority people” (cited in Astor,
1998, p. 450). In Vietnam, the
disproportionate service of minorities became a political issue, particularly
as the war itself came to be viewed in racialized terms (see Holm, 1996). During the war, 23% of combat soldiers were
African American, more than twice their representative numbers in the general
population, and minority men in general were more likely to enter the military,
see duty in Vietnam and directly participate in combat than their white counterparts
(DEOMI, 2002; Holm, 1996).[99]

While serious racial discord in the military occurred,
researchers and veterans emphasize that tensions primarily flared away from
Vietnam combat zones in rear areas, bases and civilian communities (see Astor,
1998; RAND, 1993). As the Commander of
the 101st Airborne in Vietnam explains, “It is often said, ‘there
are no atheists in foxholes.’ Almost
the same can be said about ‘no racists in foxholes’” (cited in Astor, 1998, p.
430). Under conditions of danger, “… war
with its common purpose has a way of bringing people together” (Admiral
Zumwalt, cited in Astor, p. 445). Under
more relaxed conditions, protests occurred over job assignments, perceived
differences in risk, housing conditions and official bias; friction also arose
over ethnic differences in music, hair styles, and displays of the Confederate
flag (see Astor, 1998; RAND, 1993; Mershon and Schlossman, 1998; Nalty and
MacGregor, 1981). One African American
soldier explained:

racial incidents didn’t happen in the field. Just when we went to the back. It wasn’t so much that they were against us. It was just that we felt we were being taken advantage of, ‘cause
it seemed like [sic] more blacks in the field than in the rear (cited in Nalty,
1986, p. 301)

Throughout the difficult period of
extreme racial hostility the U.S., soldiers continued to operate effectively in
integrated units under the heaviest combat conditions (see Astor, 1998; RAND,
1993; Mershon and Schlossman, 1998; Nalty and MacGregor, 1981). The RAND researchers conclude in their
review of race relations in Vietnam:

Even this heightened level of tension,
however, did not interfere greatly with actual combat operations. … For all the
fears expressed at the time about the potential impact of racial tensions on
military performance, task cohesion under conditions of combat does not appear
to have been a serious problem. (pp. 181-2)[100]

In response to divisions, the military acted with a
renewed commitment to racial equality and established programs to foster
improved race relations. In 1970, the
Department of Defense committed itself to equal opportunity and treatment for
all personnel, regardless of race, national origin or sex (United States Army Research
Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, 1988). Under Directive 1322.11 in 1971, the Department of Defense established the
Race Relations Education Board to develop a race relations educational program
and the Defense Race Relations Institute to train instructors. A core curriculum on race relations was
developed in 1971, and the Army mandated that every unit attend 18 hours of
training. Each service member was
required to attend one session of the course each year. “The implementation of
the program constituted the largest effort in terms of numbers of people and
hours of training ever made by an organization to provide race relations
instruction” (United States Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and
Social Sciences, 1988, p. 36).

Further, the Navy enacted 200 programs related to race
relations in a 3-year period. These
programs ranged from the symbolic (such as naming ships after African American
icons) to the substantive (such as requiring every base, station and ship to
appoint a special assistant for minority matters). The Navy also set aside 10% of NROTC units for historically black
colleges (Astor, 1998). In 1973, the
Department of Defense mandated an annual Equal Opportunity report and an
on-going race relations education program in the Department of Defense (United
States Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences,
1988). While the programs could not
change long-held attitudes overnight, they did signal an awareness of racial
problems and a commitment to improvement. “In this respect, the military now stepped out ahead of the civilian
sector” (Astor, 1998, p. 479).

The military continued to press for greater social equity
even as the situation improved (see Astor, 1998). In 1974, the Army Research Institute established an operational
definition of institutional racial discrimination and applied it to the Army
environment. The effects, rather than
the intent, of discrimination would be studied; rather than trying to determine
the cause of differential retention and promotion rates, the military would
take the existence of differential rates as prima facie evidence of
institutional discrimination.[101] This definition allowed researchers to avoid
the subjective intent of military commanders and focus instead on the
undisputable statistics of placement (U.S. Army Research Institute for
Behavioral and Social Sciences, 1988). The statistical information also expanded official awareness of
inequalities for other minorities, as relative rates of Latino, Asian American
and Native American service members began to be tracked as well. The military would scrupulously catalogue
the occupational breakdown, pay grades, promotions, and officer pools by race,
providing bench marks for racial parity among officers and enlisted soldiers
(see U.S. Army Research Institute for Behavioral and Social Sciences, 1988;
DEOMI, June 2000).

