The period between the world wars marked the nadir of the Navy's relations with black America. Although the exclusion of Negroes that began with a clause introduced in enlistment regulations in 1922 lasted but a decade, black participation in the Navy remained severely restricted during the rest of the interwar period. In June 1940 the Navy had 4,007 black personnel, 2.3 percent of its nearly 170,000-man total.1 All were enlisted men, and with the exception of six regular rated seamen, lone survivors of the exclusion clause, all were steward's mates, labeled by the black press "seagoing bellhops."
The Steward's Branch, composed entirely of enlisted Negroes and oriental aliens, mostly Filipinos, was organized outside the Navy's general service. Its members carried ratings up to chief petty officer, but wore distinctive uniforms and insignia. and even chief stewards never exercised authority over men rated in the general naval service. Stewards manned the officers' mess and maintained the officers' billets on board ship, and, in some instances, took care of the quarters of high officials in the shore establishment. Some were also engaged in mess management, menu planning, and the purchase of supplies. Despite the fact that their enlistment contracts restricted their training and duties, stewards, like everyone else aboard ship, were assigned battle stations, including positions at the guns and on the bridge. One of these stewards, Dorie (Doris) Miller, became a hero on the first day of the war when he manned a machine gun on the burning deck of the USS Arizona and destroyed two enemy planes.2
By the end of December 1941 the number of Negroes in the Navy had increased by slightly more than a thousand men to 5,026, or 2.4 percent of the whole, but they continued to be excluded from all positions except that of steward.3 It was not surprising that civil rights organizations and their supporters in Congress demanded a change in policy.
At first the new secretary, Frank Knox, and the Navy's professional leaders resisted demands for a change. Together with Secretary of War Stimson, Knox had joined the cabinet in July 1940 when Roosevelt was attempting to defuse a foreign policy debate that threatened to explode during the presidential campaign.4 For a major cabinet officer, Knox's powers were severely circumscribed. He had little knowledge of naval affairs, and the President, himself once an Assistant Secretary of the Navy, often went over his head to deal directly with the naval bureaus on shipbuilding programs and manpower problems as well as the disposition of the fleet. But Knox was a personable man and a forceful speaker, and he was particularly useful to the President in congressional liaison and public relations. Roosevelt preferred to work through the secretary in dealing with the delicate question of black participation in the Navy. Knox himself was fortunate in his immediate official family. James V. Forrestal became under secretary in August 1940; during the next year Ralph A. Bard, a Chicago investment banker, joined the department as assistant secretary, and Adlai E. Stevenson became special assistant.
Able as these men were, Frank Knox, like most new secretaries unfamiliar with the operations and traditions of the vast department, was from the beginning heavily dependent on his naval advisers. These were the chiefs of the powerful bureaus and the prominent senior admirals of the General Board, the Navy's highest advisory body.5 Generally these men were ardent military traditionalists, and, despite the progressive attitude of the secretary's highest civilian advisers, changes in the racial policy of the Navy were to be glacially slow.
The Bureau of Navigation, which was charged with primary responsibility for all personnel matters, was opposed to change in the racial composition of the Navy. Less than two weeks after Knox's appointment, it prepared for his signature a letter to Lieutenant Governor Charles Poletti of New York defending the Navy's policy. The bureau reasoned that since segregation was impractical, exclusion was necessary. Experience had proved, the bureau claimed, that when given supervisory responsibility the Negro was unable to maintain discipline among white subordinates with the result that teamwork, harmony, and ship's efficiency suffered. The Negro, therefore, had to be segregated from the white sailor. All-black units were impossible, the bureau argued, because the service's training and distribution system demanded that a man in any particular rating be available for any duty required of that rating in any ship or activity in the Navy. The Navy had experimented with segregated crews after World War I, manning one ship with an all-Filipino crew and another with an all-Samoan crew, but the bureau was not satisfied with the result and reasoned that ships with black crews would be no more satisfactory.6
DORIE MILLER [Photograph not included.]
During the next weeks Secretary Knox warmed to the subject, speaking of the difficulty faced by the Navy when men had to live aboard ship together. He was convinced that "it is no kindness to Negroes to thrust them upon men of the white race," and he suggested that the Negro might make his major contribution to the armed forces in the Army's black regimental organizations.7 Confronted with widespread criticism of this policy, however, Knox asked the Navy's General Board in September 1940 to give him "some reasons why colored persons should not be enlisted for general service. " 8 He accepted the board's reasons for continued exclusion of Negroes-generally an extension of the ones advanced in the Poletti letter-and during the next eighteen months these reasons, endorsed by the Chief of Naval Operations and the Bureau of Navigation, were used as the department's standard answer to questions on race. 9 They were used at the White House conference on 18 June 1941 when, in the presence of black leaders, Knox told President Roosevelt that the Navy could do nothing about taking Negroes into the general service "because men live in such intimacy aboard ship that we simply can't enlist Negroes above the rank of messman. " 10
ADMIRAL KING AND SECRETARY KNOX on the USS Augusta. [Photograph not included.]
The White House conference revealed an interesting contrast between Roosevelt and Knox. Whatever his personal feelings, Roosevelt agreed with Knox that integration of the Navy was an impractical step in wartime, but where Knox saw exclusion from general service as the alternative to integration Roosevelt sought a compromise. He suggested that the Navy "make a beginning" by putting some " good Negro bands" aboard battleships. Under such intimate living conditions white and black would learn to know and respect each other, and "then we can move on from there."11 In effect the President was trying to lead the Navy toward a policy similar to that announced by the Army in 1940. While his suggestion about musicians was ignored by Secretary Knox, the search for a middle way between exclusion and integration had begun.
The general public knew nothing of this search, and in the heightened atmosphere of early war days, charged with unending propaganda about the four freedoms and the forces of democracy against fascism, the administration's racial attitudes were being questioned daily by civil rights spokesmen and by some Democratic politicians.12 As protest against the Navy's racial policy mounted, Secretary Knox turned once again to his staff for reassurance. In July 1941 he appointed a committee consisting of Navy and Marine Corps personnel officers and including Addison Walker, a special assistant to Assistant Secretary Bard, to conduct a general investigation of that policy. The committee took six months to complete its study and submitted both a majority and minority report.
The majority report marshaled a long list of arguments to prove that
exclusion of the Negro was not discriminatory, but "a means of promoting
efficiency, dependability, and flexibility of the Navy as a whole." It
concluded that no change in policy was necessary since "within the limitations
of the characteristics of member of certain races, the enlisted personnel
of the Naval Establishment is representative of all the citizens of the
United States."13 The majority invoked past
experience, efficiency, and patriotism to support the status quo, but
its chorus of reasons for excluding Negroes sounded incongruous amid the
patriotic din and call to colors that followed Pearl Harbor.
CREW MEMBERS OF USS ARGONAUT relax and read mail, Pear! Harbor, 1942. [Photograph not included.]
Demonstrating changing social attitudes and also reflecting the compromise solution suggested by the President in June, Addison Walker's minority report recommended that a limited number of Negroes be enlisted for general duty "on some type of patrol or other small vessel assigned to a particular yard or station." While the enlistments could frankly be labeled experiments, Walker argued that such a step would mute black criticism by promoting Negroes out of the servant class. The program would also provide valuable data in case the Navy was later directed to accept Negroes through Selective Service. Reasoning that a man's right to fight for his country was probably more fundamental than his right to vote, Walker insisted that the drive for the rights and privileges of black citizens was a social force that could not be ignored by the Navy. Indeed, he added, "the reconciliation of social friction within our own country" should be a special concern of the armed forces in wartime. 14
Although the committee's majority won the day, its arguments were overtaken
by events that followed Pearl Harbor. The NAACP, viewing the Navy's rejection
of black volunteers in the midst of the intensive recruiting campaign,
again took the issue to the White House. The President, in turn, asked
the Fair Employment Practices Committee to consider the case. 15
Committee chairman Mark Abridge conferred with Assistant Secretary Bard,
pointing out that since Negroes had been eligible for general duty in World
War I, the Navy had actually taken a step backward when it restricted them
to the Messman's Branch. The committee was even willing to pay the price
of segregation to insure the Negro's return to general duty. Ethridge recommended
that the Navy amend its policy and accept Negroes for use at Caribbean
stations or on harbor craft.16 Criticism of
Navy policy, hitherto emanating almost exclusively from the civil
rights organizations and a few congressmen, now broadened to include another Decrement agency. As President Roosevelt no doubt expected, the Fair Employment Practices Committee had come out in support of his compromise solution for the Navy.
But the committee had no jurisdiction over the armed services, and Secretary Knox continued to assert that with a war to win he could nor risk "crews that are impaired in efficiency because of racial prejudice." He admitted to his friend, conservationist Gifford Pinchot, that the problem would have to be faced someday, but not during a war. Seemingly in response to Walker and Ethridge, he declared that segregated general service was impossible since enough men with the skills necessary to operate a war vessel were unavailable even "if you had the entire Negro population of the United States to choose from." As for limiting Negroes to steward duties, he explained that this policy avoided the chance that Negroes might rise to command whites, "a thing which instantly provokes serious trouble. Faced in wartime with these arguments for efficiency, Assistant Secretary Bard could only promise Ethridge that black enlistment would be taken under consideration.
At this point the President again stepped in. On 15 January 1942 he asked his beleaguered secretary to consider the whole problem once more and suggested a course of action: "I think that with all the Navy activities, BuNav might invent something that colored enlistees could do in addition to the rating of messman."18 The secretary passed the task on to the General Board, asking that it develop a plan for recruiting 5,000 Negroes in the general service. 19
When the General Board met on 23 January to consider the secretary's request, it became apparent that the minority report on the role of Negroes in the Navy had gained at least one convert among the senior officers. One board member, the Inspector General of the Navy, Rear Adm. Charles P. Snyder, repeated the arguments lately advanced by Addison Walker. He suggested that the board consider employing Negroes in some areas outside the servant class: in the Musician's Branch, for example, because "the colored race is very musical and they are versed in all forms of rhythm," in the Aviation Branch where the Army had reported some success in employing Negroes, and on auxiliaries and minor vessels, especially transports. Snyder noted that these schemes would involve the creation of training schools, rigidly segregated at first, and that the whole program would be "troublesome and require tact, patience, and tolerance" on the part of those in charge. But, he added, "we have so many difficulties to surmount anyhow that one more possibly wouldn't swell the total very much." Foreseeing that segregation would become the focal point of black protest, he argued that-the Navy had to begin accepting Negroes somewhere , and it might as well begin with a segregated general service.
Adamant in its opposition to any change in the Navy's policy, the Bureau of Navigation ignored Admiral Snyder's suggestions. The spokesman for the bureau warned that the 5,000 Negroes under consideration were just an opening wedge. "The sponsors of the program," Capt. Kenneth Whiting contended "desire full equality on the part of the Negro and will not rest content until they obtain it.'' In the end, he predicted, Negroes would be on every man-of-war in direct proportion to their percentage of the population. The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Maj. Gen. Thomas Holcomb, echoed the bureau's sentiments. He viewed the issue of black enlistments as crucial.
If we are defeated we must not close our eyes to the fact that once in they [Negroes] will be strengthened in their effort to force themselves into every activity we have. If they are not satisfied to be messmen. they will not be satisfied to go into the constriction or labor battalions. Don't forger the colleges are turning out a large number of well educated Negroes. I don't know how long we will be able to keep them out of the V-7 class. I think not very long.
The commandant called the enlistment of Negroes "absolutely tragic"; Negroes had every opportunity, he added, "to satisfy their aspiration to serve in the Army," and their desire to enter the naval service was largely an effort "to break into a club that doesn't want them."
The board heard similar sentiments from representatives of the Bureau of Aeronautics, the Bureau of Yards and Docks, and, with reservations, from the Coast Guard. Confronted with such united opposition from the powerful bureaus, the General Board capitulated. On 3 February it reported to the secretary that it was unable to submit a plan and strongly recommended that the current policy be allowed to stand. The board stated that "if, in the opinion of higher authority, political pressure is such as to require the enlistment of these people for general service, let it be for that." If restriction of Negroes to the Messman's Branch was discrimination, the board added, "it was but part and parcel of a similar discrimination throughout the United States."20
Secretary Knox was certainly not one to dispute the board's findings, but it was a different story in the White House. President Roosevelt refused to accept the argument that the only choice lay between exclusion in the Messman's Branch and total integration in the general service. His desire to avoid the race issue was understandable; the war was in its darkest days, and whatever his aspirations for American society, the President was convinced that, while some change was necessary, "to go the whole way at one fell swoop would seriously impair the general average efficiency of the Navy."21 He wanted the board to study the question further, noting that there were some additional tasks and some special assignments that could be worked out for the Negro that "would not inject into the whole personnel of the Navy the race question."22
MESSMEN VOLUNTEER AS GUNNERS, Pacific task force, July 1942. [Photograph not included.]
