In early March, 1945, more than 2,000 African American infantrymen entered the front lines in Germany to fight alongside white soldiers in infantry and armored divisions engaged in the final battles of World War II in Europe. Today black combat troops go unnoticed in an American army that has been integrated since the 1950s.
But in 1945 the appearance of these black volunteers in all-white fighting units was a radical departure from military practices dating back to the birth of the nation. For 162 years, from the end of the Revolution in 1783, until the last three months of World War II, blacks served principally in service units and the few who fought were relegated to segregated combat units. The psychological impact of this exclusion on black men was profound. They were deprived of the fundamental right to be men among men. (more…)