In 1979, the
mandate of the Defense Race Relations Institute was expanded to encompass the
improvement of leadership and readiness in a military that was diverse in terms
of gender, race, ethnicity and religion, and its name was changed to the
Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) to reflect its broader
mandate (see DEOMI, 2003). DEOMI
initiated an intense six-week training program that taught minority history,
contributions to the armed forces, and the social, psychological and cultural
factors affecting race relations. It
also taught problem-solving techniques. In the 1980s, the training was expanded to sixteen weeks and information
on cross-cultural differences, sexism and anti-Semitism were added (see DEOMI,
2003; U.S. Army Research Institute for Behavioral and Social Sciences,
1988). The military has embraced an
activist effort to promote equal opportunities for its service members: “The
definitive message is that the military must not be nondiscriminatory; it must
be actively anti-discriminatory to protect the Constitutional rights of all
citizens.” (DEOMI, February 2002, p. 23)[102]

The present U.S. military is a highly racially diverse
institution. African Americans,
Latinos, Asian/Pacific Island and Native American soldiers comprised nearly 40%
of the armed forces in 2002 (Becton et al., 2003; see also McNelis, 1999)[103] While prejudice has not been eradicated, the
armed forces officially maintains zero tolerance policies against overt racism
and racial discrimination (Office of
the Under Secretary of Defense Personnel and Readiness, 2002; DEOMI,
2002). A recent survey on career progression
found no substantial racial differences in respondents’ expressions of satisfaction
with military life, as well as similar career tenures for African American and
white male service members. The study
further found that “Officers who felt they had been discriminated against
generally believed that the act was committed by an individual rather than by
the institution” (Office of the Under Secretary of Defense Personnel and
Readiness, 2002, p. ix; see also DEOMI, 2002). As the report noted, the record of the military in promoting minority
personnel has widely been perceived as often “exceed[ing] the progress of
civilian society.” (Office of the Under Secretary of Defense Personnel and
Readiness, p. v, 2002).

While the proportion of minority enlisted personnel to
officers has remained disproportionate, the U.S. military’s commitment to
improving leadership opportunities for minorities places it at the forefront of
workplace leadership diversity efforts. A number of programs exist throughout the armed forces to identify
minority candidates with officer potential and assist them in obtaining their
commission (Office of the Under Secretary of Defense Personnel and Readiness,
2002). Minority representation among
active duty commissioned officers more than doubled between 1977 and 1997, from
7.0% to 15.3%, and percentages of officers have increased for all
underrepresented groups. Such increases
occurred despite a general contraction of the size of the armed forces from 1987 to 1997 (Office of the Under
Secretary of Defense Personnel and Readiness, 2002; DEOMI, June 2000). Minority midshipmen presently account for
approximately 20% of the entering class at the Naval Academy (Tomblin,
1999). The armed forces has accessed
African American officer candidates in greater proportion than their presence
among the college educated national population; African American males
accounted for 7.2% of the college graduates between 21 and 35 in 1997, while
they comprised 8.5% of military officer accessions (Office of the Under
Secretary of Defense Personnel and Readiness, 2002). The military presently has a higher percentage of African
American generals and admirals than corporate America does of comparable black
executives (White, 1999).


Marginalized groups have repeatedly used political
pressure for the right to prove their loyalty to the nation through military
service, and they have used such service in turn to press for greater social
and political legitimacy. As the
sociologist Morris Janowitz writes, “… participation in the national army has
been an integral aspect of the normative definition of citizenship” (cited in
Horner and Anderson, 1994, p. 250; see also Holm, 1996). While ethnic groups have not always realized
the gains that they sought from service, as old antagonisms reassert themselves
once the demands for troops have died down and the danger has passed, military
service has nonetheless been a key component in successive ethnic struggles for
social equality. Participation in the
military indicates an acceptance into the mainstream of American life, and it
provides a way of signaling that members are willing to bear the
responsibilities that accompany full citizenship. Because the U.S. military both draws its members from a
heterogeneous society and serves in defense of that society, it inevitably
reflects the nation’s diversity and its collective challenges.

As American culture has acclimated to successive waves of
immigration and become more accepting of certain types of diversity, so too
have the personnel challenges of the military been transformed. An ecumenical approach to religious service
in the armed forces is broadly embraced, white foreign nationals have been
widely accepted, and the military has moved beyond the issue of the integration
of racial minorities to active efforts for recruitment and advancement. The
willingness of individuals from marginalized or disparaged ethnic groups to
risk their lives for a society that has not fully embraced them has a poignant
parallel in the effect of that risk on the forging of unit cohesion and
loyalty. Regardless of why they serve,
participants in combat units throughout U.S. history have remarked on the
unifying effects of shared hardship and danger under combat conditions. In speaking of World War II, Bendersky
(2000) notes, “Jewish soldiers frequently attested that ‘there were no
anti-semites at the frontline’,” while a prisoner of war commented that Native
American and white soldiers in camps “were closer to each other than even
[their] own brothers could be.” (Bendersky, 2000, p. 299; and Bernstein, 1991,
p. 58). The external political
pressures of a democratic society and the internal force of increased manpower
needs during war have repeatedly spurred military officials, often against
their own fervent wishes, to create more inclusive units than general social mores
or official military culture deem appropriate. It is just and fitting that they have done so, for history reflects both
the military benefits of inclusion and the strengthening of U.S. civic culture
that results.


