The racial reforms instituted by the four services between 1949 and 1954 demonstrated that integration was to a great extent concerned with effective utilization of military manpower. In the case of the Army and the Marine Corps the reforms would be delayed and would occur, finally, on the field of battle. The Navy and the Air Force, however, accepted the connection between military efficiency and integration even before the Fahy Committee began to preach the point. Despite their very dissimilar postwar racial practices, the Air Force and the Navy were facing the same problem. In a period of reduced manpower allocations and increased demand for technically trained men, these services came to realize that racial distinctions were imposing unacceptable administrative burdens and reducing fighting efficiency. Their response to the Fahy Committee was merely to expedite or revise integration policies already decided upon.
The Air Force's integration plan had gone to the Secretary of Defense on 6 January 1949, committing that service to a major reorganization of its manpower. In a period of severe budget and manpower retrenchment, the Air Force was proposing to open all jobs in all fields to Negroes, subject only to the individual qualifications of the men and the needs of the service.1 To ascertain these needs and qualifications the Director of Personnel Planning was prepared to screen the service's 20,146 Negroes (269 officers and 19,877 airmen), approximately 5 percent of its strength, for the purpose of reassigning those eligible to former all-white units and training schools and dropping the unfit from the service.2 As Secretary of the Air Force Symington made clear, his integration plan would be limited in scope. Some black service units would be retained; the rest would be eliminated, "thereby relieving the Air Force of the critical problems involved in manning these units with qualified personnel."3
In the end the integration process was not a drawn-out one; much of Symington's effort in 1949 was devoted instead to winning approval for the plan. Submitted to Forrestal on 6 January 1949, it was slightly revised after lengthy discussions in both the Fahy Committee and the Personnel Policy Board and in keeping with the Defense Secretary's equal treatment and opportunity directive of 6 April 1949. Some further delay resulted from the Personnel Policy Boards abortive attempt to achieve an equal opportunity program common to all the services. The Air Force plan was not finally approved by the Secretary of Defense until 11 May. Some in the Air Force were worried about the long delay in approval. As early as 12 January the Chief of Staff warned Symington that budget programming for the new 48-wing force required an early decision on the plan especially in regard to the inactivation of the all-black wing at Lockbourne. Further delay, he predicted, would cause confusion in reassignment of some 4,000 troops.4 In conversation with the Secretary of Defense, Symington mentioned a deadline of 31 March, but Assistant Secretary Zuckert was later able to assure Symington that the planners could tolerate a delay in the decision over integration until May.5
By then the long official silence had produced serious consequences, for despite the lack of any public announcement, parts of the plan had leaked to the press and caused some debate in Congress and considerable dissatisfaction among black servicemen. Congressional interest in the internal affairs of the armed forces was always of more than passing concern to the services. When a discussion of the new integration plan appearing in the Washington Post on 29 March caused a flurry of comment on Capitol Hill, Zuckert's assistant, Clarence H. Osthagen, met with the clerk of the House Armed Services Committee to "explain and clarify" for the Air Force. The clerk, Robert Harper, warned Osthagen that the impression in the House was that a "complete intermingling of Negro and white personnel was to take place" and that Congressman Winstead of Mississippi had been tempted to make a speech on the subject. Still, Harper predicted that there would be no adverse criticism of the plan in the House "at this time," adding that since that body had already passed the Air Force appropriation Chairman Carl Vinson was generally unconcerned about the Air Force racial program. Reporting on Senate reaction, Harper noted that while many members of the upper house would have liked to see the plan deferred, they recognized that the President's order made change mandatory. At any rate, Harper reassured Osthagen, the announcement of an integration plan would not jeopardize pending Air Force legislation.6
Unfortunately, the Air Force's black personnel were not so easily reassured. and the service had a morale problem on its hands during the spring of 1949. As later reported by the Fahy Committee staff, black troops generally supported the inactivation of the all-black 332d Fighter Wing at Lockbourne as a necessary step toward integration, but news reports frequently linked the disbandment of that unit to the belt tightening imposed on the Air Force by the 1950 budget.