The Navy got the message. Armed with these instructions from the White House, the General Board called on the bureaus and other agencies to furnish lists of stations or assignments where Negroes could be used in other than the Messman's Branch, adding that it was "unnecessary and inadvisable" to emphasize further the undesirability of recruiting Negroes. Freely interpreting the President's directive, the board decided that its proposals had to provide for segregation in order to prevent the injection of the race issue into the Navy. It rejected the idea of enlisting Negroes in such selected ratings as musician and carpenters mate or designating a branch for Negroes (the possibility of an all black aviation department for a carrier was discussed). Basing its decision on the plans quickly submitted by the bureaus, the General Board recommended a course that it felt offered "least disadvantages and the least difficulty of accomplishment as a war measure": the formation of black units in the shore establishment' black crews for naval district local defense craft and selected Coast Guard cutters, black regiments in the Seabees, and composite battalion in the Marine Corps. The board asked that the Navy Department be granted wide latitude in deciding the number of Negroes to be accepted as well as their rate of enlistment and the method of recruiting, training, and assignment.23 The President agreed to the plan, but balked at the board's last request. "I think this is a matter," he told Secretary Knox, "to be determined by you and me" 24
The two-year debate over the admission of Negroes ended just in time, for the opposition to the Navy's policy was enlisting new allies daily. The national press made the expected invidious comparisons when Joe Louis turned over his share of the purse from the Louis-Baer fight to Navy Relief, and Wendell Willkie in a well-publicized speech at New York's Freedom House excoriated the Navy's racial practices as a "mockery" of democracy.25 But these were the last shots fired On 7 April 1942 Secretary Knox announced the Navy's capitulation. The Navy would accept 277 black volunteers per week—it was not yet drafting anyone - - for enlistment in all ratings of the general service of the reserve components of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Their actual entry would have to await the construction of suitable, meaning segregated, facilities, but the Navy's goal for the first year was 14,000 Negroes in the general service.26
Members of the black community received the news with mixed emotions. Some reluctantly accepted the plan as a first step; the NAACP's Crests called it "progress toward a more enlightened point of view." Others, like the National Negro Congress, complimented Knox for His "bold, patriotic action." 27 But almost all were quick to point out that the black sailor would be segregated, limited to the rank of petty officer, and, except as a steward, barred from sea duty.28 The Navy's plan offered all the disadvantages of the Army's system with none of the corresponding advantages for participation and advancement. The NAACP hammered away at the segregation angle, informing its public that the old system, which had fathered inequalities and humiliations in the Army and in civilian life, was now being followed by the Navy. A. Philip Randolph complained that the change in Navy policy merely "accepts and extends and consolidates the policy of Jim-Crowism in the Navy as well as proclaims it as an accepted, recognized government ideology that the Negro is inferior to the white man."29 The editors of the National Urban League's Opportunity concluded that, "faced with the great opportunity to strengthen the forces of Democracy, the Navy Department chose to affirm the charge that Japan is making against America to the brown people . . . that the so-called Four Freedoms enunciated in the great 'Atlantic Charter' were for white men only."30
With considerable alacrity the Navy set a practical course for the employment of its black volunteers. On 21 April 1942 Secretary Knox approved a plan for training Negroes at Camp Barry, an isolated section of the Great Lakes Training Center. Later renamed Camp Robert Smalls after a black naval hero of the Civil War, the camp not only offered the possibility of practically unlimited expansion but, as the Bureau of Navigation put it, made segregation "less obvious" to the recruits. The secretary also approved the use of facilities at Hampton black school in Virginia, as an advanced training school for black recruits. 31
Black enlistments began on 1 June 1942, and black volunteers started entering Great Lakes later that month in classes of 277 men. At the same time the Navy opened enlistments for an unlimited number of black Seabees and messmen. Lt. Comdr. Daniel Armstrong commanded the recruit program at Camp Smalls. An Annapolis graduate, son of the founder of Hampton Institute, Armstrong first came to the attention of Knox in March 1942 when he submitted a plan for the employment of black sailors that the secretary considered practical.32 Under Armstrong's energetic leadership, black recruits received training that was in some respects superior to that afforded whites. For all his success, however, Armstrong was strongly criticized, especially by educated Negroes who resented his theories of education. Imbued with the paternalistic attitude of Tuskegee and Hampton, Armstrong saw the Negro as possessing a separate culture more attuned to vocational training. He believed that Negroes needed special treatment and discipline in a totally segregated environment free from white competition. Educated Negroes, on the other hand, saw in this special treatment another form of discrimination.33
ELECTRICIAN MATES string power lines in the Central Pacific. [Photograph not included.]
During the first six months of the new segregated training program, before the great influx of Negroes from the draft, the Navy set the training period at twelve weeks. Later, when it had reluctantly abandoned the longer period, the Navy discovered that the regular eight-week course was sufficient. Approximately 31 percent Those graduating from the recruit course were qualified for Class A schools and entered advanced classes to receive training that would normally lead to petty officer rating for the top graduates and prepare men for assignment to naval stations and local defense and district craft. There they would serve in such class "A" specialties as radioman, signalman, and yeoman and the other occupational specialties such as machinist, mechanic, carpenter, electrician, cook, and baker.34 Some of these classes were held at Hampton, but, as the number of black recruits increased, the majority remained at Camp Smalls for advanced training.
The rest of the recruit graduates, those unqualified for advanced schooling, were divided. Some went directly to naval stations and local defense and district craft where they relieved whites as seaman, second class, and fireman, third class, and as trainees in specialties that required no advanced schooling; the rest, approximately eighty men per week, went to naval ammunition depots as unskilled laborers. 35
The Navy proceeded to assimilate the black volunteers along these lines, suffering few of the personnel problems that plagued the Army in the first months of the war. In contrast to the Army's chaotic situation, caused by the thousands of black recruits streaming in from Selective Service, the Navy's plans for its volunteers were disrupted only because qualified Negroes showed little inclination to flock to the Navy standard, and more than half of those who did were rejected. The Bureau of Naval Personnel36 reported that during the first three weeks of recruitment only 1,261 Negroes volunteered for general service, and 58 percent of these had to be rejected for physical and other reasons. The Chief of Naval Personnel, Rear Adm. Randall Jacobs, was surprised at the small number of volunteers, a figure far below the planners' expectations, and his surprise turned to concern in the next months as the seventeen-year-old volunteer inductees, the primary target of the armed forces recruiters, continued to choose the Army over the Navy at a ratio of 10 to 1.37 The Navy's personnel officials agreed that they had to attract their proper share of intelligent and able Negroes but seemed unable to isolate the cause of the disinterest. Admiral Jacobs blurred it on a lack of publicity; the bureau's historians, perhaps unaware of the Navy's nineteenth century experience with black seamen, later attributed it to Negroes' "relative unfamiliarity with the sea or the large inland waters and their consequent fear of the water."38
The fact was, of course, that Negroes shunned the Navy because of its recent reputation as the exclusive preserve of white America. Only when the Navy began assigning black recruiting specialists to the numerous naval districts and using black chief petty officers, reservists from World War I general service, at recruiting centers to explain the new opportunities for Negroes in the Navy was the bureau able to overcome some of the young men's natural reluctance to volunteer. By 1 February 1943 the Navy had 26,909 Negroes (still 2 percent of the total enlisted): 6,662 in the general service; 2,020 in the Seabees, and 19,227, over two-thirds of the total, in the Steward's Branch.39
The smooth and efficient distribution of black recruits was short-lived. Under pressure from the Army, the War Manpower Commission, and in particular the White House, the Navy was forced into a sudden and significant expansion of its black recruit program. The Army had long objected to the Navy's recruitment method, and as early as February 1942 Secretary Stimson was calling the volunteer recruitment system a waste of manpower.40 He was even more direct when he complained to President Roosevelt that through voluntary recruiting the Navy had avoided acceptance of any considerable number of Negroes. Consequently, the Army was now faced with the possibility of having to accept an even greater proportion of Negroes "with adverse effect on its combat efficiency." The solution to this problem, as Stimson saw it, was for the Navy to take its recruits from Selective Service.41 Stimson failed to win his point. The President accepted the Navy's argument that segregation would be difficult to maintain on board ship. "If the Navy living conditions on board ship were similar to the Army living conditions on land," he wrote Stimson, "the problem would be easier but the circumstances . . . being such as they are, I feel that it is best to continue the present system at this time."42
But the battle over racial quotas was only beginning. The question of the number of Negroes in the Navy was only part of the much broader considerations and conflicts over manpower policy that finally led the President, on 5 December 1942, to direct the discontinuance in all services of volunteer enlistment of men between the ages of eighteen and thirty-eight.43 Beginning in February 1943 all men in this age group would be obtained through Selective Service The order also placed Selective Service under the War Manpower Commission.
The Navy issued its first call for inductees from Selective Service in February 1943, adopting the Army's policy of placing its requisition on a racial basis and specifying the number of whites and blacks needed for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The Bureau of Naval Personnel planned to continue its old monthly quota of about 1,200 Negroes for general service and 1,500 for the Messman's Branch. Secretary Knox explained to the President that it would be impossible for the Navy to take more Negroes without resorting to mixed crews In the fleet, which, Knox reminded Roosevelt, was a policy "contrary to the President's program." The President agreed with Knox and told him so to advise Maj. Gen. Lewis B. Hershey, Director of Selective Service.44
The problem of drafting men by race was a major concern of the Bureau of Selective Service and its parent organization, the War Manpower Commission. At a time when a general shortage of manpower was developing and industry was beginning to feel the effects of the draft, Negroes still made up only 6 percent of the armed forces, a little over half their percentage of the population, and almost all of these were in the Army. The chairman of the War Manpower Commission, Paul V. McNutt, explained to Secretary Knox as he had to Secretary Stimson that the practice of placing separate calls for white and black registrants could not be justified. Not only were there serious social and legal implications in the existing draft practices, he pointed out, but the Selective Service Act itself prohibited racial discrimination. It was necessary, therefore, to draft men by order number and not by color. 45
On top of this blow, the Navy came under fire from another quarter.
The President was evidently still thinking about Negroes in the Navy. He
wrote to the secretary on 22 February:
I guess you were dreaming or maybe I was dreaming if Randall Jacobs is right in regard to what I am supposed to have said about employment of negroes in the Navy. If I did say that such employment should be stopped, I must have been talking in my sleep. Most decidedly we must continue the employment of negroes in the Navy, and I do not think it the least bit necessary to put mixed crews on the ships. I can find a thousand ways of employing them without doing so.
The point of the thing is this. There is going to be a great deal of feeling if the Government in winning this war does not employ approximately 10% of negroes—their actual percentage of the total population. The Army is nearly up to this percentage but the Navy Is so far below it that it will be deeply criticized by anybody who wants to check into the details.
Perhaps a check by you showing exactly where all white enlisted men are serving and where all colored-enlisted men are serving will show you the great number of places where colored men-could serve, where they are not serving now—shore duty of all kinds, together with the handling of many kinds of yard craft.
You know the headache we have had about this and the reluctance of the Navy to have any negroes. You and I have had to veto that Navy reluctance and I think we have to do it again. 46
In an effort to save the quota concept, the Bureau of Naval Personnel ground out new figures that would raise the current call of 2,700 Negroes per month to 5,000 in April and 7,350 for each of the remaining months of 1943. Armed with these figures, Secretary Knox was able to promise Commissioner McNutt that 10 percent of the men inducted for the rest of 1943 would be Negroes, although separate calls had to be continued for the time being to permit adjusting the flow of Negroes to the expansion of facilities.47 In other words, the secretary promised to accept 71,900 black draftees in 1943; he did not promise to increase the black strength of the Navy to 10 percent of the total.
Commissioner McNutt understood the distinction and found the Navy's offer wanting for two reasons. The proposed schedule was inadequate to absorb the backlog of black registrants who should have been inducted into the armed services, and it did not raise the percentage of Negroes in the Navy to a figure comparable to their strength in the national population. McNutt wanted the Navy to draft at least 125,000 Negroes before January 1944, and he insisted that the practice of placing separate calls be terminated "as soon as feasible."48 The Navy finally struck a compromise with the commission, agreeing that up to 4,150 Negroes a month would be inducted for the rest of 1943 to reach the 125,000 figure by January 1944.49 The issue of separate draft calls for Negroes and whites remained in abeyance while the services made common cause against the commission by insisting that the orderly absorption of Negroes demanded a regular program that could only be met by maintaining the quota system.