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[1] These
proponents argue that the military undertook desegregation for reasons of
manpower and efficiency rather than to singularly promote social equity. In contrast, a removal of the ban on sexual
minorities would occur as a result of political mobilization alone and would
force the military to engage in potentially damaging social
experimentation. Some advocates of the
ban also suggest that differences in sexual orientation are both more
fundamental and more rooted in behavior than those of skin color; enforcing
interaction between heterosexuals and homosexuals would therefore create
greater hostility than occurred during desegregation. Conversely, others suggest that the prejudice experienced
historically by African Americans has exceeded that directed at sexual
minorities, and that drawing a direct analogy between African Americans and
homosexuals both trivializes the long struggle of African Americans and misses
the unique legacy that necessitated Truman’s act of desegregation. For overviews of comparisons between African
American and homosexual military experience, see Rolison and Nakayama (1994)
and RAND (1993).

[2] I shall use
the broad definition of ethnicity employed by Barkan (1999), which includes
racial, religious and nationality groups.

[3] For an early
account of the concentration of federal power during the war, see Kettell
(1866). For a more recent overview, see
Reidy (1999).

[4] Approximately 2.2 million Americans served in the Union Army and between
600,000 and 1.5 million fought for the Confederacy out of a total population
among the states of 31.5 million (World Almanac, 2002).

[5] Despite the
unpopular draft of 1863, volunteers for the Union would comprise 93% of all
service members. Four federal drafts
contributed 46,000 conscripts and 118,000 substitutes out of a total of 2.2
million troops. Nevertheless, the
draft, along with $600 million offered in enlistment bounties, was credited
with spurring higher levels of voluntary enlistment and re-enlistment
(Chambers, 1999; World Almanac, 2002).

[6] For a
discussion of modern war, which is shaped by the twin forces of
industrialization and bureaucratization, see Forster and Nagler (1997). However, Forster and Nagler prefer the term
“total war,” which includes the complete mobilization of national resources,
unrestricted use of force against both the military and civilian populations,
and organization by a large military bureaucracy. See also Hattaway (1997) and Reidy (1999).

[7] The
popularity of the party would quickly wane, and by 1860 it existed only in name
(Gleeson, 2001). However, as Alba
notes, the nativist concerns would remain in the wake of the party’s decline. U.S. ambivalence over immigration policy and
the effects of immigrants on American culture has continued in response to
subsequent waves of immigration (Alba, 1985).

[8] Less than
10% of immigrants in the U.S. at the time of the Civil War resided in the South
(Burton, 1998).

[9] Of these,
approximately 200,000 were German-born. An additional 500,000 sons of German immigrants would also serve in the
Union Army (Bergquist, 1999; see also Kauffman, 1999).

[10] British
hostility toward the Union at the onset of the fighting in particular
contributed to support for the Union among Irish Americans and Irish
immigrants. For newspaper accounts of
efforts to bring Britain into the war on the side of the Confederacy, see The New York Times (January 26 1962); The New York Times (February 2 1862);
and The New York Times (February 9
1862). For an analysis of Union efforts
to neutralize British sympathy for the Confederacy, see Monaghan (1997).

[11] An 1825
regulation had banned the foreign-born from military service, but the
regulation was not enforced due to a lack of volunteers and high immigration
rates. By the 1850s, the foreign-born
comprised a majority of the Army’s enlisted men (White, 1999). For a more in-depth discussion of immigrant
militias, see also Burton (1998) and Samito (1998).

[12] Burton
(1998) defines ethnic regiments as units that contained a large majority of
foreign-born or second-generation members, included members who identified the
regiment as an ethnic regiment, and was regarded by others outside the unit as
an ethnic regiment.

[13] Regiments
comprised of a narrow segment of the population were not uncommon at the
commencement of the war; occupational units such as the Teachers’ Regiment and
the Lead Miners’ regiment competed with neighborhood and congressional district
regiments for recruits. For discussions
of the volunteer militias and the professionalization of the military during
the Civil War, see Forster and Nagler (1997); Hattaway (1997); and Glatthaar

[14] For
examples of newspaper accounts of the activity of ethnic military units, see The New York Times (September 2 1861); The New York Times (August 25 1861); and The New York Times (August 5 1861). For a first-person account of service in an Irish regiment, see
the letters of Colonel Patrick Guiney (Samito, 1998).

[15] For a
first-person account of the service of an Irish soldiers in an integrated unit,
see James Sullivan’s memoirs of the 6th Wisconsin Volunteers
(Beaudot and Herdegen, 1993).

