It does not matter if you are a democrat or a republican we are all Americans. Go Vote!
It is an honor to recognize the remarkable contributions of Black men and women to America's security by issuing this revised edition of Black Americans in Defense of Our Nation. From the Revolutionary War to the Persian Gulf, Black Americans have forged a rich military heritage built on the strength of their convictions and the wealth of their abilities.
I believe it is vital for all Americans to acknowledge and pay tribute to the patriotism, commitment, and contributions of the Department's Black military and civilian members. Black Americans in Defense of Our Nation documents the extent and diversity of their contributions -- from which we have all benefited -- and fulfills an important objective of our Human Goals Charter.
SIGNIFICANT BLACK AMERICAN "FIRSTS" IN THE MILITARY
LT. HENRY O. FLIPPER, US Army, first black to graduate from West Point - 1877
GEN. COLIN L. POWELL, US Army, first black to become Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
BRIG. GEN. BENJAMIN O. DAVIS, SR., first black General in the Regular Army
READ ADM. SAMUEL L. GRAVELY, first black to reach Admiral status in the US Navy
GOLDEN THIRTEEN, the first blacks commissioned as officers in the US NAVY
HON. CLIFFORD ALEXANDER, JR., first black Secretary of the Army
LT. GEN. FRANK E. PETERSEN, JR., first black to attain the rank of General in the US Marine Corps
BRIG. GEN. HAZEL WINIFRED JOHNSON, first black female to attain the rank of General in the US Army
GEN. DANIEL "CHAPPIE" JAMES, USAF, first black to reach 4-Star status in the military.
GEN. ROSCOE ROBINSON, JR., first black to reach 4-Star status in the US Army
CAPT. ROSCOE BROWN, first American pilot to shoot down a German jet
BRIG. GEN MATTHEW A. ZIMMERMAN, first black Chaplain to attain the rank of General
BRIG. GEN. MARCELITE JORDEN-HARRIS, first black female to attain the rank of General in the US Air Force
MAJ. GEN. J. GARY COOPER, US Marine Corps, first black officer to lead Marines into battle in Vietnam
DR. MAE C. JEMISON, first black female astronaut
American Indians were the last group to be permitted the right to vote in the United States of America. African-Americans got their voting rights in 1870 and women in 1920, but it wasn't until the 1960's that the original people of this land won a voice in what goes on here. (We were officially accepted as US citizens in 1924, by the way, and have a higher percentage of men and women in military service than any other ethnic group in the country. I am myself a Vietnam veteran. So anyone who believes American Indians aren't 'real' Americans, might as well leave this page now. I delete email of this nature without reading it.)
We have had a long wait and a long struggle for representation in this political system. My ancestors didn't have the opportunity to vote against Andrew Jackson, who ordered his troops to evict them from their homes at gunpoint and force-march them to Oklahoma (despite the Supreme Court declaring it unconstitutional). My father and mother didn't even have the opportunity to vote for a governor who wouldn't take their children out of their house against their will and ship them to off to faraway boarding schools to be violently 'civilized.'
Well, we have the opportunity to vote now--but dishearteningly few of us use it. Until we stand up to be counted, American politicians will continue to ignore us and our wishes, and this time, there is nobody to blame but ourselves. Our ancestors fought and suffered and died because they didn't have the option of influencing the United States government. And regardless of whether we may be full-bloods, mixed-bloods, or mostly-white descendants of an Indian great-grandmother, we owe it to them to use this right they have bought with their blood and tears.
Be a warrior. Vote.