Total black enlistments never reached 10 percent of the Navy's wartime enlisted strength but remained nearer the 5 percent mark. But this figure masks the Navy's racial picture in the later years of the war after it became dependent on Selective Service. The Navy drafted 150,955 Negroes during the war, 11.1 percent of all the men it drafted. In 1943 alone the Navy placed calls with Selective Service for 116,000 black draftees. Although Selective Service was unable to fill the monthly request completely, the Navy received 77,854 black draftees (versus 672,437 whites) that year, a 240 percent rise over the 1942 black enlistment rate. 50
Although it wrestled for several months with the problem of distributing the increased number of black draftees, the Bureau of Naval Personnel could invent nothing new. The Navy, Knox told President Roosevelt, would continue to segregate Negroes and restrict their service to certain occupations. Its increased black strength would be absorbed in twenty-seven new black Seabee battalions, in which Negroes would serve overseas as stevedores; in black crews for harbor craft and local defense forces; and in billets for cooks and port hands. The rest would be sent to shore stations for guard and miscellaneous duties in concentrations up to about 50 percent of the total station strength. The President approved the Navy's proposals, and the distribution of Negroes followed these lines.51
To smooth the racial adjustments implicit in these plans, the Bureau of Naval Personnel developed two operating rules: Negroes would be assigned only where need existed, and, whenever possible, those from northern communities would not be used in the south. These rules caused some peculiar adjustments in administration. Negroes were not assigned to naval districts for distribution according to the discretion of the commander, as were white recruits. Rather, after conferring with local commanders, the bureau decided on the number of Negroes to be included in station complements and the types of jobs they would fill. It then assigned the men to duty accordingly, and the districts were instructed not to change the orders without consulting the bureau. Subsequently the bureau reinforced this rule by enjoining the commanders to use Negroes in the ratings for which they had been trained and by sending bureau representatives to the various commands to check on compliance.
Some planners feared that the concentration of Negroes at shore stations might prove detrimental to efficiency and morale. Proposals were circulated in the Bureau of Naval Personnel for the inclusion of Negroes in small numbers in the crews of large combat ships—for example, they might be used as firemen and ordinary seamen on the new aircraft carriers—but Admiral Jacobs rejected the recommendations.52 The Navy was not yet ready to try integration, it seemed, even though racial disturbances were becoming a distinct possibility in 1943. For as Negroes became a larger part of the Navy, they also became a greater source of tension. The reasons for the tension were readily apparent. Negroes were restricted for the most part to shore duty, concentrated in large groups and assigned to jobs with little prestige and few chances of promotion. They were excluded from the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), the Nurse Corps, and the commissioned ranks. And they were rigidly segregated.
Although the Navy boasted that Negroes served in every rating and at every task, in fact almost all were used in a limited range of occupations. Denied general service assignments on warships, trained Negroes were restricted to the relatively few billets open in the harbor defense, district, and small craft service. Although assigning Negroes to these duties met the President's request for variety of opportunity, the small craft could employ only 7,700 men at most, a minuscule part of the Navy's black strength.
LABORERS AT NAVAL AMMUNITION DEPOT. Sailors passing 5-inch canisters,
Julien's Creek, Virginia. [Photograph not included.]
Most Negroes performed humbler duties. By mid-1944 over 38,000 black sailors were serving as mess stewards, cooks. and bakers. These jobs remained in the Negro's eyes a symbol of his second-class citizenship in the naval establishment. Under pressure to provide more stewards to serve the officers whose number multiplied in the early months of the war, recruiters had netted all the men they could for that separate duty. Often recruiters took in many as stewards who were equipped by education and training for better jobs, and when these men were immediately put into uniforms and trained on the job at local naval stations the result was often dismaying. The Navy thus received poor service as well as unwelcome publicity for maintaining a segregated servants' branch. In an effort to standardize the training of messmen, the Bureau of Naval Personnel established a stewards school in the spring of 1943 at Norfolk and later one at Bainbridge, Maryland. The change in training did little to improve the standards of the service and much to intensify the feeling of isolation among many stewards.
Another 12,000 Negroes served as artisans and laborers at overseas bases. Over 7,000 of these were Seabees, who, with the exception of two regular construction battalions that served with distinction in the Pacific, were relegated to "special" battalions stevedoring cargo and supplies. The rest were laborers in base companies assigned to the South Pacific area. These units were commanded be white officers, and almost all the petty officers were white.
SEABEES IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC righting an undermined water tank.
[Photograph not included.]
Approximately half the Negroes in the Navy were detailed to shore billets within the continental United States. Most worked as laborers at ammunition or supply depots, at air stations, and at section bases,53 concentrated in large all-black groups and sometimes commanded by incompetent white officers.54 While some billets existed in practically every important rating for graduates of the segregated specialty schools, these jobs were so few that black specialists were often assigned instead to unskilled laboring jobs.55 Some of these men were among the best educated Negroes in the Navy, natural leaders capable of articulating their dissatisfaction. They resented being barred from the fighting, and their resentment, spreading through the thousands of Negroes in the shore establishment, was a prime cause of racial tension.
No black women had been admitted to the Navy. Race was not mentioned in the legislation establishing the WAVES in 1942, but neither was exclusion on account of color expressly forbidden. The WAVES and the Women's Reserve of both the Coast Guard (SPARS) and the Marine Corps therefore celebrated their second birthday exclusively white. The Navy Nurse Corps was also totally white. In answer to protests passed to the service through Eleanor Roosevelt, the Navy admitted in November 1943 that it had a shortage of 500 nurses, but since another 500 white nurses were under indoctrination and training, the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery explained, "the question relative to the necessity for accepting colored personnel in this category is not apparent. " 56
Another major cause of unrest among black seamen was the matter of rank and promotion. With the exception of the Coast Guard, the naval establishment had no black officers in 1943, and none were contemplated. Nor was there much opportunity for advancement in the ranks. Barred from service in the fleet, the nonrated seaman faced strong competition for the limited number of petty officer positions in the shore establishment. In consequent, morale throughout the ranks deteriorated.
The constant black complaint, and the root of the Navy's racial problem, was segregation. It was especially hard on young black recruits who had never experienced legal segregation in civilian life and on the "talented tenth," the educated Negroes, who were quickly frustrated by a policy that decided opportunity and assignment on the basis of color. They particularly resented segregation in housing, messing, and recreation. Here segregation off the job, officially sanctioned, made manifest by signs distinguishing facilities for white and black, and enforced by military as well as civilian police, was a daily reminder for the Negro of the Navy's discrimination.
Such discrimination created tension in the ranks that periodically released itself in racial disorder. The first sign of serious unrest occurred in June 1943 when over half the 640 Negroes of the Naval Ammunition Depot at St. Julien's Creek, Virginia, rioted against alleged discrimination in segregated seating for a radio show. In July, 744 Negroes of the 80th Construction Battalion staged a protest over segregation on a transport in the Caribbean. Yet, naval investigators cited leadership problems as a major factor in these and subsequent incidents, and at least one commanding officer was relieved as a consequence. 57
Since the inception of black enlistment there had been those in the
Bureau of Naval Personnel who argued for the establishment of a group to
coordinate plans and policies on the training and use of black sailors.
Various proposals were considered, but only in the wake of the racial disturbances
of 1943 did the bureau set up a special Program Unit in its Planning and
Control Activity to oversee the whole black enlistment program. In the
end the size of the unit governed the scope of its program. Originally
the unit was to monitor all transactions involving Negroes in the bureau's
operating divisions, thus relieving the
Enlisted Division of the critical task of distributing billets for Negroes. It was also supposed to advise local commanders on race problems and interpret departmental policies for them. When finally established in August 1943, the unit consisted of only three officers, a size which considerably limited its activities. Still, the unit worked diligently to improve the lot of the black sailor, and eventually from this office would emerge the plans that brought about the integration of the Navy.
COMMANDER SARGENT [Photograph not included.]
The Special Programs Unit's patron saint and the guiding spirit of the Navy's liberalizing race program was Lt. Comdr. Christopher S. Sargent. He never served in the unit himself, but helped find the two lieutenant commanders, Donald O. Van Ness and Charles E. Dillon, who worked under Capt. Thomas F. Darden in the Plans and Operations Section of the Bureau of Naval Personnel and acted as liaison between the Special Programs Unit and its civilian superiors. A legendary figure in the bureau, the 31-year-old Sargent arrived as a lieutenant, junior grade, from Dean Acheson's law firm, but his rank and official position were no measure of his influence in the Navy Department. By birth and training he was used to moving in the highest circles of American society and government, and he had wide-ranging interests and duties in the Navy. Described by a superior as "a philosopher who could not tolerate segregation,"58 Sargent waged something of a moral crusade to integrate the Navy. He was convinced that a social change impossible in peacetime was practical in war. Not only would integration build a more efficient Navy, it might also lead the way to changes in American society that would bridge the gap between the races. 59 In effect, Sargent sought to force the generally conservative Bureau of Naval Personnel into making rapid and sweeping changes in the Navy's racial policy.
During its first months of existence the Special Programs Unit tried to quiet racial unrest by a rigorous application of the separate but equal principle. It begun attacking the concentration of Negroes in large segregated groups in the naval districts by creating more overseas billets. Toward the end of 1943, Negroes were being assigned in greater numbers to duty in the Pacific at shore establishments and aboard small defense, district, and yard craft. The Bureau of Naval Personnel also created new specialties for Negroes in the general service. One important addition was the creation of black shore patrol units for which a school was started at Great Lakes. The Special Programs Unit established a remedial training center for illiterate draftees at Camp Robert Smalls, drawing the faculty from black servicemen who had been educators in civilian life. The twelve-week course gave the students the equivalent of a fifth grade education in addition to regular recruit training. Approximately l5,000 Negroes took this training before the school was consolidated with a similar organization for whites at Bainbridge, Maryland, in the last months of the war. 60
At the other end of the spectrum, the Special Programs Unit worked for the efficient use of black Class A school graduates by renewing the attack on improper assignments. The bureau had long held that the proper assignment of black specialists was of fundamental importance to morale and efficiency, and in July 1943 it had ordered that all men must be used in the ratings and for the types of work for which they had been trained.6l But the unit discovered considerable deviation from this policy in some districts, especially in the south, where there was a tendency to regard Negroes as an extra labor source above the regular military complement. In December 1943 the Special Programs Unit got the bureau to rule in the name of manpower efficiency that, with the exception of special units in the supply departments at South Boston and Norfolk, no black sailor could be assigned to such civilian jobs as maintenance work and stevedoring in the continental United States.62
These reforms were welcome, but they ignored the basic dilemma: the
only way to abolish concentrations of shore-based Negroes was to open up
positions for them in the fleet. Though many black sailors were best suited
for unskilled or semiskilled billets, a significant number had technical
skills that could be properly used only if these men were assigned to the
fleet. To relieve the racial tension and to end the waste of skilled manpower
engendered by the misuse of these men, the Special Programs Unit pressed
for a chance to test black seamanship. Admiral King agreed, and in early
1944 the Bureau of Naval Personnel assigned 196 black enlisted men and
44 white officers and petty officers to the USS Mason, a newly commissioned
destroyer escort, with the understanding that all enlisted billets would
be filled by Negroes as soon as those qualified to fill them had been trained.
It also assigned 53 black rated seamen and 14 white officers and noncommissioned
officers to a patrol craft, the PC 1264.63
Both ships eventually replaced their white petty officers and some of their
officers with Negroes. Among the latter was Ens. Samuel Gravely, who was
to become the Navy's first black admiral.
USS MASON. Sailors look over their new ship. [Photograph not included.]
Although both ships continued to operate with black crews well into 1945, the Mason on escort duty in the Atlantic, only four other segregated patrol craft were added to the fleet during the war. 64 The Mason passed its shakedown cruise test, but the Bureau of Naval Personnel was not satisfied with the crew. The black petty officers had proved competent in their ratings and interested in their work, but bureau observers agreed that the rated men in general were unable to maintain discipline. The nonrated men tended to lack respect for the petty officers, who showed some disinclination to put their men on report. The Special Programs Unit admitted the truth of these charges but argued that the experiment only proved what the Navy already knew: black sailors did not respond well when assigned to all-black organizations under white officers.65 On the other hand, the experiment demonstrated that the Navy possessed a reservoir of able seamen who were not being efficiently employed, and—an unexpected dividend from the presence of white noncommissioned officers—that integration worked on board ship. The white petty officers messed, worked, and slept with their men In the close contact inevitable aboard small ships, with no sign of racial friction.