[16] Burton
(1998) is explicitly discussing German regiments in this statement, but he goes
on to make the same point about the other ethnic regiments as well.

[17] Burton
(1998) paraphrases Schurtz’s comments.

[18] During the
war, the Confederacy made no serious or systematic effort to establish a
formally functioning chaplaincy. The
North would be more structured in their efforts ( Slomovitz, 1999).

[19] After their
meeting, President Lincoln wrote to the Rabbi, “I shall try to have a new law
broad enough to cover what is desired by you in [sic] behalf of the Israelites”
(cited in Slomovitz, 1999, p. 18).

[20] President
Lincoln would again come to the aid of Jews later in the war. General Grant endeavored unsuccessfully to
remove all Jews from his Military Department in response to prejudicial rumors
of profiteering; the president overturned the order. See The New York Times (January 5 1863) and The New York Times (January 18 1863).

[21] However, it
is unclear if he served specifically as a rabbi or as a general chaplain. While he had completed rabbinical studies
and served as a congregational rabbi prior to his service with the 54th Regiment, his military papers do not mention his rabbinical ordination and
refer to the Lutheran Church (Slomovitz, 1999).

[22] African
Americans served in the earliest days of the Revolutionary War. When the Continental Congress formed an army
in 1775, calls to limit service to whites began. However, restrictions would once again give way to the reality of
manpower shortages and state quotas for recruitment. After the war, federal law officially prohibited the service of
African Americans in 1792, but restrictions were not always followed, and state
laws varied. Segregated troops would
serve under Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812 (see Smith, 2002; Rolison and
Nakayama, 1994; Nalty, 1986; Astor, 1998). The Marine Corps officially prohibited the inclusion of African
Americans in 1798; that ban would remain in place until 1942 (DEOMI, February

[23] For further
discussion of debates on the service of African Americans, see Smith (2002).

[24] For letters
between Major General Butler and the War Department on the matter, see Butler

[25] At the
onset of the war, approximately four million African Americans were slaves, out
of a total African American population of 4.5 million (Marden, Meyer and Engel, 1992; Glaathaar, 1997; Walker, 1999).

[26] The
Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, issued on September 22, 1862, warned
seceded states that slaves from the Confederacy would be freed on January 1,
1863 unless they voluntarily rejoined the Union. It did not include the issue of African American service in the
armed forces (Hillstrom and Hillstrom, 2000; Smith, 2002). However, the final draft of January 1, 1863
stated, “And I further declare and make known that such persons of suitable
condition will be received into the armed service of the United States to
garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of
all sorts in said service” (Lincoln, January 1, 1863). For further discussion of the Preliminary
Emancipation Proclamation, see Weigley (2000).

[27] The first
African American troops were the First, Second and Third Louisiana Native
Guards, under the command of Major General Butler. These troops were comprised mostly of free blacks and included
African American officers. However, the
War Department decided to put African American soldiers under white officers to
make the service of African Americans more acceptable to whites. By 1864, all of the black officers had been
removed from the Butler regiments (Glatthaar, 1997).

[28] Accurate
figures on African American service are not available – they may have comprised
as much as 25% of the Navy’s sailors (see Nalty and MacGregor, 1981).

[29] For a press
account of the first African American regiment, see The New York Times (February 15 1863). For an account of the ill-treatment of African American crews by
Confederates, see The New York Times (January 5 1863a and January 18 1863). For an in-depth analysis of African American naval service, see Ramold

[30] For an
in-depth analysis of the lives of African American soldiers, see Wilson (2002).

[31] However,
the right to serve would not remain the sole political struggle that African
Americans had to wage in the pursuit of equality during the war. African American combat soldiers continued
to be paid laborers’ wages instead of rates comparable to white soldiers. Black privates were paid $10 each month,
with $3 deducted for clothing, while white privates earned $14 each month, with
$3.50 paid additionally for clothing (Hillstrom and Hillstrom, 2000; Wilson,
2002; and Redkey, 2002). Pay
differentials had serious effects on the morale of African American soldiers,
and soldiers of the 55th Massachusetts, 54th Massachusetts and 1st South Carolina protested the discrepancy by
refusing their (lower) pay. Soldiers
also wrote letters of protest and petitions to politicians and newspapers, and
they took their grievances to their commanding officers; prominent Northerners
also took up the cause of equalizing pay (Wilson, 2002; Redkey, 2002; Hillstrom
and Hillstrom, 2000). In response to
continued outcries, pay equalization was legislated in the Army Appropriation
Act of June of 1864 (Young, 1982).

[32] General Lee
supported the effort to raise black troops and argued that they would make
“efficient soldiers” (cited in Gatthaar, 1997, p. 214; see also excerpts of
Lee’s letter to Honorable Andrew Hunter

in Nalty and MacGregor, 1981).

