Desegregating the Armed Forces

World War II ended in 1945 with African-Americans serving in entirely racially segregated units. African-Americans exerted pressure to end this racial segregation. Adding to this pressure was the United States military’s need for additional manpower and the perception on the part of many political leaders in the United States that racial segregation was inconsistent with American’s professed commitment to democracy. Thus, the United States Government began seriously re-evaluating the armed forces’ racial policies. In 1945 a board headed by Lt. General A. C. Gillem recommended the abolition of all Black divisions and in 1949 President Harry Truman issued an executive order calling for an end to discrimination in the United States armed forces. President Truman then appointed an advisory committee on military desegregation headed by Charles Fahy. The Fahy Committee’s report, issued in 1950, helped the process. As a result, by the end of 1953 the United States armed services reported that a high percentage of Black service personnel were in integrated units. Problems such as segregated schools for military dependents and barriers to promotion for Blacks persisted, however, throughout the Eisenhower Administration and beyond.

  1. Documents