Opportunity for advancement was as important to morale as assignment according to training and skill, and the Special Programs Unit encouraged the promotion or Negroes according to their ability and in proportion to their number. Although in July 1943 the Bureau of Naval Personnel had warned commanders that it would continue to order white enlisted men to sea with the expectation that they would be replaced in shore jobs by Negroes,66 the Special Programs Unit discovered that rating and promotion of Negroes was still slow. At the unit's urging, the bureau advised all naval districts that it expected Negroes to be rated upward "as rapidly as practicable" and asked them to report on their rating of Negroes.67 It also authorized stations to retain white petty officers for up to two-weeks to break in their black replacements, but warned that this privilege must not be abused. The bureau further directed that all qualified general service candidates be advanced to ratings for which they were eligible regardless of whether their units were authorized enough spaces to take care of them. This last directive did little for black promotions at first because many local commanders ruled that no Negroes could be "qualified" since none were allowed to perform sea duties. In January 1944 the bureau had to clarify the order to make sure that Negroes were given the opportunity to advance.68
Despite these evidences of command concern, black promotions continued to lag in the Navy. Again at the Special Programs Unit's urging, the Bureau of Naval Personnel began to limit the number of rated men turned out by the black training schools so that more nonrated men already on the job might have a better chance to win ratings. The bureau instituted a specialist leadership course for rated Negroes at Great Lakes and recommended in January 1944 that two Negroes so trained be included in each base company sent out of the country. It also selected twelve Negroes with backgrounds in education and public relations and assigned them to recruiting duty around the country. The bureau expanded the black petty officer program because it was convinced by the end of 1943 that the presence of more black leaders, particularly in the large base companies, would improve discipline and raise morale. It was but a short step from this conviction to a realization that black commissioned officers were needed.
Despite its 100,000 enlisted Negroes, the absence of black commissioned officers in the fall of 1943 forced the Navy to answer an increasing number of queries from civil rights organizations and Congress.69 Several times during 1942 suggestions were made within the Bureau of Naval Personnel that the instructors at the Hampton specialist school and seventy-five other Negroes be commissioned for service with the large black units, but nothing happened Secretary Knox himself thought that the Navy would have to develop a considerable body of black sailors before it could even think about commissioning black officers.70 But the secretary failed to appreciate the effect of the sheer number of black draftees that overwhelmed the service in the spring of 1943, and he reckoned without the persuasive arguments of his special assistant, Adlai Stevenson.71
Secretary Knox often referred to Adlai Stevenson as "my New Dealer," and, as the expression suggested, the Illinois lawyer was in an excellent position to influence the secretary's thinking.72 Although not so forceful an advocate as Christopher Sargent, Stevenson lent his considerable intelligence and charm to the support of those in the department who sought equal opportunity for the Negro. He was an invaluable and influential ally for the Special Programs Unit. Stevenson knew Knox well and understood how to approach him. He was particularly effective in getting Negroes commissioned. In September 1943 he pointed out that, with the induction of 12,000 Negroes a month, the demand for black officers would be mounting in the black community and In the government as well. The Navy could not and should not, he warned, postpone much longer the creation of some black officers. Suspicion of discrimination was one reason the Navy was failing to get the best qualified Negroes, and Stevenson believed it wise to act quickly. He recommended that the Navy commission ten or twelve Negroes from among "top notch civilians just as we procure white officers" and a few from the ranks. The commissioning should be treated as a matter of course without any special-publicity. The news, he added wryly, would get out soon enough.73
There were in fact three avenues to a Navy commission: the Naval Academy, the V-12 program, and direct commission from civilian life or the enlisted ranks. But Annapolis had no Negroes enrolled at the time Stevenson spoke, and only a dozen Negroes were enrolled in V-12 programs at integrated civilian colleges throughout the country.74 The lack of black students in the V-12 program could be attributed in part to the belief of many black trainees that the program barred Negroes. Actually, it never had, and in December 1943 the bureau publicized this fact. It issued a circular letter emphasizing to all commanders that enlisted men were entitled to consideration for transfer to the V-12 program regardless of race. 75 Despite this effort it was soon apparent that the program would produce only a few black officers, and the Bureau of Naval Personnel, at the urging of its Special Programs Unit, agreed to follow Stevenson's suggestion and concentrate on the direct commissioning of Negroes. Unlike Stevenson the bureau preferred to obtain most of the men from the enlisted ranks' and only in the case of certain specially trained men did the Navy commission civilians.
FIRST BLACK OFFICERS IN THE NAVY. From left to right: (top row) John
Jesse W. Arbor, Dalton L. Baggy; (second row) Graham E. Martin, W. O. Charles B. Lear, Frank C. Sublett; (third row) Phallic S. Barnes, George Cooper, Reginald Goodwin; (bottom row) James E. Hare, Samuel E. Barnes, W. Sylvester White, Dennis D. Nelson II. [Photograph not included.]
The Bureau of Naval Personnel concluded that, since many units were substantially or wholly manned by Negroes, black officers could be used without undue difficulty, and when Secretary Knox, prodded by Stevenson, turned to the bureau, it recommended that the Navy commission twelve line and ten staff officers from a selected list of enlisted men.76 Admiral King endorsed the bureau's recommendation and on 15 December 1943 Knox approved it, although he conditioned his approval by saying: "After you have commissioned the twenty-two officers you suggest, I think this matter should again be reviewed before any additional colored officers are commissioned. " 77
On 1 January 1944 the first sixteen black officer candidates, selected from among qualified enlisted applicants, entered Great Lakes for segregated training. All sixteen survived the course, but only twelve were commissioned. In the last week of the course, three candidates were returned to the ranks, not because they had failed but because the Bureau of Naval Personnel had suddenly decided to limit the number of black officers in this first group to twelve. The twelve entered the U.S. Naval Reserve as line officers on 17 March. A thirteenth man, the only candidate who lacked a college degree, was made a warrant officer because of this outstanding work in the course.
Two of the twelve new ensigns were assigned to the faculty at Hampton training school, four others to yard and harbor craft duty, and the rest to training duty at Great Lakes. All carried the label "Deck Officers Limited—only," a designation usually reserved for officers whose physical or educational deficiencies kept them from performing all the duties of a line officer. The Bureau of Naval Personnel never explained why the men were placed in this category, but it was clear that none of them lacked the physical requirements of a line officer and all had had business or professional careers in civil life.
Operating duplicate training facilities for officer candidates was costly, and the bureau decided shortly after the first group of black candidates was trained that future candidates of both races would be trained together. By early summer ten more Negroes, this time civilians with special professional qualifications, had been trained with whites and were commissioned as staff officers in the Medical, Dental, Chaplain, Civil Engineer, and Supply Corps. These twenty-two men were the first of some sixty Negroes to be commissioned during the war.
Since only a handful of the Negroes in the Navy were officers, the preponderance of the race problems concerned relations between black enlisted men and their white officers. The problem of selecting the proper officers to command black sailors was a formidable one never satisfactorily solved during the war. As in the Army, most of the white officers routinely selected for such assignments were southerners, chosen by the Bureau of Naval Personnel for their assumed "understanding" of Negroes rather than for their general competency. The Special Programs Unit tried to work with these officers, assembling them for conferences to discuss the best techniques and procedures for dealing with groups of black subordinates. Members of the unit sought to disabuse the officers of preconceived biases, constantly reminding them that "our prejudices must be subordinated to our traditional unfailing obedience to orders."78 Although there was ample proof that many Negroes actively resented the paternalism exhibited by many of even the best of these officers, this fact was slow to filter through the naval establishment. It was not until January 1944 that an officer who had compiled an enviable record in training Seabee units described how his organization had come to see the light:
We in the Seabees no longer follow the precept that southern officers exclusively should be selected for colored battalions. A man may be from the north, south, east or west. If his attitude is to do the best possible job he knows how, regardless of what the color of his personnel is, there is the man we want as an officer for our colored Seabees. We have learned to steer clear of the "I'm from the South—I know how to handle 'em variety.'' It follows with reference to white personnel, that deeply accented southern whites are nor generally suited for Negro battalions. 79
Further complicating the task of selecting suitable officers for black units was the fact thin when the Bureau of Naval Personnel asked unit commanders to recommend men for such duty many commanders used the occasion to rid themselves of their least desirable officers. The Special Programs Unit then tried to develop its own source of officers for black units. It discovered a fine reservoir of talent among the white noncommissioned officers who ran the physical training and drill courses at Great Lakes. These were excellent instructors, mature and experienced in dealing with people. In January 1944 arrangements were made to commission them and to assign them to black units.
Improvement in the quality of officers in black units was especially important because the attitude of local commanders was directly related to the degree of segregation in living quarters and recreational facilities, and such segregation was the most common source of racial tension. Although the Navy's practice of segregating units clearly invited separate living and recreational facilities, the rules were unwritten, and local commanders had been left to decide the extent to which segregation was necessary. Thus practices varied greatly and policy depended ultimately on the local commanders. Rather than attack racial practices at particular bases, the unit decided to concentrate on the officers. It explained to these leaders the Navy's policy of equal treatment and opportunity, a concept basically incompatible with many of their practices.
This conclusion was embodied in a pamphlet entitled Guide to the Command of Negro Naval Personnel and published by the Bureau of Naval Personnel in February 1944.80 The Special Programs Unit had to overcome much opposition within the bureau to get the pamphlet published. Some thought the subject of racial tension was best ignored; others objected to the "sociological" content of Me work, considering this approach outside the Navy's province. The unit argued that racial tension in the Navy was a serious problem that could not be ignored, and since human relations affected the Navy's mission the Navy should deal with social matters objectively and frankly.81
Scholarly and objective, the pamphlet was an important document in the
history of race relations in the Navy. In language similar to that used
in the War Department's pamphlet on race, the Bureau of Naval Personnel
stated officially for the first time that discrimination flowed of necessity
out of the doctrine of segregation:
The idea of compulsory racial segregation is disliked by almost all Negroes, and literally hated by many. This antagonism is in part a result of the fact that as a principle it embodies a doctrine of racial inferiority. It is also a result of the lesson taught the Negro by experience that in spite of the legal formula of "separate but equal'' facilities, the facilities open to him under segregation are in fact usually inferior as to location or quality to those available to others. 82
The Guide also foreshadowed the end of the old order of things: ''The Navy accepts no theories of racial differences in inborn ability, but expects that every man wearing its uniform be trained and used in accordance with his maximum individual capacity determined on the basis of individual performance.''83
The Navy got a leader sympathetic to the proposition of equal treatment and opportunity for Negroes, and possessed of the bureaucratic skills to achieve reforms, when President Roosevelt appointed Under Secretary James Forrestal to replace Frank Knox, who died suddenly on 28 April 1944. During the next five years Forrestal, a brilliant, complex product of Wall Street. would assume more and more responsibility for directing the integration effort in the defense establishment. Although no racial crusader, Forrestal had been for many years a member of the National Urban League, itself a pillar of the civil rights establishment. He saw the problem of employing Negroes as one of efficiency and simple fair play, and as the months went by he assumed an active role in experimenting with changes in the Navy's policy.84
His first experiment was with sea duty for Negroes. After the experience of the Mason and the other segregated ships which actually proved very little, sentiment for a partial integration of the fleet continued to grow in the Bureau of Naval Personnel. As early as April 1943, officers in the Planning and Control Activity recommended that Negroes be included in small numbers in the crews of the larger combat ships. Admiral Jacobs, however, was convinced that ''you couldn't dump 200 colored boys on a crew in battle." so this and similar proposals later in the year never survived passage through the bureau.
Forrestal accepted Jacob's argument that as long as the war continued any move toward integrating the fighting ships was impractical. At the same time, he agreed with the Special Programs Unit that large concentrations of Negroes in shore duties lowered efficiency and morale. Forrestal compromised by ordering the bureau to prepare as an experiment a plan for the integration of some fleet auxiliary ships. On 20 May 1944 he outlined the problem for the President: "From a morale standpoint, the Negroes resent the fact that they are not assigned to general service billets at sea, and white personnel resent the fact that Negroes have been given less hazardous assignments." He explained that at first Negroes would be used only on the large auxiliaries, and their number would be limited to not more than 10 percent of the ship's complement If this step proved workable, he planned to use Negroes in small numbers on other types of ships "as necessity indicates." The White House answered: "OK, FDR."86
Secretary Forrestal also won the support of the Chief of Naval Operations for the move, but Admiral King still considered integration in the fleet experimental and was determined to keep strict control until the results were known. On 9 August 1944 King informed the commanding officers of twenty-five large fleet auxiliaries that Negroes would be assigned to them in the near future. As Forrestal had suggested, King set the maximum number of Negroes at 10 percent of the ship's general service. Of this number, 15 percent would be third-class petty officers from shore activities, selected as far as possible from volunteers and, in any case, from those who had served the longest periods of shore duty. Of the remainder, 43 percent would be from Class A schools and 42 percent from recruit training. The basic 10 percent figure proved to be a theoretical maximum; no ship received that many Negroes.