[33] For a
discussion of efforts to prepare the U.S. military for needs of the war, see
Weigley (1999). For an assessment of
the preparedness of the armed forces at the onset of U.S. involvement, see Grotelueschen (2001).

[34] For
analyses of the causes of U.S. entry into the war, and by Wilson’s efforts to
mediate the peace, see Chambers (1999) and Woodward (1999).

[35] The army
consisted of 3,623,000 soldiers, of which approximately 1,932,000 served with
the American Expeditionary Forces (Historical Division, Department of the Army,
1948; see also Weigley, 1999). The
U.S. armed forces would also have to adapt to revolutionary advances in war
technology, such as magazine-loading rifles, belt-fed machine guns, and
improved artillery. It lacked modern
weaponry and fought primarily with foreign weapons (Chambers, 1999; Weigley,
1999). For first-person assessments of
the new technology, see Evans (2001).

[36] The 9
million immigrants from southern and eastern Europe entered the country between
1873 and 1910 (Enloe, 1980).

[37] For a
detailed break-down of the composition of immigrants to the U.S., see Barkan

[38] Madison Grant’s 1916 work “The Passing of the Great
Race” typified the synthesis of nativist and racist thinking and argued that
intermarriage inevitably led to a degeneration to the “lower type.” Grant’s book influenced popular writers,
scholars and political leaders (Parrillo, 1997).

[39] Those born
in enemy countries who had not been naturalized were classified as “enemy
aliens.” In 1917, seven million
residents out of a total U.S. population in excess of 92 million had been born
within the borders of the Central Powers (Nagler, 1993).

[40] For an example
of the propaganda work of the Committee on Public Information, see Committee on
Public Information (June 15 1917).

[41] The massive
mobilization on the home front would include elements of the pre-war
Progressive movement transferred to a war context (Schaffer, 1999). Schaffer (1999) explains:

From women suffragists to civil
rights leaders, from union officials to corporate executives, American
civilians sought to turn the war to their advantage or to the advantage of the
groups to which they belonged. Their
political leaders and representatives did the same. (p. 816)

This led to what has been termed the “wartime welfare
state,” which included disability benefits for soldiers and occupational health
and safety standards for war workers. With some exceptions, the components of the war welfare state were
dismantled following the conclusion of the war (Schaffer, 1999).

[42] For press
accounts of the lynching of Robert Prager, a victim of anti-German sentiment,
see Ott (1995).

[43] Severe
restrictions were placed on the movement and place of residence of German
nationals during the war; they were required to carry registration cards and to
routinely report to authorities. During
the war 260,000 enemy alien men registered with the government. The alien registration act was extended to
women in April 1918; 220,00 women were subsequently registered as well. After the declaration of war against
Austria-Hungary in December 1917, approximately two million residents born
within the borders of that empire also became enemy aliens. However, a large percentage were already
involved in the war effort through work at munitions factories and other
industrial plants relevant to the war. Industrial leaders lobbied the administration for looser restrictions to
prevent severe labor disruptions, and residents born in Austria-Hungary avoided
the more severe restrictions experienced by German immigrants. They would be prevented only from leaving or
subsequently re-entering the country (Nagler, 1993).

[44] For a
thorough discussion of anti-German sentiment during the war, see Nagler

[45] By the end
of the war, the number of German-language newspapers had shrunk by 75%, and
ethnic institutions had either closed or sustained substantial losses in
membership (Parrillo, 1997).

[46] Sixty-seven
percent of service members who served in World War I were conscripts, compared
to 7% in the Civil War (Ford, 2001; Chambers, 1999). The draft had been hugely unpopular during the Civil War, and
administration officials feared that reintroduction of the draft would be met
with resistance and violence. To avoid
such problems, the Selective Draft Act did not include the paid exemptions or
substitutions that had been so unpopular during the Civil War (Ford,
2001). For a discussion of draft resistance
during the Civil War, see Cashin (2002).

[47] “Boches” is
a French pejorative term for Germans.

[48] There was
immediate popular discontent about the perceived injustice of not drafting
nondeclarant aliens. The onus of proof
of status was also placed upon the immigrant, leading to much confusion in the
draft process. Enemy aliens comprised
almost 10% of the 82nd division at training camp. Enemy aliens who were inadvertently drafted
and who were close to naturalization were allowed to remain with their units if
their commanding officers determined they were loyal (Ford, 2001).

[49] Once the
U.S. declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Slovaks, Croatians, Serbians
and Poles technically became enemy aliens. However, confusion proliferated among local draft boards about how to
handle these groups. Leaders of the
Czech and Slovak communities pressured for a change in status so that they
could fight in the U.S. armed forces. In July of 1918, Congress approved the formation of the “Slavic Legion,”
which was comprised of nonnaturalized immigrants and attached to the U.S.
Army. Once the independent nation of
Czechoslovakia was recognized in September 1918, the U.S. lifted the injunction
against Czech and Slovak soldiers, and the Armistice prevented the full
organization of the Slavak Legion. A
similar Polish Legion was officially connected to the French military, but
volunteers signed joint loyalty statements to a free Poland and to the United
States. Approximately 20,000 soldiers
served (Ford, 2001; see also Enloe, 1980).

