Clipped From The Emporia Gazette

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 - Colored Officers To Get Chance W. L. White...
Colored Officers To Get Chance W. L. White Writes Story on Training: Negro in Army W. L. White Is the author of an article, 'Negro Officers: 1917 and Now" which appears in the April issue of Survey Graphic, a magazine of social interpretation. Mr. White wrote the article after making a survey of training schools, where he saw a new chapter In army history being written by colored candidates lor commissions. The article follows: In 1918. all Negro officers were trained in a special camp at Des Moines, but today Negro officer- candidates are in training in the army schools at Fort Bennlng. Oa.; Camp Lee, Va.; Fort Sill, Ok!a.; Camp Davis, N. C.; Aberdeen, Md., and Carlisle Barracks, Pa. These have replaced the officers' training camps of the first World war. Let's take a look at a typical platoon in one such school. Here are 24 boys who hope soon to be officers. Three are Negroes. All sleep in rows of cots in the barracks and eat together at pine tables in the big mess hall. The only trace of segregation Is that the Negroes usually sit at an end mess table and, when they have time for a movie, attend a theater reserved for a Negro regiment stationed in the same camp. The 24 boys come from all over the country. Many from the deep South. Officers in charge say there is no difference between the behavior of the Negroes and that of the whites. Stand Above Averate. In ratings, the Negroes stand slightly above the platoon average. The officer in charge of the platoon rates the candidates' fitness as officer material, numbering them from one to twenty-four. In addition, each candidate rates the 23 others. They are warned that they mustn't play favorites. One important qualification of an officer Is to judge men fairly; hence, If a man's report rates his friends high regardless of real merit, this will be held against him. Those In charge say there Is little difference between the way the officer rates the man and the way the men rate each other. In this platoon of 24 the Negroes rate eight, eleventh and thirteenth. In the unit are two white boys of nationally known families; one of them rates above and the other below the Negroes. Platoon mates' comments on the Negro who placed thirteenth' included the following: "Forceful, alert, shows initiative." "Level headed, enthusiastic." "Intelligent, cooperative, instills confidence in men." The platoon leader Judged him: "Courteous, quick-witted, neat, determined, Initiates action speedily, performs duties excellently, would make an excellent officer." If we can judge by this platoon, the old army belief that the Negro was unfit to command seems to be going with the wind. Men Are Well-treated. Negro officer-candidates say that they find it "surprisingly fair here at the school:" that when they arrived the major told them he hoped there would be no troube, but told them not to take anything, and if .nylhing happened, Just come to him. This hasn't been necessary; the white boys were perhaps a little slow in warming up, but they treat the colored boys fine, now. Of course not all Negroes—or all whites—get on well. Danriy. a the Negro officer ha* Mrioui problems. An officer is auppowd to uphold the dignity of bit uniform by eating only in first-elus restaurants, but in the South Negro officers are barred from white restaurants. Every army post has a club for commissioned office», but the Negro is definitely given the Idea that he's not expected there. Hare Military Tradition. American Negroes will fight; nobody could deny that, for their military tradition is older than the Republic. It began with black Peter Salem who distinguished himself at Bunker Hill. The bravery of Negro troops, AS the British bullets whistled over them in the battle of New Orleans, won the praise ot General Andrew Jackson. Several hundred thousand colored men fought in the Civil war, and congress authorized four regular army Negro regiments, such regiments won laurels in Cuba in 1898, and twenty years later in France. All right, they can fight, but can a Negro lead? Until recently our army would have answered, No. It must be remembered that the peace-time strength of the army's four Negro regiments was largely drawn from sections of the South where opportunities for education were poor compared with the schools for white children. White officers' praise for their Negro troops was sometimes rather patronizing. Negro enlisted men, their white officers would point out proudly, didn't know fatigue, never ¡ counted hours or grumbled as white | soldiers do. Some army men have said that maybe you shouldn't give Negroes anything to do which calls for in- lative or analysis; but that if they trust your leadership they will follow it blindly and fearlessly in battle. As holding troops they are unsurpassed. Put them to guarding anything and .they'll stick until the last one is kflled. They follow orders to the letter. Never instruct a Negro guard to shoot unless you mean it, goes the ancient army advice. Maybe that is why a Negro regiment was given the honor oi guarding the White House in 1917. Overcome Old Ideas, Of course, the army used to point out, if you command Negro troops you must give orders in words of one syllable; you must be dignified familiarity would ruin a Negro non-com: you must ignore the intrigues that Negro soldiers love to build up and deal out justice as a father does to his children. Give the Negro soldier his own area and amusements and he will be happy— he wants it that way. But Negro officers, the army once was deeply convinced, wouldn't do; it held that the Negro soldier had no respect for them. Hence, until recently, you could count on the fingers of one hand the number of commissioned Negro officers in the regular army—most of whom were chaplains, since the Negro was presumed to have respect of other Negroes only in spiritual matters. The Negro officer couldn't command respect, the army said, partly because he knew that his