Admiral King insisted that equal treatment in matters of training, promotion, and duty assignments must be accorded all hands, but he left the matter of berthing to the commanding officers, noting that experience had proved that in the shore establishment, when the percentage of blacks to whites was small, the two groups could be successfully mingled in the same compartments. He also pointed out that a thorough indoctrination of white sailors before the arrival of the Negroes had been useful in preventing racial friction ashore.87
King asked all commanders concerned in the experiment to report their
experiences.88 Their judgment: integration
in the auxiliary fleet worked. As one typical report related after several
months of integrated duty:
The crew was carefully indoctrinated in the fact that Negro personnel should nor be subjected to discrimination of any sort and should be treated in the same manner as other members of the crew.
The Negro personnel when they came aboard were berthed indiscriminately throughout the crew's compartments in the same manner as if they had been white. It is felt that the assimilation of the general service Negro personnel aboard this ship has been remarkably successful. To the present date there has been no report any difficulty which could be laid to their color. It is felt that this is due in part, at least, to the high calibre of Negroes assigned to this ship.89
The comments of his commanders convinced King that the auxiliary vessels n the fleet could be integrated without incident. He approved a plan submitted by the Chief of Naval Personnel on 6 March 1945 for the gradual assignment of Negroes to all auxiliary vessels, again in numbers not to exceed 10 percent of the general service billets in any ship's complement.90 A month later Negroes were being so assigned in an administratively routine manner. 91 The Bureau of Naval Personnel then began assigning black officers to sea duty on the integrated vessels. The first one went to the Mason in March, and in succeeding months others were sent in a routine manner to auxiliary vessels throughout the fleet.92 These assignments were not always carried out according to the bureau's formula. The commander of the USS Chemang, for example, told a young black ensign:
I'm a Navy Man, and we're in a war. To me, it's that stripe that counts—and the training and leadership that it is supposed to symbolize. That's why I never called a meeting of the crew to prepare them, to explain their obligation to respect you, or anything like that. I didn't want anyone to think you were different from any other officer coming aboard. 93
Admitting Negroes to the WAVES was another matter considered by the new secretary in his first days in office. In fact, the subject had been under discussion in the Navy Department for some two years. Soon after the organization of the women's auxiliary, its director, Capt. Mildred H. McAfee, had recommended that Negroes be accepted, arguing that their recruitment would help to temper the widespread criticism of the Navy's restrictive racial policy. But the traditionalists in the Bureau of Naval Personnel had opposed the move on the grounds that WAVES were organized to replace men, and since there were more than enough black sailors to fill all billets open to Negroes there was no need to recruit black women.
Actually, both arguments served to mask other motives, as did Knox's rejection of recruitment on the grounds that integrating women into the Navy was difficult enough without taking on the race problem.94 In April 1943 Knox "tentatively" approved the "tentative" outline of a bureau plan for the induction of up to 5,000 black WAVES, but nothing came of it.95 Given the Secretary's frequent protestation that the subject was under constant review,96 and his statement to Captain McAfee that black WAVES would be enlisted "over his dead body,"97 the tentative outline and approval seems to have been an attempt to defer the decision indefinitely.
Secretary Knox's delay merely attracted more attention to the problem and enabled the protectors to enlist powerful allies. At the time of his death, Knox was under siege by a delegation from the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) demanding a reassessment of the Navy's policy on the women's reserve. 98 His successor turned for advice to Captain McAfee and to the Bureau of Naval Personnel where, despite Knox's "positive and direct orders" against recruiting black WAVES, the Special Programs Unit had continued to study the problem. 99 Convinced that the step was just and inevitable, the unit also agreed that the WAVES should be integrated. Forrestal approved, and on 28 July 1944 he recommended to the President that Negroes be trained in the WAVES on an integrated basis and assigned "wherever needed within the continental limits of the United States, preferably to stations where there are already Negro men." He concluded by reiterating a Special Programs Unit warning: "I consider it advisable to start obtaining Negro WAVES before we are forced to take them. " 100
To avoid the shoals of racial controversy in the midst of an election year, Secretary Forrestal did trim his recommendations to the extent that he retained the doctrine of separate but equal living quarters and mess facilities for the black AYES. Despite this offer of compromise, President Roosevelt directed Forrestal to withhold action on the proposal.101 Here the matter would probably have stood until after the election but for Thomas E. Dewey's charge in a Chicago speech during the presidential campaign that the White House was discriminating against black women. The President quickly instructed the Navy to admit Negroes into the WAVES. 102
The first two black WAVE officers graduated from training at Smith College on 21 December, and the enlistment of black women began a week later The program turned out to be more racially progressive than initially outlined by Forrestal. He had explained to the President that the women would be quartered separately, a provision interpreted in the Bureau of Naval Personnel to mean that black recruits would be organized into separate companies. Since a recruit company numbered 250 women, and since it quickly became apparent that such a large group of black volunteers would not soon be forthcoming, some of the bureau staff decided that the Navy would continue to bar black women. In this they reckoned without Captain McAfee who insisted on a personal ruling by Forrestal. She Earned the secretary that his order was Necessary because the concept "was so strange to Navy practice." 103 He agreed with her that the Negroes would be integrated along with the rest of the incoming recruits, and the Bureau of Naval Personnel subsequently ordered that the WAVES be assimilated without making either special or separate arrangements. 104
LIEUTENANT PICKENS AND ENSIGN WILLS. First black WAVE officers, members
of the finaI graduating class at Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School (WR),
[Photograph not included.]
By July 1945 the Navy had trained seventy-two black WAVES at Hunter College Naval Training School in a fully integrated and routine manner. Although black WAVES were restricted somewhat in specialty assignments and a certain amount of separate quartering within integrated barracks prevailed at some duty stations, the Special Programs Unit came to consider the WAVE program, which established a forceful precedent for the integration of male recruit training, its most Important wartime breakthrough, crediting Captain McAfee and her unbending insistence on equal treatment for the achievement.
Forrestal won the day in these early experiments, but he was a skillful administrator and knew that there was little hope for any fundamental social change in the naval service without the active cooperation of the Navy's high ranking officers. His meeting with Admiral King on the subject of integration in the summer of 1944 has been reported by several people. Lester Granger, who later became Forrestal's special representative on racial matters, recalled:
He [Forrestal] said he spoke to Admiral King, who was
then chief of staff, and said Admiral King, I'm nor satisfied with the
situation here—I don't think that our Navy Negro personnel are getting
a square break. I want to do something about it, but I can't do anything
about it unless the officers are behind me. I want your help. What do you
He said that Admiral King sat for a moment, and looked our the window and then said reflectively, "You know, we say that we are a democracy and a democracy ought to have a democratic Navy. I don't think you can do it, but if you want to try, I'm behind you all the way." And he told me, "And Admiral King was behind me, all the way, not only he but all of the Bureau of Personnel, BuPers. They've been bricks. "105
Admiral Jacobs, the Chief of Naval Personnel, also pledged his support. 106
SAILORS IN THE GENERAL SERVICE MOVE AMMUNITION [Photograph not included.]
As news of the King-Forrestal conversation filtered through the department, many of the programs long suggested by the Special Programs Unit and heretofore treated with indifference or disapproval suddenly received respectful attention.107 With the high-ranking officers cooperating, the Navy under Forrestal began to attack some of the more obvious forms of discrimination and causes of racial tension. Admiral King led the attack, personally directing in August 1944 that all elements give close attention to the proper selection of officers to command black sailors. As he put it: "Certain officers will be temperamentally better suited for such commands than others." 108 The qualifications of these officers were to be kept under constant review. In December he singled out the commands in the Pacific area, which had a heavy concentration of all-black base companies, calling for a reform in their employment and advancement of Negroes. 109
SECURITY WATCH IN THE MARIANAS. Ratings of these men guarding an ammunition Depot include boatswain, second class, seaman, first class, and fireman, first class. [Photograph not included.]
The Bureau of Naval Personnel also stepped up the tempo of its reforms. In March 1944 it had already made black cooks and bakers eligible for duty in all commissary branches of the Navy.110 In June it got Forrestal's approval for putting all Ted cooks and stewards in chief petty officer uniforms. 111 (While providing finally for the proper uniforming of the chief cooks and stewards, this reform set their subordinates, the rated cooks and stewards, even further apart from their counterparts in the general service who of course continued to wear the familiar bell bottoms.) The bureau also began to attack the concentration of Negroes in ammunition depots and base companies. On 21 February 1945 it ordered that all naval magazines and ammunition depots in the United States and, wherever practical, overseas limit their black seamen to 30 percent of the total employed.112 It also organized twenty logistic support companies to replace the formless base companies sent to the Pacific in the early months of the recruitment program. Organized to perform supply functions, each company consisted of 250 enlisted men and five officers, with a flexible range of petty officer billets.
In the reform atmosphere slowly permeating the Bureau of Naval Personnel, the Special Programs Unit found it relatively easy to end segregation in the specialist training program.ll3 From the first, the number of Negroes eligible for specialist training had been too small to make costly duplication of equipment and services practical. In 1943, for example, the black aviation metalsmith school at Great Lakes had an average enrollment of eight students. The school was quietly closed and its students integrated with white students. Thus, when the Mason's complement was assembled in early 1944, Negroes were put into the destroyer school at Norfolk side by side with whites, and the black and white petty officers were quartered together. As a natural consequence of the decision to place Negroes in the auxiliary fleet, the Bureau of Naval Personnel opened training in seagoing rates to Negroes on an integrated basis. Citing the practicality of the move, the bureau closed the last of the black schools in June 1945. 114
Despite these reforms, the months following Forrestal's talk with King saw many important recommendations of the Special Programs Unit wandering uncertainly through the bureaucratic desert. For example, a proposal to make the logistic support companies interracial, or at least to create comparable white companies to remove the stigma of segregated manual labor, failed to survive the objections of the enlisted personnel section. The Bureau of Naval Personnel rejected a suggestion that Negroes be assigned to repair units on board ships and to LST's, LCI's, and LCT's during the expansion of the amphibious program. On 30 August 1944 Admiral King rejected a bureau recommendation that the crews of net tenders and mine ships be integrated. He reasoned that these vessels were being kept in readiness for overseas assignment and required "the highest degree of experienced seamanship and precision work" by the crews. He also cited the crowded living quarters and less experienced officers as further reasons for banning Negroes.ll5
There were other examples of backsliding in the Navy's racial practices. Use of Negroes in general service had created a shortage of messmen, and in August 1944 the Bureau of Naval Personnel authorized commanders to recruit among black seamen for men to transfer to the Steward's Branch. The bureau suggested as a talking point the fact that stewards enjoyed more rapid advancement, shorter hours, and easier work than men in the general service.116 And, illustrating that a move toward integration was sometimes followed by a step backward, a bureau representative reported in July 1945 that whereas a few black trainees at the Bainbridge Naval Training Center had been integrated is the past, many now arriving were segregated in all-black companies. 117
There were reasons for the inconsistent stance in Washington. The Special Programs Unit had for some time been convinced that only full integration would eliminate discrimination and dissolve racial tensions in the Navy, and I had understood Forrestal's desire "to do something" for the Negro to mean just that. Some senior commanders and their colleagues in the Bureau of Naval Per sonnet, on the other hand, while accepting the need for reform and willing to accept some racial mixing, nevertheless rejected any substantial change in the policy of restricted employment of Negroes on the grounds that it might disrupt the wartime fleet. Both sides could argue with assurance since Forrestal and King had not made their positions completely clear. Whatever the secretary's ultimate intention, the reforms carried out in 1944 were too little and too late. Perhaps nothing would have been sufficient, for the racial incidents visited upon the Navy during the last year of the war were symptomatic of the overwhelming dissatisfaction Negroes felt with their lot in the armed forces. There had been incidents during the Knox period, but investigation had failed to isolate any "single, simple cause," and troubles continued to occur during 1944. 118
Three of these incidents gained national prominence.119 The first was a mutiny at Mare Island, California, after an explosion destroyed two ammunition ships loading at nearby Port Chicago on 17 July 1944. The explosion killed over 300 persons, including 250 black seamen who had toiled in large, segregated labor battalions. The survivors refused to return to work, and fifty of them were convicted of mutiny and sentenced to prison. The incident became a cause celebre. Finally, through the intervention of the black press and black organizations and the efforts of Thurgood Marshall and Lester Granger, the convictions were set aside and the men restored to active duty.