[50] While
non-native speakers were included, the FSS preferred to promote those first- or
second-generation soldiers who had grown up in an environment of linguistic
immersion (Ford, 2001). Ford highlights
the counsel provided to those non-native speakers: “To stem tensions, the
military warned native-born officers to avoid prejudice against or stereotyping
officers with accents by reminding them that may of these nonnative men had
been ‘successful in civilian life as members of the professions or in
business’” (2000, p. 78).

[51] In May of
1918, Congress passed legislation that facilitated the naturalization of
immigrant soldiers; the act waived the five-year residency requirement and the
declaration of intention. It also made
it easier for foreign soldiers oversees to become naturalized, as they did not
have to appear in court. Between May
and November of 1918, 155,246 immigrant soldiers became U.S. citizens (Ford,

[52] See also
Cooke (1999) for discussions of Americanization efforts and English-language

[53] For
examples of work conducted by the YMCA during the war, see Shay (2002).

[54] For a
post-war account of the activities of the Salvation Army during the war, see
Booth and Hill (1919).

[55] The army
would include 2,363 chaplains by the end of the war (U.S. Army Chaplain Center
and School, 2003a).

[56] For a
discussion of the National Catholic War Counsel, see Piper (1985). For a first-person account of life as a
Catholic chaplain during the war, see Duffy (1919). For a discussion of the service of Jewish chaplains during the
war, see Slomovitz (1999).

[57] During
World War I, approximately 3.4 million Jews lived in the U.S. (Fredman and
Falk, 1942). Jewish soldiers won 3
Congressional Medals of Honor, 147 Distinguished Service Medals and Crosses,
and 982 other citations and awards during the war (Fredman and Falk,

[58] For a press
account of initial efforts to enable Jewish Chaplains to serve with troops
abroad, see The New York Times (August 13 1917).

[59] African
Americans would serve in disproportionately large numbers during the war, with
367,710 inductees, despite early efforts by the War Department to limit black
service. See Enloe (1980) for a
discussion of efforts to restrict African American enlistment. For discussions about the segregated service
of African Americans during the war, see Harris (2002); Ellis (2001); Britten
(1997); and Enloe (1980). For a
first-person account of segregated service during World War I, see Little (1986).

[60] In 1871, Congress ended official recognition of
Native American tribes as independent, sovereign nations and changed their
status to wards of the federal government. Full assimilation into American civil culture became the goal. The
result was the abolition of tribal organizations, the prohibition of religious
and tribal ceremonies, the forced separation of Native American children from
their families and attendance of boarding schools, and the suppression of
tribal languages in schools (Parrillo, 1997; Marden, Meyer, Engel, 1992).

[61] As the New
York Times would report at the time, “For the most part separate Indian units
are frowned upon, as it is the wish of the Government to merge the aborigines
upon an equal footing with our white soldiers.” (The New York Times, August 4 1918, p. 1) Ironically, one of the reasons for the preference by military
officials for Native American integration in World War I was the problems of
unrest among African American soldiers that were associated with their service
in segregated units. Earlier segregation
of Native American soldiers was also considered to be a failure (see Britten,

[62] All Native
American men were required to register to determine their citizenship status,
but non-citizens were not included in the draft (Britten, 1997).

[63] Company E
of the 142nd Infantry was nonetheless composed entirely of Native
Americans; units like the 358th Infantry, 90th Division;
the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 42 “Rainbow” Division,
particularly the 142nd Infantry Regiment; and the 36th Panther Division included large numbers of Native Americans (Britten, 1997;
Holm, 1996). For a press account of Company E of the 142nd Infantry,
and of enlisted Native Americans more generally, see The New York Times (August 4 1918).

[64] However,
Holm (1996) argues that the granting of citizenship to Native Americans was not
necessarily a reward for loyalty, but was instead an acknowledgement that
Native Americans no longer constituted a threat to the nation.

[65] The
Burke-Wadsworth Selective Service Act established conscription for men between
the ages of 20 and 36. After Pearl
Harbor, the draft was extended to include men aged 37 to 44; service age would
later be further lowered to 18 in 1942. Thirty million men participated in selective service and 15 million men
and women served (Cashman, 1989).

[66] In 1939,
the NAACP demanded that Roosevelt issue an executive order banning all racial
discrimination in the armed forces (Takaki, 2000). White House aide General Edwin Watson stated that desegregation
“was not part of the President’s policy …. And for practical reasons it would
be impossible to put into operation.” (Takaki, 2000) Leaders of the NAACP and other groups would respond strongly to
the decision, arguing that white Americans could not “expect to have a tolerant
world after this was when there is racial prejudice within the ranks of those
who are fighting” and that “our war is not to defend democracy, but to get a
democracy we have never had (cited in Takaki, 2000, p. 24).

