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#MarkRiley blog: The Freedom to Fight

by Mark Riley posted Jan 24 2013 11:57AM

"All officers, without exception, agree that the Negro lacks initiative, displays little or no leadership, and cannot accept responsibility. Some point out that these defects are greater in the Southern Negro. . . .

Due to his susceptibility to ‘Crowd Psychology’ a large mass of negroes, e.g., a division, is very subject to panic. Experience had indicated that the negroes produce better results by segregation and cause less trouble. Grouping of negroes generally in the past has produced demands for equality, both during war and after demobilization. . . .

An opinion held in common by practically all officers is that the negro is a rank coward in the dark. His fear of the unknown and unseen will prevent him from ever operating as an individual scout with success. His lack of veracity causes unsatisfactory reports to be rendered, particularly on patrol duty. . "

The above is taken directly from a US Army War College study on the fitness of Black people to serve in the Armed Forces. It particularly questioned Black fitness to serve in combat.  These conclusions were reached despite the heroic service of the 369th Infantry Regiment, also known as the Harlem Hellfighters, during World War I just a few short years earlier.

These thoughts came to mind as I heard and read pushback to the decision to allow women in the military to serve in combat roles. Over and over, it appears people (men and women) believe there's something in the DNA of men that makes us automatic warriors. Conversely, women, obviously lacking whatever that is, can't do the job as well.

But they can, and they have. The change being made Thursday is one of classification rather than on the ground reality. Defense Secretary Panetta's edict allows women to serve openly in combat, rather than be "attached" to a combat unit as is currently the case. This will allow women to compete for promotions and climb the ladder of military success more easily.

Concerns about female fragility, whether in the field, or if captured, are misplaced. When properly trained, and with the internal discipline necessary of all good soldiers, there's no reason to believe females won't measure up simply because of their sex. 

". . . the eventual use of the Negro will be determined by his performance in combat training and service. . . . If the Negro makes good the way is left open for him to go into combat eventually with all-Negro units."

Below is the source for the material I've cited. As you can tell by this War College Report, times do change, and so do perceptions. I for one am glad to see this barrier against women lifted.

How about you?


SOURCE | "Memorandum for the Chief of Staff regarding Employment of Negro Man Power in War, November 10, 1925," President's Official Files 4245-G: Office of Production Management: Commission on Fair Employment Practices: War Department, 1943; Archives of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library,

Filed Under :
Topics : War_Conflict
Location : Southern Negro
People : Panetta
01/24/2013 11:57AM
The Freedom to Fight
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01/26/2013 2:28PM
Women in Combat
Of course, to me, the answer is, as long as it is strictly voluntary. Also, there is a HUGE difference between women and Black men. Things happen between men and women, of all races that can be called controversial. Somehow or another, whenever you hear about a formerly all men's organization, forced to admit women, you also hear about sexual harrassment. I wouldn't like to see women FORCED into serving on the front lines. And I wuoldn't like to see a draft. And, can you imagine if a woman is taken prisoner by the Taliban? I think it would be horrible. Also, the women should have the same requirements as the men. There should be absolutely no different standards for women. As far as changing the culture of the military, remember there are women who are just as fierce, ready to fight, etc. I don't want to see the culture of the military changed.
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