A riot on Guam in December 1944 was the climax of months of friction between black seamen and white marines. A series of shootings in and around the town of Agana on Christmas Eve left a black and a white marine dead. Believing one of the killed a member of their group, black sailors from the Naval Supply Depot drove into town to confront the outnumbered military police. No violence ensued, but the next day two truckloads of armed Negroes went to the white Marine camp. A riot followed and forty-three Negroes were arrested charged with rioting and theft of the trucks, and sentenced to up to four years in prison. The authorities also recommended that several of the white marines involved be court-martialed. These men too were convicted of various offenses and sentenced.120 Walter White went to Guam to investigate the matter and appeared as a principal witness before the Marine Court of Inquiry. There he pieced together for officials the long history of discrimination suffered by men of the base company. This situation, combined with poor leadership in the unit, he believed, caused the trouble. His efforts and those of other civil rights advocates led to the release of the black sailors in early 1946.121
SPECIALISTS REPAIR AIRCRAFT, Naval Air Station, Seattle, Washington, 1945. Photograph not included.]
A hunger strike developed as a protest against discrimination in a Seabee battalion at Port Hueneme, California, in March 1945. There was no violence. The thousand strikers continued to work but refused to eat for two days. The resulting publicity forced the Navy to investigate the charges; as a result, the commanding officer, the focus of the grievance, was replaced and the outfit sent overseas.
The riots, mutinies, and other incidents increased the pressure for further modifications of policy. Some senior officers became convinced that the only way to avoid mass rebellion was to avert the possibility of collective action, and collective action was less likely if Negroes were dispersed among whites. As Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet and an eloquent proponent of the theory that integration was a practical means of avoiding trouble explained to the captain of an attack cargo ship who had just received a group of black crewmen and was segregating their sleeping quarters: "If you put all the Negroes together they'll have a chance to share grievances and to plot among themselves, and this will damage discipline and morale. If they are distribute among other members of the crew, there will be less chance of trouble. And when we say we want integration, we mean Integration. "122 Thus integration grew out of both idealism and realism.
If racial incidents convinced the admirals that further reforms were necessary, they also seem to have strengthened Forrestal's resolve to introduce a still greater change in his department's policy. For months he had listened to the arguments of senior officials and naval experts that integration of the fleet though desirable, was impossible during the war. Yet Forrestal had seen integration work on the small patrol craft, on fleet auxiliaries, and in the WAVES. In fact, integration was working smoothly wherever it had been tried. Although hard to substantiate, the evidence suggests that it was in the weeks after the Guam incident that the secretary and Admiral King agreed on a policy of total integration in the general service. The change would be gradual, but the progress would be evident and the end assured-Negroes were going to be assigned as individuals to all branches in the general service. 123
Forrestal and King called upon the secretary to appoint a civilian aide to consider the problems of the Negro in the Navy. The group also added its voice to those within the Navy who were suggesting the appointment of a black public relations officer to disseminate news of particular interest to the black press and to improve the Navy's relations with the black community.124 One of Forrestal's assistants proposed that an intradepartmental committee be organized to standardize the disparate approaches to racial problems throughout the naval establishment; another recommended the appointment of a black civilian to advise the Bureau of Naval Personnel; and still another recommended a white assistant on racial affairs in the office of the under secretary. 125
These ideas had merit. The Special Programs Unit had for some time been urging a public relations effort, pointing to the existence of an influential black press as well as to the desirability of fostering among whites a greater knowledge of the role of Negroes in the war. Forrestal brought two black officers to Washington for possible assignment to public relations work, and he asked the director of public relations to arrange for black newsmen to visit vessels manned by black crewmen. Finally, in June 1945, a black officer was added to the staff of the Navy's Office of Public Relations. 126
Appointment of a civilian aide on racial affairs was under consideration for some time, but when no agreement could be reached on where best to assign the official. Forrestal. who wanted someone he could "casually talk to about race relations,"127 invited the Executive Secretary of the National Urban League to 'give us some of your time for a period."128 Thus in March 1945 Lester B. Granger began his long association with the Department of Defense, an association that would span the military's integration effort.129 Granger's assignment was straightforward. From time to time he would make extensive trips representing the secretary and his special interest in racial problems at various naval stations.
Forrestal was sympathetic to the Urban League's approach to racial justice, and in Granger he had a man who had developed this approach into a social philosophy. Granger believed in relating the Navy's racial problems not to questions of fairness but to questions of survival, comfort, and security for all concerned. He assumed that if leadership in any field came to understand that its privilege or its security were threatened by denial of fairness to the less privileged, then a meeting of minds was possible between the two groups. They would begin to seek a way to eliminate insecurity, and from the process of eliminating insecurity would come fairness. As Granger explained it, talk to the commander about his loss of efficient production, not the shame of denying a Negro a man's right to a job. Talk about the social costs that come from denial of opportunity and talk about the penalty that the privileged pay almost in equal measure to what the Negro pays, but in different coin. Only then would one begin to get a hearing. On the other hand, talk to Negroes not about achieving their rights but about making good on an opportunity. This would lead to a discussion of training, of ways to override barriers "by maintaining themselves whole." 130 The Navy was going to get a lesson in race relations, Urban League style.
At Forrestal's request, Granger explained how he viewed the special
adviser's role. He thought he could help the secretary by smoothing the
integration process in the general service through consultations with local
commanders and their men in a series of field visits. He could also act
as an intermediary between the department and the civil rights organizations
and black press.
Granger urged the formation of an advisory council. which would consist of ranking representatives from the various branches, to interpret and administer the Navy's racial policy. The need for such intradepartmental coordination seemed fairly obvious. Although in 1945 the Bureau of Naval Personnel had increased the resources of its Special Programs Unit, still the only specialized organization dealing with race problems, that group was always too swamped with administrative detail to police race problems outside Washington. Furthermore, the Seabees and the Medical and Surgery Department were in some ways independent of the bureau, and their employment of black sailors was different from that of other branches—a situation that created further confusion and conflict in the application of race policy.131
Assuming that the advisory council would require an executive agent, Granger suggested that the secretary have a full-time assistant for race relations in addition to his own part-time services. He wanted the man to be black and he wanted him in the secretary's office, which would give him prestige in the black community and increase his power to deal with the bureaus. Forrestal rejected the idea of a council and a full-time assistant, pleading that he must avoid creating another formal organization. Instead he decided to assemble an informal committee, which he invited Granger to join. to standardize the Navy's : handling of Negroes . 132
It was obvious that Forrestal, convinced that the Navy's senior officials had made a fundamental shift in their thinking on equal treatment and opportunity for Negroes in the Navy, was content to let specific reforms percolate slowly throughout the department. He would later call the Navy's wartime reforms "a star: down a long road." 133 In these last months of the war, however, more barriers to equal treatment of Negroes were quietly falling. In March 1945, after months of prodding by Forrestal, the Surgeon General announced that the Navy would accept a ''reasonable" number of qualified black nurses and was now recruiting for them.134 In June the Bureau of Naval Personnel ordered the integration of recruit training, assigning black general service recruits to the nearest recruit training command "to obtain the maximum utilization of naval training and housing facilities."135 Noting that this integration was at variance With some individual attitudes, the bureau justified the change on the grounds of administrative efficiency. Again at the secretary's urging, plans were set in motion in July for the assignment of Negroes to submarine and aviation pilot training.136 At the same time Lester Granger, acting as the secretary's personal representative, was visiting the Navy's continental installations, prodding commanders and converting them to the new policy. 137
THE 22D SPECIAL CONSTRUCTION BATTALION CELEBRATES V-J DAY [Photograph not included.]
The Navy's wartime progress in race relations was the product of several forces. At first Negroes were restricted to service as messmen, but political pressure forced the Navy to open general service billets to them. In this the influence of the civil rights spokesmen was paramount. They and their allies in Congress and the national political parries led President Roosevelt to demand an end to exclusion and the Navy to accept Negroes for segregated general service. The presence of large numbers of black inductees and the limited number of assignments for them in segregated units prevented the Bureau of Naval Personnel from providing even a semblance of separate but equal conditions. Deteriorating black morale and the specter of racial disturbance drove the bureau to experiment with all-black crews, but the experiment led nowhere. The Navy could never operate a separate but equal fleet. Finally in 1944 Forrestal began to experiment with integration in seagoing assignments.
The influence of the civil rights forces can be overstated. Their attention tended to focus on the Army, especially in the later years of the war; their attacks on the Navy were mostly sporadic and uncoordinated and easily deflected by naval spokesmen. Equally important to race reform was the fact that the Navy was developing its own group of civil rights advocates during the war, influential men in key positions who had been dissatisfied with the prewar status of the Negro and who pressed for racial change in the name of military efficiency. Under the leadership of a sympathetic secretary, himself aided and abetted by Stevenson and other advisers in his office and in the Bureau of Naval Personnel, the Navy was laying plans for a racially integrated general service when Japan capitulated.
To achieve equality of treatment and opportunity, however, takes more than the development of an integration policy. For one thing, the liberalization policy and practices affected only a relatively small percentage of the Negroes in the Navy. On V-J day the Navy could count 164,942 enlisted Negroes, 5.3 percent of its total enlisted strength.138 More than double the prewar percent age, this figure was still less than half the national ratio of blacks to whites. In August 1945 the Navy had 60 black officers, 6 of whom were women (4 nurse and 2 WAVES), and 68 enlisted WAVES who were not segregated. The integration of the Navy officer corps, the WAVES, and the nurses had an immediate effect on only 128 people. Figures for black enlisted men show that they were employed in some sixty-seven ratings by the end of the war, but steward an. steward's mate ratings accounted for some 68,000 men, about 40 percent of the total black enlistment. Approximately 59,000 others were ordinary seamen some were recruits in training or specialists striking for ratings, but most were assigned to the large segregated labor units and base companies. 139 Here again integrated service affected only a small portion of the Navy's black recruits during World War II.
Furthermore, a real chance existed that even this limited progress might prove to be temporary. On V-J day the Regular Navy had 7,066 Negroes, just 2.14 percent of its total. 140 Many of these men could be expected to stay in the postwar Navy, but the overwhelming majority of them were in the separate Steward's Branch and would remain there after the war. Black reservists in the wartime general service would have to compete with white regulars and reservists for the severely reduced number of postwar billets and commissions in a Navy in which almost all members would have to be regulars. Although Lester Granger had stressed this point in conversations with James Forrestal, neither the secretary nor the Bureau of Naval Personnel took the matter up before the end of the war. In short, after setting in motion a number of far-reaching reforms during the war. the Navy seemed in some danger of settling back into its old prewar pattern.
Still, the fact that reforms had been attempted in a service that had so recently excluded Negroes was evidence of progress. Secretary Forrestal was convinced that the Navy's hierarchy had swung behind the principle of equal treatment and opportunity, but the real test was yet to come. Hope for a permanent change in the Navy's racial practices lay in convincing its tradition-minded officers that an integrated general service with a representative share of black officers and men was a matter of military efficiency.
1All statistics in this chapter are taken from the files of the U.S. Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel (hereafter cited as BuPers).
2After some delay and considerable pressure from civil rights sources, the Navy identified Miller, awarded him the Navy Cross, and promoted him to mess attendant, first class. Miller was later lost at sea. See Dennis D. Nelson, The Integration of the Negro Into the U. S. Navy (New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 19 5 I ), pp. 23-25. The Navy further honored Miller in 1973 by naming a destroyer escort (DE 1091) after him
3There were exceptions to this generalization. The Navy had 43 black men with ratings in the general service in December 1941: the 6 regulars from the 1920's, 23 others returned from retirement, and 14 members of the Fleet Reserve. See U.S. Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel, "The Negro in the Navy in World War II" (1947) (hereafter "BuPers Hist"), p. 1. This study is part of the bureau's unpublished multivolume administrative history of World War 11. A copy is on file in the bureau's Technical Library. The work is particularly valuable for its references to documents that no longer exist.