Some Negroes in the 332d concluded that the move was not directed at integration but at saving money for the Air Force.7 They were concerned lest they find themselves relegated to unskilled labor units despite their training and experience. This fear was not so farfetched, considering Zuckert's private prediction that the redistribution of Lockbourne men had to be executed exactly according to the proposed program or "we would find experienced Air Force Negro technical specialists pushing wheelbarrows or driving trucks in Negro service units. "8
The truth was that, while most Negroes in the Air Force favored integration, some were disturbed by the prospect of competition with whites of equivalent rank that would naturally follow. Many of the black officers were overage in grade, their proficiency geared to the F-51, a wartime piston plane, and they were the logical victims of any reduction in force that might occur in this period of reduced military budgets.9 Some men doubted that the new program, as they imperfectly understood it, would truly integrate the service. They could, for example, see no way for the Air Force to break through what the press called the "community patterns" around southern bases, and they were generally suspicious of the motives of senior department officials. The Pittsburgh Courier summarized this attitude by quoting one black officer who expressed doubt "that a fair program will be enforced from the top echelon. "10
But such suspicions were unfounded, for the Air Force's senior officials were determined to enforce the new program both fairly and expeditiously. General Vandenberg, the Chief of Staff, reported to the War Council on 11 January that the Air Force would "effect full and complete implementation" of its integration plan not only by issuing the required directives and orders, but also by assigning responsibility for monitoring the worldwide implementation of the program to his deputy for personnel. The Chief of Staff also planned to call a meeting of his senior commanders to discuss and solve problems rising from the plan and impress on them the personal attention they must give to carrying it out in the field.ll
The Air Force Commanders' Conference, assembled on 12 April 1949, heard Lt. Gen. Idwal Edwards, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, explain the genesis of the integration plan and outline its major provisions. He mentioned two major steps to be taken in the first phase of the program. First, the 332d Fighter Wing would be inactivated on or before 30 June, and all blacks would be removed from Lockbourne. The commander of the Continental Air Command would create a board of Lockbourne officers to screen those assigned to the all-black base, dividing them into three groups. The skilled and qualified officers and airmen would be reassigned worldwide to white units "just like any other officers or airmen of similar skills and qualifications." General assumed that the number of men in this category would not be large Some 200 officers and 1,500 airmen, he estimated, would be found sufficiently qualified and proficient for such reassignment. He added parenthetically that Colonel Davis understood the "implications" of the new policy and intended to recommend only an individual "of such temperament, judgment, and common sense that he can get along smoothly as an individual in a white unit, and second, that his ability is such as to warrant respect of the personnel of the unit to which he is transferred."
The technically unqualified but still "usable" men would be reassigned to black service units. The staff recognized, General Edwards added, that Some Negroes were unsuited for assignment to white units for "various reasons,, and had specifically authorized the retention of "this type of Negro" in black units, Finally, those who were found neither qualified nor useful would be discharged under current regulations.
The second major action would be taken at the same time as the first. All commands would similarly screen their black troops with the object of reassigning the skilled and qualified to white units and eliminating the chronically unqualified. At the same time racial quotas for recruitment and school attendance would be abolished. Henceforth, blacks would enter the Air Force under the same standards as whites and would be classified, assigned, promoted, or eliminated in accordance with rules that would apply equally to all. "In other words," Edwards commented, "no one is either helped or hindered because of the color of his skin; how far or how fast each one goes depends upon his own ability." To assure equal treatment and opportunity, he would closely monitor the problem. Edwards admitted that the subject of integrated living quarters had caused discussion in the staff, but based on the Navy's years of good experience with integrated quarters and bolstered by the probability that the number of Negroes in any white unit would rarely exceed 1 percent, the staff saw no need for separate sleeping accommodations.
General Edwards reminded the assembled commanders that, while integration
was new to the Air Force, the Navy had been following a similar policy
for years, encountering no trouble, even in the Deep South where black
troops as well as the nearby civilian communities understood that when
men left the base they must conform to the laws and customs of the community.
And as a parting shot he made the commanders aware of where the command
There will be frictions and incidents. However, they will be minimized if commanders give the implementation of this policy their personal attention and exercise positive command control. Unless our young commanders are guided and counseled by the senior commanders in unbiased implementation, we may encounter serious troubles which the Navy has very ably avoided. It must have your personal attention and personal control. 12
Compelling reasons for reform notwithstanding, the effectiveness of an integration program would in the end depend on the attitude and initiative of the local commander. In the Air Force's case the ultimate effectiveness owed much to the fact that the determination of its senior officials was fully explained and Widely circulated throughout the service. As Lt. Gen. Daniel (Chappie) James, Jr., later recalled, those who thought to frustrate the process were well aware that they risked serious trouble if their opposition was discovered by the senior commanders. None of the obvious excuses for preserving the racial status quo remained acceptable after Vandenberg and Edwards made their positions clear. 13
The fact that the control of the new plan was specifically made a personal responsibility of the senior commanders spoke well for its speedy and efficient execution. This was the kind of talk commanders understood, and as the order filtered down to the lower echelons its terms became even more explicit.14 "Direct attention to this changed condition is required throughout the Command," Maj. Gen. Laurence S. Kuter notified his subordinate commanders at the Military Air Transport Service. "Judgment, leadership, and ingenuity are demanded. Commanders who cannot cope with the integration of Negroes into formerly white units or activities will have no place in the Air Force structure. "15
The order itself, as approved by the Secretary of Defense on 11 May 1949 and published on the same day as Air Force Letter 35-3, was unmistakable in intent and clearly spelled out a new bill of rights for Negroes in the Air Force.16 The published directive differed in some respects from the version drafted by the Chief of Staff in January. Despite General Edwards's comments at the commanders' conference in April, the provision for allowing commanders to segregate barracks "if considered necessary" was removed even before the plan was first forwarded to the Secretary of Defense. This deletion was made in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, probably by Zuckert.l7 Later Zuckert commented, "I wouldn't want to give the commanders that kind of sweeping power. I would be afraid of how it might be exercised."18 From the beginning, black airmen were billeted routinely in the living quarters of the units to which they were assigned.