Jack C. Montgomery
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, 45th Infantry Division. Place and Date: Near Padiglione, Italy, 22 February 1944.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 22 February 1944, near Padiglione, Italy. Two hours before daybreak a strong force of enemy infantry established themselves in 3 echelons at 50 yards, 100 yards, and 300 yards respectively, in front of the rifle platoons commanded by 1st Lt. Montgomery. The closest position, consisting of 4 machineguns and 1 mortar, threatened the immediate security of the platoon position. Seizing an M1 rifle and several hand grenades, 1st Lt. Montgomery crawled up a ditch to within hand grenade range of the enemy. Then climbing boldly onto a little mound, he fired his rifle and threw his grenades so accurately that he killed 8 of the enemy and captured the remaining 4. Returning to his platoon, he called for artillery fire on a house, in and around which he suspected that the majority of the enemy had entrenched themselves. Arming himself with a carbine, he proceeded along the shallow ditch, as withering fire from the riflemen and machine gunners in the second position was concentrated on him. He attacked this position with such fury that 7 of the enemy surrendered to him, and both machineguns were silenced. Three German dead were found in the vicinity later that morning. 1st Lt. Montgomery continued boldly toward the house, 300 yards from his platoon position. It was now daylight, and the enemy observation was excellent across the flat open terrain which led to 1st Lt. Montgomery’s objective. When the artillery barrage had lifted, 1st Lt. Montgomery ran fearlessly toward the strongly defended position. As the enemy started streaming out of the house, 1st Lt. Montgomery unafraid of treacherous snipers, expose himself daringly to assemble the surrendering enemy and send them to the rear. His fearless, aggressive, and intrepid actions that morning, accounted for a total of 11 enemy dead, 32 prisoners, and an unknown number of wounded. That night, while aiding an adjacent unit to repulse a counterattack, he was struck by mortar fragments, and seriously wounded. The selflessness and courage exhibited by 1st Lt. Montgomery in alone attacking 3 strong enemy positions inspired his men to a degree beyond estimation.
Van T. Barfoot
Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Carano, Italy, 23 May 1944.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 23 May 1944, near Carano, Italy. With his platoon heavily engaged during an assault against forces well entrenched on commanding ground, 2d Lt. Barfoot (then Tech. Sgt.) moved off alone upon the enemy left flank. He crawled to the proximity of 1 machinegun nest and made a direct hit on it with a hand grenade, killing 2 and wounding 3 Germans. He continued along the German defense line to another machinegun emplacement, and with his tommy gun killed 2 and captured 3 soldiers. Members of another enemy machinegun crew then abandoned their position and gave themselves up to Sgt. Barfoot. Leaving the prisoners for his support squad to pick up, he proceeded to mop up positions in the immediate area, capturing more prisoners and bringing his total count to 17. Later that day, after he had reorganized his men and consolidated the newly captured ground, the enemy launched a fierce armored counterattack directly at his platoon positions. Securing a bazooka, Sgt. Barfoot took up an exposed position directly in front of 3 advancing Mark VI tanks. From a distance of 75 yards his first shot destroyed the track of the leading tank, effectively disabling it, while the other 2 changed direction toward the flank. As the crew of the disabled tank dismounted, Sgt. Barfoot killed 3 of them with his tommy gun. He continued onward into enemy terrain and destroyed a recently abandoned German fieldpiece with a demolition charge placed in the breech. While returning to his platoon position, Sgt. Barfoot, though greatly fatigued by his Herculean efforts, assisted 2 of his seriously wounded men 1,700 yards to a position of safety. Sgt. Barfoot’s extraordinary heroism, demonstration of magnificent valor, and aggressive determination in the face of pointblank fire are a perpetual inspiration to his fellow soldiers.
Rank and Organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, 180th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division. Place and Date: Oliveto, Italy, 22 September 1943.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action on 22 September 1943, at Oliveto, Italy. Although 2d Lt. Childers previously had just suffered a fractured instep he, with 8 enlisted men, advanced up a hill toward enemy machinegun nests. The group advanced to a rock wall overlooking a cornfield and 2d Lt. Childers ordered a base of fire laid across the filed so that he could advance. When he was fired upon by 2 enemy snipers from a nearby house he killed both of them. He moved behind the machine gun nests and killed all occupants of the nearer one. He continued toward the second one and threw rocks into it. When the 2 occupants of the nest raised up, he shot 1. The other was killed by 1 of the 8 enlisted men, 2d Lt. Childers continued his advance toward a house farther up the hill, and single handed, captured an enemy mortar observer. The exceptional leadership, initiative, calmness under fire, and conspicuous gallantry displayed by 2d Lt. Childers were an inspiration to his men.