Negro troops had no confidence in him; therefore he often lacked confidence in himself. The first World war had proved it, the claim went; the 92nd Division was an all Negro outfit except for officers above he grade of major; some of its colored officers had been regular army sergeants with practical experience, but most were graduates of the Negro Officers School at Des Moines who lacked experience; there was constant friction and the division ;ot itself into some bad messes. Boniht Their Own Medals. White officers recall with a grin that some Negro personnel of the 92nd bought themselves decorations for bravery at French pawnshops, rode honeback from Ohio to Washington in order to diiprove the charge. Huaiiy he ww ordered to Liberia to train the constabulary, and died there of tropical fever after the war. Make* Other Exception!. Since then the army has made three other exceptions to ita old unwritten rule that no Negro can be a satisfactory officer in the regular army. Brigadier-General Benjamin O. Davis now occupies the highest post ever accorded a Negro in the American army, and even U his last promotion came in the heat of the 1940 Presidential campaign when the Negro vote wa« swaying in the balance, no white officer will say that General Davis hadn't earned those stars on merit. Until the present war, the only other Negro officers in the regular army—apart from a few chaplains—were his «on, Captain Benjamin O. Davis, jr., and Lieutenant Colonel 'John E. Oreen, now retired, who rose from the rank* to command. The former, after graduating from West Point in 1936, ranking thirty-fifth in a class of 278, served with the Negro 24th Infantry at Fort Ben- nlng as its only Negro officer. His commanding officer says that young Davis had the complete respect of his fellow officers and of the Negro soldiers under him. Tusketee In Wartime. The peacetime strength of the army included only four Negro regiments—the 24th and the 25th Infantry and the 9th and 10th Cavalry, all of whose officers, with the exception of Captain Davis, were white. But in October, 1940, it was, announced that Negroes would be inducted into service in proportion to their numbers in the population—about 10 per cent. Four additional all-Negro units of the New York National Guard were placed in the 369th, an artillery and anti-aircraft regiment; Chicago Negro guard units became the nucleus of the 184th Field Artillery; the 372nd Infantry was organized with Negro National Guard companies from Ohio, New Jersey, Illinois; and a Negro anti-tank battalion is now being formed. Tht-ie units are led by Negro officers who received their commissions through National Guard or from Reserve Officers Training Camps. At the end of 1941 almost 100,000 Negroes, comprising about twenty regiments, were in uniform and in 1942 the army plans to call up 175,000 more. The Navy and Marine Corps offer the Negro only cooks' and stewards' jobs. How far can he go in the new army? The air corps opened a new door in July 1941, by establishing, at Tuskegee, Ala., a school for Negro combat pilots. To get on the waiting list for this school, candidates must have had I at least two years of college or pass an equivalent examination, must pass a stiff physical examination, and must present several letters oí recommendation. Are Learning to Fly. At Tuskegee, Negro boys are learning to fly—looking down, as they, soar, upon their people clucking skinny mules over the red soil of cotton and peanut farms, and upon the stately white columns of old southern mansions which survived the Civil war. Candidates have the same type of planes, equipment, and barracks as do white trainees at other fields. Their instructors are, if anything, better than the average. If this experiment should fall, nobody can say the Negro didn't have every chance. The students know this, point out with pride that every one of their officers volunteered for this task; it wasn't a question of culls of the air corps being ordered to instruct a Jim Crow flying school The field's officers Include gantli to criticising these Negro j boy* . A sardonic jibe can crush a colored trainee so completely that ha is «tunned. A white boy takes it more casually; he wants to be a pilot, of course, yet if he fails the bottom won't fall out of his world. And it should be remembered, say the instructors, that most Negro candidates have never touched an airplane, whereas many white candidates have flown as passengers or have had jobs around airports. Other Fields Probable. Until lately the school was regarded as an experiment that might be abandoned r.t any time. Recently, however, the War department authorized the establishment of E second squadron at Tuskegee. Later, other air corps train- Ing fields for Negroes may be set up. All over this part of the South, every Negro knows about the school, and whenever a plane comes over, they are sure the pilot is one of 'their boys." So when you look down, you can see the Negroes who have stopped work in the cotton fields; their black faces peer up at your plane. One of "their boys" Is in it, they are thinking, and they proudly wave up to him to cheer him on. It sort of gets you, the young white instructors say. British Sink Four More Axis. Ships London, April 10 (/pi—British submarines, in one case defying a convoy's destroyer escort, have sunk four more Axis ships—two schooners and two supply vessels—in the Mediterranean, the admiralty announced today. One of the schooners, a communi- que said, was laden with sugar and other stores bound for Tripoli, the Axis' chief supply port in Libya. Both supply ships were reported sent down by a submarine commanded by Lt.-Comm. P. 6. Francis, which slipped up on a convoy despite its warship protection, ramming home two torpedoes on one large supply ship and also sinking another, of medium size hi the same attack. Help your husband save—for Defense Bonds and Stamps. America's Coffee "Processed with

Clipped from
  1. The Emporia Gazette,
  2. 10 Apr 1942, Fri,
  3. Page 2

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