4One of Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders, a World War I field artillery officer, and later publisher of the Chicago Daily News. Knox was an implacable foe of the New Deal but an ardent internationalist, strongly sympathetic to President Roosevelt's foreign policy.
5In 1940 the bureaus were answerable only to the Secretary of the Navy and the President, but after a reorganization of 1942 they began to lose some of their independence. In March 1942 President Roosevelt merged the offices of the Chief of Naval Operations and Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet giving Admiral Ernest J. King, who held both titles, at least some direction over most of the bureaus. Eventually the Chief of Naval Operations would become a figure with powers comparable to those exercised by the Army's Chief of Staff. See Julius A. Furer, Administration of the Navy Department in World War II (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1959), pp. 113-14. This shift in power was readily apparent '' in the case of the administration of the Navy's racial policy.
6Ltr, SecNav to Lt. Gov. Charles Poletti (New York), 24 Jul 40, Nav-620-AT, GenRecsNav.
7Idem to Sen. Arthur Capper (Kansas), 1 Aug 40, QN/P14-4, GenRecsNav.
8Memo, Rear Adm W. R. Sexton, Chmn of Gen Bd, for Capt Morton L. Deyo, 17 Sep 40, Recs of Gen Bd OpNavArchives.
9Idem for SecNav, 17 Sep 40, sub: Enlistment of Colored Persons in the U.S. Navy, Recs of Gen Bd, OpNavArchives. 1st Ind to Ltr, Natl Public Relations Comm of the Universal Negro Improvement Assn to SecNav, 4 Oct 41; Memo, Chief, BuNav, for CNO, 24 Oct 41, and 2d Ind to same, CNO to SecNav (Public Relations). Both in BuPers QN/P14-4 (411004), GenRecsNav. For examples of the Navy's response on race, see Ltr. Ens Ross R. Hirshfield, Off of Pub Relations, to Roberson County Training School, 25 Oct 41; Ltr, Ens William Stucky to W. Henry White, 4 Feb 42. Both in QN/P14-4, BuPersRecs.
10Quoted in White, A Man Called White. p. 191.
12Memo, W. A. Allen, Office of Public Relations, for Lt Cmdr Smith, BuPers, 29 Jan 42, BuPers QN / P- 14 BuPersRecs.
13Ltr, Chief, BuNav, to Chmn, Gen Bd, 22 Jan 42, sub: Enlistment of Men of Colored Race in Other Than Messman Branch, Recs of Gen Bd, OpNavArchives.
15The FEPC was established 25 June 1941 to carry Out Roosevelt's Executive Order 8802 against discrimination in employment in defense industries and in the federal government.
16"BuPers Hist," pp. 4-5;
Ltr, Mark Ethridge to Lee Nichols, 14 Jul 53, in Nichols Collection, CMH.
17Ltr, SecNav to Gifford Pinchot, 19 Jan 42, 54- 1-15, GenRecsNav.
18Quoted in "BuPers Hist,'' p. 5
19Memo, SecNav for Chmn, Gen Bd, 16 Jan 42, sub: Enlistment of Men of Colored Race in Other Than Messman Branch, Recs of Gen Bd, OpNavArchives.
20Enlistment of Men of Colored Race (201), 23 Jan 42, Hearings Before the General Board of the Navy 1942; Memo, Chmn, Gen Bd, for SecNav, 3 Feb 42, sub: Enlistment of Men of Colored Race in Other Than Messman Branch. Both in Recs of Gen Bd, OpNavArchives.
21Quoted in "BuPers Hist." p. 6.
22Memo, SecNav for Chmn, Gen Bd, 14 Feb 42, Recs of Gen Bd, OpNavArchives. The quotation is from the Knox Memo and is not necessarily in the exact words of the President.
23Memos, Chmn, Gen Bd, for Chief, BuNav, Cmdt, CG, and Cmdt, MC, 18 Feb 42, sub: Enlistment of Men of Colored Race in Other Than Messman Branch. For examples of responses, see Ltr, Cmdt. to Chmn, Gen Bd, 24 Feb 42, same sub; Memo, Chief, BuNav. for Chmn, Den Bd, 7 Mar 42. same sub, Memo, CNO for Chief, BuNav, 25 Feb 42, same sub, with 1st Ind by CINCUSFLT, 28 Feb 42, same sub. The final enlistment plan is found in Memo, Chmn, Gen Bd, for SecNav, 20 Mar 42, same sub (G. B. No 421). All in Recs of Gen Bd, OpNavArchives. It was transmitted to the President in Ltr, SecNav to President, 27 Mar 42, P14-4/MM, GenRecsNav.
24Memo, President for Secy of Navy, 31 Mar 42, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park. New York.
25New York Times, January 10 and March 20, 1942.
26Office of SecNav, Press Release, 7 Apr 42.
27"The Navy Makes a Gesture." Crisis, 49 (May 1942):51. The National Negro Congress quotation reprinted in Dennis D. Nelson's summary of reactions to the Secretary of the Navy's announcement. See Nelson, "The Integration of the Negro in the United States Navy, 1776-1947,'' (NAVEXOS-P-526), p. 38. (This earlier and different version of Nelson's published work, derived from his master's thesis. was sponsored by the U.S. Navy.)
28Although essentially correct.
the critics were technically inaccurate since some Negroes would be assigned
to Coast Guard cutters which qualified as sea duty.
29Quoted in Nelson, "The Integration of the Negro.'' p. 37.
30Opportunity (May 1942), p. 82.
31Memo, Chief, BuNav, for SecNav, 17 Apr 42, sub: Training Facilities for Negro Recruits, Nav-102; Memo, SecNav for Rear Adm Randall Jacobs, 21 Apr 42, 54-1-22. Both in GenRecsNav.
32Memo, SecNav for Chmn, Gen Bd, Mar 42, GenRecsNav.
33For a discussion of Armstrong's
philosophy from the viewpoint of an educated black recruit, see Nelson.
"integration of the Negro," pp. 28-34. See also Ltr, Nelson to author,
10 Feb 70, CMH files.
34With the exception of machinist school, where blacks were in training twice as long as whites, specialist training for Negroes and whites was similar in length. See "BuPers Hist, " pp. 28-30. 60-61
35BuPers, "Reports, Schedules, and Charts Relating to Enlistment, Training, and Assignment of Negro Personnel, " 5 Jun 42, Pers-6 17, BuPersRecs.
36In May 1942 the name of the Bureau of Navigation was changed to the Bureau of Naval Personnel to reflect more accurately the duties of the organization.
37Memo, Chief, NavPers, for CO, Great Lakes NTC, 23 Apr 43, P14-l, BuPersRecs.
38"BuPers Hist," p. 54.
39Ibid., p. 9.
40Memo, SW for SecNav, 16 Feb 42, sub: Continuing of Voluntary Recruiting by the Navy, QN/P14-4,
41Idem for President, 16 Mar 42, copy in QN/P14-4. GenRecsNav.
42Memo, President for SW, 20 Mar 42, copy in QN/P14-4. GenRecsNav.
43Executive Order 9279, 5 Dec 42.
44Memo, SecNav for Rear Adm Randall Jacobs, 5 Feb 4 3, 54-1-22, GenRecsNav.
45Ltr, Paul McNutt to SecNav, 17 Feb 43, WMC Gen files, NARS.
46Memo, President for SecNav, 22 Feb 43, FDR Library.
47Ltr, Knox to McNutt, 26 Feb 43, WMC Gen files.
48Ltr, McNutt to Knox, 23 Mar 43, WMC Gen files.
49Ltr, SecNav to Paul McNutt, 13 Apr 43; Ltr, McNutt to Knox, 23 Apr 43; both in WMC Gen files.
50Selective Service System, Special Groups, vol. II, pp. 198-201. See also Memos, Director of Planning and Control, BuPers. for Chief, BuPers, 25 Feb 43, sub: Increase in Colored Personnel for the Navy; and 1 Apr 43. sub: Increase in Negro Personnel in Navy. Both in P-14, BuPersRecs.
51Memos, SecNav for President, 25 Feb and 14 Apr 43, quoted in ''BuPers Hist," pp. 13-14; Memo, Actg Chief, NavPers, for SecNav, 24 Feb 43, sub: Employment of Colored Personnel in the Navy, Pers 10, GenRecsNav. For Roosevelt's approval see ''BuPers Hist," p. 14.
52''BuPers Hist," p. 41.
53Naval districts organized section bases during the war with responsibility, among other things, for guarding beaches. harbors, and installations and maintaining equipment.
54See CNO ALNAV, 7 Aug 44, quoted in Nelson, "Integration of the Negro, " p. 46
55Memo, Acing Chief, NavPers, for Cmdts, AlNav Districts et al., 26 Sep 44, sub: Enlisted Personnel-Utilization of in Field for which Specifically Trained, Pers 16- 3/ MM, BuPersRecs.
56Ltr, Eleanor Roosevelt to SecNav, 20 Nov 43; Ltr, SecNav to Mrs. Roosevelt, 27 Nov 43; both in BUMED-S-EC, GenRecsNav. Well known for her interest in the cause of racial justice, the President's wife received many complaints during the war concerning discrimination in the armed forces. Mrs. Roosevelt often passed such protests along to service secretaries for action. Although there is no doubt where Mrs. Roosevelt's sympathies lay in these matters, her influence was slight on the policies and practices of the Army or Navy. Her influence on the President's thinking is, of course, another matter. See White, A Man Called White, pp. 168-69, 190.
57For a discussion of these racial disturbances, see "BuPersHist," pp. 75-80.
58lnterv, Lee Nichols with Rear Adm. R. H. Hillenkoetter, 1953, in Nichols Collection, CMH.
59Nichols, Breakthrough on the Color Front, pp. 54-59. Nichols supports his affectionate portrait of Sargent, who died shortly after the war, with interviews of many wartime officials who worked in the Bureau of Naval Personnel with Sargent. See Nichols Collection. CMH. See also Christopher Smith Sargent, 19l l -1946, a privately printed memorial prepared by the Sargent family in 1947, copy in CMH.
60For further discussion, see Nelson, ''Integration of the Negro," pp. 124-46.
61BuPers Ltr, Pers 106-MBR, 12 Jul 43.
62"BuPers Hist." p. 53
63Memo, Chief, BuPers, for
CINCUSFLEET, 1 Dec 43, sub: Negro Personnel. P16/MM. BuPersRecs. The latter
experiment has been chronicled by its commanding officer, Eric Purdon.
in Black Company: The Story of Subchaser 1264 (Washington: Luce,
64Memo, CNO for Cmdt, First and Fifth Naval Districts, 10 May 44, sub: Assignment of Negro Personnel. P- 16-3 / MM, BuPersRecs.
65For an assessment of the performance of the Mason's crew, see "BuPers Hist, " pp. 42-43 and 92.
66BuPers Ear, PIG—3, 12 Jul 43, sub: The Expanded Use of Negroes, BuPersRecs.
67Ltr, Chief, NavPers, to Cmdrs, All Naval Districts, 19 Aug 43, sub: Advancement in Rating re: Negro Personnel, P17-2/MM, BuPersRecs.
68BuPers Cir Liar 6-44, 12 Jan 44.
69News that the Navy had inadvertently commissioned a black student at Harvard University in the spring of 1942 produced the following reaction in one personnel office: "LtCmdr B . . . [Special Activities Branch, BuPers] says this is true due to a slip by the officer who signed up medical students at Harvard. Cmdr. B. says this boy has a year to go in medical school and hopes they can get rid of him some how by then. He earnestly asks us to be judicious in handling this matter and prefers that nothing be said about it." Quoted in a Note, H. M. Harvey to M Mc (ca. 2O Jun 42), copy on file in the Dennis D. Nelson Collection, San Diego, California.
70Ltr,SecNav to Sen. David I. Walsh (Massachusetts), 21 May 42. S 1-1-26; see also idem to Sen. William H. Smathers (Florida), 7 Feb 42, Nav-32-C. Both in GenRecsNav.
71Interv, Lee Nichols with Lester Granger. 1953, in Nichols Collection. CMH.
72Kenneth S. Davis, The Poetics of Honor: A Biography of Adlai E. Stevenson (New York: Putnam, 1957), p. 146; Ltr, A. E. Stevenson to Dennis D. Nelson, 10 Feb 48, Nelson Collection, San Diego, California.
73Memo, Stevenson for the Secretary [Knox], 29 Sep 43, 54- l -50, GenRecsNav.