Almond E. Fisher
Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Company E, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Grammont, France, 12-13 September 1944.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on the night of 12-13 September 1944, near Grammont, France. In the darkness of early morning, 2nd Lt. Fisher was leading a platoon of Company E, 157th Infantry, in a single column to the attack of a strongly defended hill position. At 2:30 A.M., the forward elements were brought under enemy machinegun fire from a distance not more than 20 yards. Working his way alone to within 20 feet of the gun emplacement, he opened fire with his carbine and killed the entire gun crew. A few minutes after the advance was resumed, heavy machinegun fire was encountered from the left flank. Again crawling forward alone under withering fire, he blasted the gun and crew from their positions with hand grenades. After a halt to replenish ammunition, the advance was again resumed and continued for 1 hour before being stopped by intense machinegun and rifle fire. Through the courageous and skillful leadership of 2nd Lt. Fisher, the pocket of determined enemy resistance was rapidly obliterated. Spotting an emplaced machine pistol a short time later, with 1 of his men he moved forward and destroyed the position. As the advance continued the fire fight became more intense. When a bypassed German climbed from his foxhole and attempted to tear an M1 rifle from the hand of 1 of his men, 2d Lt. Fisher whirled and killed the enemy with a burst from his carbine. About 30 minutes later the platoon came under the heavy fire of machineguns from across an open filed. 2d Lt. Fisher, disregarding the terrific fire, moved across the field with no cover or concealment to within range, knocked the gun from the position and killed or wounded the crew. Still under heavy fire he returned to his platoon and continued the advance. Once again heavy fire was encountered from a machinegun directly in front. Calling for hand grenades, he found only 2 remaining in the entire platoon. Pulling the pins and carrying a grenade in each hand, he crawled toward the gun emplacement, moving across areas devoid of cover and under intense fire to within 15 yards when he threw the grenades, demolished the gun and killed the gun crew. With ammunition low and daybreak near, he ordered his men to dig in and hold the ground already won. Under constant fire from the front and from both flanks, he moved among them directing the preparations for the defense. Shortly after the ammunition supply was replenished, the Germans launched a last determined effort against the depleted group. Attacked by superior numbers from the front, right, and left flank, and even from the rear, the platoon, in bitter hand-to-hand engagements drove back the enemy at every point. Wounded in both feet by close-range machine pistol fire early in the battle, 2d Lt. Fisher refused medical attention. Unable to walk, he crawled from man to man encouraging them and checking each position. Only after the fighting had subsided did 2d Lt. Fisher crawl 300 yards to the aid station from which he was evacuated. His extraordinary heroism, magnificent valor, and aggressive determination in the face of pointblank enemy fire is an inspiration to his organization and reflects the finest traditions of the U.S. Armed Forces.
William J. Johnston
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company G, 180th Infantry, 45th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Padiglione, Italy, 17-19 February 1944.
Citation:For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. On 17 February 1944, near Padigilone, Italy, he observed and fired upon an attacking force of approximately 80 Germans, causing at least 25 casualties and forcing withdrawal of the remainder. All that day he manned his gun without relief, subject to mortar, artillery, and sniper fire. Two Germans individually worked so close to his position that his machinegun was ineffective, whereupon he killed 1 with his pistol, the second with a rifle taken from another solider. When a rifleman protecting his gun position was killed by a sniper, he immediately moved the body and relocated the machinegun in that spot in order to obtain a better field of fire. He volunteered to cover the platoon’s withdrawal and was the last man to leave that night. In his new position he maintained an all night vigil, the next day causing 7 German casualties. On the afternoon of the 18th, the organization on the left flank having been forced to withdraw, he again covered the withdrawal of his own organization. Shortly thereafter, he was seriously wounded over the heart, and a passing soldier saw him trying to crawl up the embankment. The soldier aided him to resume his position behind the machine gun which was soon heard in action for about 10 minutes. Though reported killed, PFC Johnston was seen returning to the American lines on the morning of 19 February slowly and painfully working his way back from his overrun position through enemy lines. He gave valuable information of new enemy dispositions. His heroic determination to destroy the enemy and disregard of his own safety aided immeasurably in halting a strong enemy attack, caused in enormous amount of enemy casualties, and so inspired his fellow soldiers that they fought for and held a vitally important position against greatly superior forces.