[67] The racism
against those of Japanese descent would be exacerbated both by fears of a West
Coast attack and the perception early in the war that Japan was winning the war
(Cashman, 1989). For more details on
the history of anti-Japanese racism on the West Coast, see Tateishi (1984) and
Tamura (1999). Earl Warren, the
attorney-general of California, would write that the “opinion among law
enforcement officers in this state is that there is more potential danger among
the group of Japanese who were born in this country than from the alien
Japanese” (cited in Cashman, 1989, p. 276).

[68] For
first-person accounts of the internment camps, see Tateishi (1984) and Harth

[69] Six days
after Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 establishing the internment camps,
government officials proposed enlisting Japanese Americans in the military
(Tamura, 1999).

[70] The
popularity at the time of this deprivation of liberty was readily apparent to
the president. Even though the
perceived threat had abated by 1944, Roosevelt would not release Japanese
Americans from the internment camps until after he had been re-elected
(Cashman, 1999). The War Department
acknowledged that it could not justify internment as a military necessity by
early 1943; a February 1983 congressional commission later suggested that
Roosevelt’s re-election campaign was likely a strong factor in the continued
running of the camps (Tateishi, 1984).

[71] “Nisei” is
a term used to describe second-generation Japanese Americans. While the parents of the nisei of this
generation were excluded from becoming American citizens due to naturalization
restrictions against non-white immigrants, the nisei were born in the U.S. were
therefore American citizens (see Barkan, 1999 and Tamura, 1999).

[72] The 100th Infantry Battalion was orphaned; it was originally not assigned to a regiment
or division (Duus, 1987).

[73] Several
thousand Japanese American soldiers were assigned to the Military Intelligence
Service as early as June 1942, where they translated documents, interrogated
Japanese prisoners and monitored communications on the Pacific Front (Takaki,
2000; Tamura, 1999; Crost, 1994; Harrington, 1979).

[74] The staff
committee estimated that 36,000 Japanese Americans were eligible for service,
and that 18,000 of those would meet the criteria for induction. Four thousand were already in service (Duus,

[75] For legal
analysis of the Korematsu and Ex parte Endo court cases relating to the issue
of the constitutionality of the
internment, see Dembitz (1945); see also the amicus curiae brief filed by the
Japanese American Citizens League (October 1944).

[76] For
first-person accounts of service in the 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team, see Hawaii Nikkei History Editorial Board (1998); Crost
(1994); and Matsuo (1992).

[77] Tamura
(1999) adds that neither stereotype accurately reflects the diversity and
complexity of the Japanese and Japanese American experience in the United

[78] The 45th Army Infantry Division had the highest percentage of Native American soldiers,
with Native Americans constituting approximately 20% of its troop
strength. The division, whose symbol
was an Indian image, fought in North Africa, Italy and France, and it would
experience 511 days of combat -- some of the heaviest fighting of the war. It suffered greater than 100% casualties –
3,747 died, 4,401 were listed as missing, and 19,403 were wounded. (Takaki,
2000; Bernstein, 1991).

[79] While the Code Talkers were trained
separately, they were not segregated in the field. The communications specialists were assigned to each of the corps’
divisions in the Pacific (Bernstein, 1991). The Army’s use of Native Americans as communications specialists
actually exceeded the Marine’s use of Navajos in the South Pacific (White,

[80] A. Philip
Randolph was the president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and a
civil rights leader during World War II and the 1950s.

[81] As Sitkoff
(1997) notes, African American activism against discrimination in the military
predominately occurred prior to U.S. involvement in the war. Once the U.S. entered World War II, African
American organizations overwhelmingly supported the war effort and refused to
promote protest efforts.

[82] For
examples of press accounts of African American service during the war, see The New York Times (August 16 1942a and b). For a first-person account of the Tuskegee
Airmen, see Dryden (1997). For press
accounts of the African American 92nd Division of the Fifth Army, see The New York Times (August 28 1944b);
for a complete account of the 92nd Division, see Hargrove (1985). For a first-person description of the 761st Tank Battalion, see Wilson (1999).

[83] For
examples of press accounts of racial tension between African Americans and
whites during the war, see The New York
Times (August 3 1942a); The New York
Times (August 8 1943a); The New York
Times (August 16 1943); and The New
York Times (August 28 1944).

[84] At the
beginning of World War II, the only African Americans serving in the Navy did
so in the Steward’s Branch; the Marine Corps had no African American service members
at all (RAND, 1993).