74The V-12 program was designed to prepare large numbers of educated men for the Navy's Reserve Midshipmen schools and to increase the war-depleted student bodies of many colleges. The Navy signed on eligible students as apprentice seamen and paid their academic expenses. Eventually the V-12 program produced some 80,000 officers for the wartime Navy. For an account of the experiences of a black recruit in the V- 12 program, see Carl T. Rowan, "Those Navy Boys Changed My Life," Reader's Digest, 72( January 1958):55-58. Rowan, the celebrated columnist and onetime Deputy Assistant Secretary of Stare for Public Affairs. was one of the first Negroes to complete the V- 12 program. Another was Samuel Gravely.
75BuPers Cir Ltr 269-43, 15 Dec 43.
76Memo, SecNav for Chief, NavPers, 20 Nov 43, 54-1-50; Memo. Chief, NavPers, for SecNav, 2 Dec 43 sub: Negro Officers. Both in GenRecsNav.
77Memo, SecNav for Rear Adm Jacobs, 15 Dec 43, quoted in "BuPers Hist, " p. 33.
78Quoted in Record of ''Conference With Regard to Negro Personnel,'' held at Hq, Fifth Naval District ,26 Oct 43, Incl to Ltr, Chief, NavPers, to All Sea Frontier Cmds et al., 5 Jan 44, sub: Negro Personnel-Confidential Report of Conference With Regard to the Handling of, Pers 1013, BuPers Recs. The grotesque racial attitudes of some commanders, as well as the thoughtful questions and difficult experiences of others, were fully aired at this conference.
80NavPers 15092, 12 Feb 44.
81"BuPersHist," pt. II, pp 2-3.
82NavPers 15092, 12 Feb 44, p. 10.
83Ibid., p. 1.
84See Columbia University Oral Hist Interv with Granger; USAF Oral History Program Interview with James C. Evans, 24 Apr 73.
85Interv, Lee Nichols with Vice Adm Randall Jacobs, 29 Mar 53, in Nichols Collection, CMH.
86Memo, SecNav for President, 20 May 44, Forrestal file, GenRecsNav
87Ltr, CNO to CO, USS Antaeus et al., 9 Aug 44, sub: Negro Enlisted Personnel-Assignment of to Ships of the Fleet, P16-3/MM, OpNavArchives.
88Idem to Cmdr, Antaeus et al., 9 Jan 45, P16-3, OpNavArchives.
89Ltr, CO, USS Antaeus, to Chief, NavPers, 16 Jan 45, sub: Negro Enlisted Personnel-Assignment of to Ships of the Fleet, Ag67/P16 - 3/MM; see also Memo, Cmdr D. Armstrong for ComSerForPac, 29 Dec 44, sub: Negro Enlisted Personnel (General Service Ratings) Assignment of to Ships of the Fleet, Ltr; ComSerForPac to Chief, NavPers, 2 Jan 45, with CINCPac&POA end thereto, same sub; Ltrs to Chief, NavPers from CO, USS Laramie, 17 Jan 45, USS Mattole, 19 Jan 45, with ComSerForLant end, and USS Ariel, 1 Feb 45. All Incl to Memo, Chief, NavPers, for CINCUSFLEET, 6 Mar 45, sub: Negro Personnel-Expanded Use of, Pers 2119 FB. All in OpNavArchives.
90Memo, Chief, NavPers, for CINCUSFLEET, 6 Mar 45, sub Negro Personnel-Expanded use of, with 1st Ind, from Fleet Adm, USN, for vice CNO, 28 Mar 45, same sub, FFI/P16-3/MM, OpNavArchives.
91BuPers Cir Ltr 105-45, 13 Apr 45. sub: Negro General-Service Personnel. Assignment of to Auxiliary Vessels Of the Fleet.
92Ltr, Chief, NavPers, to CO, USS Mason, 16 Mar 45, sub Negro Officer—Assignment of, Pers 2119-FB; see also idem to CO, USS Kaweah 16 Jul 45, sub: Negro Officer-Assignment of to Auxiliary Vessel of the Fleet, AO 15/P16—1; idem to CO, USS Laramie, 21 Aug 45, same sub, AO 16/P16-1. All in OpNav- Archives.
93Quoted in Rowan, "Those Navy Boys Changed My Life," pp. 57-58.
94Ltr, Mildred M. Horton to author, 14 Mar 75, CMH files
95Memo, Chief, NavPers, for SecNav, 27 Apr 43, Pers 17MD, BuPersRecs, Memo, SecNav for Adm Jacobs, 29 Apr 43, 54-1-43, GenRecsNav.
96See, for example, Ltr, SecNav to Algernon D. Black, City-Wide Citizen's Cmte on Harlem, 23 Apr 43.
97Quoted in Ltr, Horton to author, 14 Mar 75.
98Memo, Ralph Bard for Forrestal, 4 May 44, sub: Navy Policy on Recruitment of Negro Females as WAVES; Ltr, Nathan Cowan, CIO, to Forrestal, 20 May 44, 54-1-1. Both in GenRecsNav.
99Memo, J. V. F. (Forrestal) for Adm Denfeld (ca. 7 Jun 44); Memo, Capt Mildred McAfee for Adm Denfeld, 7 Jun 44, both m 54-1-4, GenRecsNav. See also Memo, Chief, NavPers, for SecNav, 11 May 44, sub: Navy Policy on Recruitment of Negro Females as WAVES, Pers 17, GenRecsNav.
100Memo, Forrestal for President. 28 Jul 44, 54- 1-4, GenRecsNav.
101Memo, Ltr Cmdr John Tyree (White House aide) for Forrestal, 9 Aug 44, 54-1-4, GenRecsNav.
102Navy Depot Press Release, 19 Oct 44.
103Oral History Interview, Mildred McAfee Horton. 25 Aug 69, Center of Naval History.
104Ltr, Asst Chief, NavPers, to CO, NavTraScol (WR), Bronx, N.Y., 8 Dec 44, sub: Colored WAVE Recruits, Pers-107, BuPersRecs.
105Quoted in the Columbia University Oral History Interview with Granger. Granger's incorrect reference to Admiral King as "chief of staff" is interesting because it illustrates the continuing evolution of that office during World War II.
106James V. Forrestal, "Remarks for Dinner Meeting at National Urban League," 12 Feb 58, Box 31, Misc file, Forrestal Papers, Princeton Library. Forrestal's truncated version of the King meeting agreed substantially with Granger's lengthier remembrance.
107Intervs, Lee Nichols with Adm Louis E. Denfeld (Deputy Chief of Naval Personnel, later CNO) and with Cmdr Charles Dillon (formerly of BuPers Special Unit), 1953; both in Nichols Collection, CMH
108ALNAV, 7 Aug 44, quoted in Nelson, " Integration of the Negro," p. 46.
109Dir, CNO, to Forward Areas, Dec 44, quoted in Nelson's "Integration of the Negro " p 51.
110BuPers Cir Ltr 72-44, 13 Mar 44, sub: Negro Personnel of the commissary Branch. Assignment to Duty of.
111Idem, 182-44, 29 Jun 44, ''Uniform for Chief Cooks and Chief Stewards and Cooks and Stewards. "
112Idem, 45-18, 21 Feb 45, and 45-46. 31, May 45, sub: Negro Enlisted Personnel—Limitation on Assignment of to Naval Ammunition Depots and Naval Magazines.
113There is some indication that integration was already going on unofficially in some specialist schools; see Ltr, Dr. M. A. F. Ritchie to James C. Evans, 13 Aug 65, CMH files.
114BuPers Cir Ltr 194-44, sub: Advanced Schools, Nondiscrimination in Selection of Personnel for Training in; Ltr, Chief, NavPers, to CO, AdComd, NavTraCen, 12 Jun 45, sub: Selection of Negro Personnel for Instruction in Class ''A" Schools, 54-1-21, GenRecsNav.
115Memo, CNO for Chief, NavPers, 30 Aug 44, sub: Negro Personnel—Assignment to ANs and YMs, P 13-/MM, BuPersRecs.
116BuPers Cir Ltr 227-44, 12 Aug 44, sub: Steward's Branch, Procurement of From General-Service Negroes.
117Memo, Lt William H. Robertson, Jr., for Rear Adm William M. Fechteler, Asset Chief, NavPers, 20 Jul 45, sub: Conditions Existing at NTC. Bainbridge. Md., Regarding Negro Personnel. Reported on by Lt Wm H. Robertson, Jr.. Pers-2119-FB, BuPersRecs.
118"BuPersHist," p. 75.
119Nelson, "Integration of the Negro.'' ch. Vlll.
120Henry I. Shaw, Jr. and Ralph W. Donnelly, Blacks in the Marine Corps (Washington: Government Printing Office. 1975), pp. 44-45
121White's testimony before the Court of Inquiry was attached to a report by Maj Gen Henry L. Larsen to CMC (ca. 22 Jan 45), Ser. No. 04275, copy in CMH.
122As quoted in White, A Man Called White, p. 273. For a variation on this theme, see Interv, Nichols with Hillenkoetter.
123Ltr, Rear Adm Hillenkoetter to Nichols, 22 May 53; see also Intervs, Nichols with Granger. Hillenkoetter, Jacobs, Thomas Darden, Dillon. and other BuPers officials. In contrast to the Knox period, where the files are repute with Secretary of the Navy memos, BuPers letters, and General Board reports on the development of the Navy's racial policy, there is scant documentation on the same subject during the early months of the Forrestal administration. This is understandable because the subject of integration was extremely delicate and not readily susceptible to the usual staffing needed for most policy decisions. Furthermore, Forrestal's laconic manner of expressing himself, famous in bureaucratic Washington, inhibited the usual flow of letters and memos.
124Ltr, John H. Sengstacke to Forrestal, 19 Dec 44, 54- l-9, GenRecsNav; Interv, Nichols with Granger.
125Memo, Under Sec Bard for
SecNav, 1 Jan 45; Memo, H. Struve Hensel (Off of Gen Counsel) for Forrestal,
5 Jan 45; both in 54-1-9, Forrestal file, GenRecsNav.
126Memo, SecNav for Eugene Duffield (Asst to Under Sec). 16 Jan 45. 54-1-9; idem for Rear Adm A. Stanton Merrill (Dir of Pub Relations), 24 Mar and 4 May 45, 54-1-16. All in Forrestal file, GenRecsNav.
127Quoted in Forrestal, ''Remarks for Dinner of Urban League.''
128Ltr, SecNav to Lester Granger, 1 Feb 45, Forrestal file, GenRecsNav.
129Ltrs, Granger to Forrestal, 19 Mar and 3 Apr 45, 54-1-13, Forrestal file, GenRecsNav. Granger and Forrestal had attended Dartmouth College. but not together as Forrestal thought. For a detailed and affectionate account of their relationship,. see Columbia University Oral History Interview with Granger.
130Columbia University Oral Hist Interv with Granger.
131Memo, Chief, NavPers, for Cmdr Richard M. Paget (Exec Office of the SecNav), 21 Apr 45, sub: Organization of Advisory Cmte, Pers 2119, GenRecsNav. See also "BuPersHist," pt. II, p. 3.
132Ltr, Granger to SecNav, 19 Mar 45; Ltrs, SecNav to Granger, 26 Mar and 5 Apr 45. All in 54-1-13, Forrestal file, GenRecsNav. The activities of the intradepartmental committee will be discussed in Chapter 5.
133Ltr, Forrestal to Marshall Field III (publisher of PM), 14 Jul 45, 54-1-13, Forrestal file, GenRecsNav.
134Memo. SecNav for Rear Adm W. J. C. Agnew, Asst Surg Gen 28 Jan 45; Memo, Surg Gen for Eugene Duffield, 19 Mar 45; both in 54—l - 3, Forrestal file, GenRecsNav. By V-J day the Navy had four black nurses on active duty.
135Ltr, Chief, NavPers, to Cmdts, All Naval Districts, 11 Jun 45, sub: Negro Recruit Training—Discontinuance of Special Program and Camps for, P16-3/ MM, BuPersRecs.
136Memo, SecNav for Artemus L. Gates, Asst Sec for Air, et al., 16 Jul 45; Ltr SecNav to Granger, 14 Jul 45; both in 54-1-20, GenRecsNav
137Ltr Granger to Forrestal, 4 Aug 45, 54-1-13, GenRecsNav.
138Pers215-BL. ''Enlisted Strength-U.S.Navy,.'' 26 Jul 46. BuPersRecs
139Pers 215-12-EL, "Number of Negro Enlisted Personnel on Active Duty," 29 Nov 45 (statistics as of 31 Oct 45). BuPersRecs.
140Pers-215-BL, ''Enlisted Strength—U.S. Navy,'' 26 Jul 46.