James D. Slaton
Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Army, 157 Infantry, 45th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Oliveto, Italy.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy in the vicinity of Oliveto, Italy, on 23 September 1943. Cpl. Slaton was lead scout of an infantry squad which had been committed to a flank to knock out enemy resistance which had succeeded in pinning 2 attacking platoons to the ground. Working ahead of his squad, Cpl Slaton crept upon an enemy machinegun nest and, assaulting it with his bayonet, succeeded in killing the gunner. When his bayonet stuck, he detached it from the rifle and killed another gunner with rifle fire. At that time he was fired upon by a machine gun to his immediate left. Cpl. Slaton then moved over open ground under constant fire to within throwing distance, and on his second try scored a direct his on the second enemy machinegun nest, killing 2 enemy gunners. At that time a third machinegun fired on him100 yards to his front, and Cpl. Slaton killed both of these enemy gunners with rifle fire. As a result of Cpl. Slaton’s heroic action in immobilizing 3 enemy machinegun nests with bayonet, grenade, and rifle fire, the 2 rifle platoons which were receiving heavy casualties from enemy fire were enabled to withdraw to covered positions and again take the initiative. Cpl. Slaton withdrew under mortar fire on order of his platoon leader at dusk that evening. The heroic action of Cpl. Slaton were far above the call of duty and are worthy of emulation.
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army, Company F., 180th Infantry, 45th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Nieder-Wurzbach, Germany, 18 March 1945.
Citation: Capt. Treadwell (then 1st Lt.), commanding officer of Company F, near Nieder-Wurzbach, Germany, in the Siegfried line, single-handedly captured 6 pillboxes and 18 prisoners. Murderous enemy automatic and rifle fire with intermittent artillery bombardments had pinned down his company for hours at the base of a hill defended by concrete fortifications and interlocking trenches. Eight men sent to attack a single point had all become casualties on the bear slope when Capt Treadwell, armed with a machinegun and hand grenades, went forward alone to clear the way for his stalled company. Over the terrain devoid of cover and swept by bullets, he fearlessly advanced, firing at the aperture of the nearest pillbox, and when within range, hurling grenades at it. He reached the pillbox, thrust the muzzle of his gun through the port, and drove 4 Germans out with their hands in the air. A fifth was found dead inside. Waving these prisoners back to the American line, he continued under terrible, concentrated fire to the next pillbox, and took it in the same manner. In this fort he captured the commander of the hill defenses, whom he sent to the rear with the other prisoners. Never slacking his attack, he then ran across the crest of the hill to a third pillbox, traversing this distance in full view of hostile machine gunners and snipers. He was again successful in taking the enemy position. The Germans quickly fell prey to his further rushes on 3 more pillboxes in the confusion and havoc caused by his whirlwind assaults and capture of their commander. Inspired by electrifying performance of their leader, the men of Company F stormed after him and overwhelmed resistance on the entire hill, driving a wedge into the Siegfried line and making it possible for their battalion to take its objective. By his courageous willingness to face nearly impossible odds and by his overwhelming one-man offensive, Capt. Treadwell reduced a heavily fortified, seemingly impregnable enemy sector.
Edward G. Wilkin
Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Army, Company C 157th Infantry, 45th Infantry Division, Place and date: Siegfried Line in German, 18 March 1945.