[85] More than
200 racial confrontation occurred in the military between 1942 and 1945;
military officials determined that segregated service was at the source of the
disruptions (Katzenstein and Reppy, 1999; RAND, 1993; see also McCloy, July 3

[86] Two units
would receive citations from General Eisenhower. An anti-aircraft battalion landed under artillery fire. The other, a quartermaster company, also
went ashore under fire and salvaged most of its equipment (The New York Times, August 28 1944)

[87] Truman’s
action was widely unpopular with the general public. In a 1948 Gallup poll, 63% favored maintaining racial segregation
in the military, and only 26% supported integration (RAND, 1993).

[88] The Fahy
Committee was a seven-member civilian committee appointed by the president to
provide guidance and monitoring in the military efforts to implement a policy
of integration. The committee carried
no enforcement power, but instead derived its authority from its legitimacy as
the president’s representative in the preparation of desegregation plans (RAND,

[89] The Army
lifted its quota on African Americans in April of 1950. Within nine months of the commencement of
the Korean War’s, African Americans comprised 18% of first-term enlistments
(MacGregor, 1981, p. 430). By June of
1951, African Americans were being assigned to combat branches in approximately
the same percentage as whites, although they were still being assigned to
segregated units (MacGregor, 1981).

[90] For press
accounts of military manpower needs and
shortages, see The New York Times (August 27 1950a and b); The New York
Times (August 7 1950); and The New
York Times (August 6 1950).

[91] For
first-person accounts of life in segregated units during the Korean War, see Morrow
(1997); Bowers, Hammond and MacGarrigle (1996); and Rishell (1993).

[92] For press
accounts of parallel efforts to desegregate civilian institutions during the
Korean War, see The New York Times (August 3 1952); The New York Times (August 24 1952); The New York Times (August 17 1952); The New York Times (August 27 1950); and The New York Times (August 7 1950).

[93] Unlike
prior wars, no single event or congressional resolution of war signals the
onset of the Vietnam War. The U.S.
incrementally increased its participation in Vietnam between 1950 and 1965,
but Kennedy’s troop commitments in 1961
marks a decisive point in U.S. involvement (Rotter, 1999). The Vietnam War consisted of the longest
combat deployment of American troops in its history (Anderson, 1999).

[94] For a
discussion of the initial phases of the Vietnam War, see Anderson (1999) and
Rotter (1999).

[95] By 1965,
the Department of Defense was served by the Central Civil Rights Office. Monitoring agencies in the other branches
included: the Equal Rights Branch in the Army, the Equal Opportunity Group in
the Air Force, and an ad hoc group in the Navy (Mershon and Schlossman, 1998).

[96] The Vietnam
anti-war movement was the “largest and most effective antiwar movement in
American history,” and opposition to the draft reached levels not seen since
the Civil War (Small, 1999, pp. 763-4). For discussions of protest over the war, see Wells (1999) and Small

[97] For
examples of press accounts of heightened societal antagonisms and struggles for
racial equality, see The New York Times (August 22 1966); The New York Times (August 29 1966); The New York Times (August 4 1968); The New York Times (August 8 1968); The New York Times (August 30 1970); The New York Times (August 10 1970); The New York Times (August 31 1970a); The New York Times (August 24 1970); The New York Times (August 19 1968); and The New York Times (August 18 1968).

[98] Such
tensions would be exacerbated by growing signs of the ineffectiveness of U.S.
involvement in the war. As Anderson
(1999) explains:

The morale and discipline of U.S.
troops declined in 1969 as the futility of the ground war and the beginning of
U.S. withdrawal became more obvious. …
Incidents of insubordination, mutiny, fatal assaults on officers, drug use,
racial tensions, and other serious problems increased (p. 762).

[99] Forty-two
thousand Native Americans served in the Vietnam war, which constituted three
times the number per capita of non-Native American soldiers relative to the
general population. Approximately one
out of four eligible Native Americans served in military forces in Vietnam,
compared to one out of twelve in the general American population (Holm, 1996,
p. 123). And while Latinos comprised
approximately 11% of the Southwest population, they would account for 20% of
the region’s military dead during the Vietnam War. Latinos accounted for 27% of New Mexico’s population and 69% of
its draftees in 1970 (Gonzales, 1999).

[100] The RAND (1993) authors emphasize caution on this matter, however, since this
finding was largely anecdotal and not subject to rigid social scientific

[101] The Army Research Institute employed the concept of the “expected number” for given positions, or
the number proportional to the total number that one would expect if race had no
impact. The formula in determining the
discrimination indicator is the actual number /expected number x 100 – 100
(U.S. Army Research Institute for Behavioral and Social Sciences, 1988).

[102] For the mission, guiding principles and work of the DEOMI, see DEOMI (2003,
2003a, 2003b).

[103] In 2002, 22% of service members were African American, 10% were Latinos, 4%
were Asian-American, and 1% were Native American (Becton et al., 2003).