Citation: He spearheaded his unit’s assault of the Siegfried line in Germany. Heavy fire from enemy riflemen and camouflaged pillboxes had pinned down his comrades when he moved forward on his own initiative to reconnoiter a route of advance. He cleared the way into an area studded with pillboxes, where he repeatedly stood up and walked into vicious enemy fire, storming 1 fortification after another with automatic rifle fire and grenades, killing enemy troops, taking prisoners as the enemy defense became confused, and encouraging his comrades by his heroic example. When halted by heavy barbed wire entanglements, he secured bangalore torpedoes and blasted a path toward still more pillboxes, all the time braving bursting grenades and mortar shells and direct rifle and automatic-weapons fire. He engaged in fierce fire fight, standing in the open while his adversaries fought from the protection of concrete emplacements, and on 1 occasion pursued enemy soldiers across an open field and through interlocking trenches, disregarding the crossfire from 2 pillboxes until he had penetrated the formidable line 200 yards in advance of any American element. That night, although terribly fatigued, he refused to rest and insisted on distributing rations and supplies to his comrades. Hearing that a nearby company was suffering heavy casualties, he secured permission to guide litter bearers and assist them in evacuating the wounded. All that night he remained in the battle area on his mercy missions, and for the following 2 days he continued to remove casualties, venturing into enemy-held territory, scorning cover and braving devastating mortar and artillery bombardments. In 3 days he neutralized and captured 6 pillboxes single-handedly, killed at least 9 Germans, wounded 13 took 13 prisoners, aided in the capture of 14 others, and saved many American lives by his fearless performance as a litter bearer. Through his superb fighting skill, dauntless courage, and gallant, inspiring actions, Cpl Wilkin contributed in large measure to his company’s success in cracking the Siegfried Line. One month later he was killed in action while fighting deep in Germany.
31 October 2010
By David Adams
Military service provides opportunity for growing numbers of Latino soldiers—and a safe haven from discrimination. But top rank recognition is still lacking
Sandra Gonzalez was in her senior year of high school when her father delivered the news.
“He told me, ‘Honey, I love you, and I’d love you to have a college education, but I can’t afford it.’” The oldest of three children of struggling Mexican immigrant parents, Gonzalez did what many young Hispanics do and went down to her local military recruiting office to sign up.
“My dad had always wanted to be a soldier, and I took it to heart,” she says. It was an opportunity her father never had after entering the country illegally at age 17.
Gonzalez is a United States Marine Chief Warrant Officer at Camp Pendleton outside San Diego, and the military is her life. Her husband, 1st Sergeant Edward Gonzalez, 36, is also one of “the few and the proud,” currently on his fifth deployment in Afghanistan with an elite Special Forces battalion of Marines tasked with some of the most dangerous combat operations. Like many of the thousands of Hispanics who serve in the U.S. military, Gonzalez says it has given her the kind of opportunities in life she could not have found elsewhere. And, as an ugly immigration debate swirls, Gonzalez says life in military uniform provides a safe haven from the kind of racial discrimination Hispanics often face in daily civilian life.
“There is no tolerance [in the military] for that kind of behavior,” she says. “I may be the small little Mexican, but if you have heart and want to see your way through it, you can do it. In the military, hard work does pay off. That’s what they teach you.”
Gonzalez says she still encounters discrimination in civilian life. She was at Costco in August ordering some pictures and waiting patiently for her turn when the cashier, a Caucasian male in his early 20s, chose to ignore her in favor of another light-skinned male customer.
“I was trying to make eye contact with him (the cashier) for several minutes and then up comes up this other person right behind me and he is quick to assist him,” she recalls. “What am I? A ghost?”
Gonzalez attributes the success of racial integration in the military to basic training. “In my recruitment class we had people from all walks of life,” she says, from those born overseas to L.A. gang members and the homeless. “Ultimately they are there to work as a team. Race is not an issue, and everyone is held to the same standards,” she says. Training wasn’t easy for Gonzalez, weighing only 130 pounds and standing 5 feet 2 inches tall. Like everyone else, she had to complete a 15-mile hike carrying an 85-pound pack.
Although the number of Latinos serving in today’s armed forces falls slightly below the Hispanic share of the population, the U.S. military is widely recognized as among one of the best equal-opportunity employers.
“We lead the way on giving people opportunities. All they are concerned about is can you do your job,” says Lawrence Korb, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration who is now a senior fellow at the Council for American Progress, a Washington, D.C. think tank.
The military worked hard to end racial segregation in the ranks after the end of World War II, Korb says. “They did such a good job with African Americans that not only did they come in, they stayed in longer because the opportunity for advancement was greater than in other parts of society.” Thanks to those gains in opportunity, military recruitment of Latinos has seen a steady rise in recent years. “The military loves them. These guys are great warriors,” says Korb.
Military service continues to offer benefits to low income families who cannot afford college. Under the “G.I. Bill,” a three-year enlistment earns the right to a free state university education. The ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) also offers college scholarships for those seeking military commissions.
Even so, Hispanic recruitment to the military lags behind that of white non-Hispanics and African Americans. Hispanics make up 17 percent of the general population ages 18-40, but only 11.4 percent of the Army, according to a report by the Rand National Research Institute. (Whites make up 62.3 percent and blacks 20 percent.) The report attributed this to poor Hispanic high school graduation rates, as well as low scores in the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) and problems meeting weight standards. Only 36 percent of Hispanic high school graduates score in the preferred range in the AFQT, compared with 68 percent of whites, it found.
Bravery has never been an issue. Since World War II Hispanics have won numerous Medals of Honor, the top military award for valor, although none since 1970. During the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq the military has come under fire for giving out few medals. In fact, only six Medals of Honor have been awarded since 2001.
Hispanic groups complained bitterly after Mexican-born Sergeant Rafael Peralta, 25, was nominated in 2005 by the Marine Corps for the Medal of Honor, only to be turned down by the Pentagon. Family and friends questioned whether his ethnicity played a role. Peralta and his family moved to San Diego from Tijuana when he was a teenager. He joined the Marines the day after he got his green card and earned his citizenship while in uniform.
Peralta died November 15, 2004 in Iraq during the fierce battle for Fallujah after his unit entered a house and he was hit by gunfire. As he was lying on the ground, survivors from his unit say a grenade landed near him. In what his family and friends say was a heroic act, Peralta rolled on top of the grenade and absorbed the blast, saving others from fatal injury. President Bush praised Peralta’s valor in a speech, but after an investigation, a special panel appointed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates concluded that it was not clear if Peralta’s action was intentional. Medical evidence indicated he had suffered a fatal shot to the head prior to the hand-grenade being thrown.
Lt. Col. Thomas Richards, 63, director of membership of the Legion of Valor, a veteran group representing military medal awardees, thinks Peralta deserved the higher medal. But he doesn’t buy into allegations of anti-Hispanic bias. The convening of a special panel went “above and beyond” the normal handling of Medal of Honor cases, Richards says. “Overall, the number [of Hispanics] is very high. They are certainly not being discriminated against over time,” he adds.
The recently released documentary movie, Restrepo, pays tribute to the Hispanic valor of a South Florida soldier, 20-year-old army medic Juan Restrepo, who died in Afghanistan July 22, 2007, when his platoon outpost in a dangerous Taliban-infested valley came under attack.
Restrepo was much admired by his fellow soldiers, says prize-winning author and director Sebastian Junger. “He was brave under fire and absolutely committed to the men,” he wrote. “If you got sick he’d take your guard shift… If you were depressed he’d come to your hooch and play guitar. He took care of his men in every possible way.”
...In 2009 Hispanics made up 15.8% of new military enlistments, including 22.5% in the Navy, 16.5% in the Marine Corps and 15.9% in the Air Force. A 2007 poll of American youths ages 18-24 by the Pentagon found that 12.6% of Hispanic respondents stated they would likely join the military, compared to 10.1% of African American respondents and 6.6% of white non-Hispanic respondents.