The final version of the directive also deleted reference to a 10 percent
limitation on black strength in formerly white units. Zuckert had assured
the Fahy Committee this limitation was designed to facilitate, not frustrate,
the absorption of Negroes into white units, and Edwards even agreed that
given the determination of Air Force officials to make a success of their
program, the measure was probably unnecessary.19
In the end Zuckert decided to drop any reference to such limitations "because
of the confusion that seemed to arise from this statement."20
ASSISTANT SECRETARY ZUCKERT [Photograph not included.]
Zuckert also deleted several clauses in the supplementary letter to Air Force commanders that was to accompany and explain the order. These clauses had listed possible exemptions from the new order: one made it possible to retain a man in a black unit if he was one of the "key personnel" considered necessary for the successful functioning of a black unit, and the other allowed the local commander to keep those Negroes he deemed "best suited" for continued assignment to black units. The free reassignment of all eligible Negroes, particularly the well-qualified, was essential to the eventual dissolution of the all-black units. The Fahy Committee had objected to these provisions and considered it important for the Air Force to delete them, 21 but the matter was not raised during the committee hearings. There is evidence that the deletions were actually requested by the Secretary of Defense's Personnel Policy Board, whose influence in the integration of the Air Force is often overlooked. 22
The screening of officers and men at Lockbourne got under way on 17 May. A board of officers under the presidency of Col. Davis, the commander of Lockbourne, and composed of representatives of Air Force headquarters, the Continental Air Command, and the Air Training Command, and important officers of Lockbourne, interviewed every officer in the wing. After considering each man's technical training, his performance, and his career field preference, the board recommended him for reassignment in a specific duty field. Although Edwards had promised that the screening boards would also judge each man's "adaptability" to integrated service, this requirement was quickly dropped by Davis and his fellow board members.23 In fact, the whole idea of having screening boards was resented by some black officers. Zuckert later admitted that the screening may have been a mistake, but at the time it had been considered the best mechanism for ascertaining the proper assignment for the men.24
At the same time, a screening team in the Air Training Command gave a written examination to Lockbourne's more than 1,100 airmen and WAF's to determine if they were in appropriate military occupational specialties A team of personnel counselors interviewed all airmen, weighed test scores, past performances, qualifications outside of assigned specialty, and choices of a career field, and then placed them in one of three categories. First, they could be earmarked for general reassignment in a specific military occupational specialty different from the one they were now in; second, they could be scheduled for additional or more advanced technical training; or third, they could be trained in their current specialties. The screeners referred marginal or extraordinary cases to Colonel Davis's board for decision.25
Concurrently with the Lockbourne processing, individual commanders established similar screening procedures wherever black airmen were then assigned. All these teams uncovered a substantial number of men and women considered eligible for further training or reassignment. (Table 4)
|Total Tested||Asgmt to Instr Duty||Asgmt to Tech. School||Asgmt to Present MOS||Recom for Board action|
The process of screening Lockbourne's troops was quickly completed, but the process of reassigning them was considerably more drawn-out. The reassignments were somewhat delayed in the first place by indecision, caused by budgetary uncertainties, on the future of Lockbourne itself. By 25 July, a full two months after the screening began, the Lockbourne board had recommended only 181 officers and 700 airmen to Air Force headquarters for new assignment. A short time later, however, Lockbourne was placed on inactive status and its remaining men and women, with the exception of a small caretaker detachment, were quickly reassigned throughout the Air Force.
The staff had predicted that the speed with which the integration order was carried out would follow a geographical pattern, with southern bases the last to integrate, but in fact no special pattern prevailed. For the many Negroes assigned to all-black base squadrons for administrative purposes but serving on a day-to-day basis in integrated units, the change was relatively simple. These men had already demonstrated their ability to perform their duties competently under integration, and in conformity with the new order most commanders immediately assigned them to the units in which they were already working. Except for their own squadron overhead, some base service squadrons literally disappeared when these reassignments were effected. After the screening process, most commanders also quickly reassigned troops serving in the other black units, such as Squadron F's, air ammunition, motor transport, vehicle repair, signal heavy construction, and aviation engineer squadrons.26
There were of course a few exceptions. Some commanders, noticeably more cautious than the majority, began the integration process with considerably less ease and speed.27 As late as January 1950, for example, the Fahy Committee executive secretary found that, with the exception of a small number of Negroes assigned to white units, the black airmen at Maxwell Air Force Base were still assigned to the all-black 3817th Base Service Squadron, the only such unit he found, incidentally, in a tour of seven installations.28 But as the months went by even the most cautious commander, learning of the success of the new policy in other commands, began to reassign his black airmen according to the recommendations of the screening board. Despite the announcement that some black units would be retained, practically all units were integrated by the end of the first year of the new program. Even using the Air staff's very restricted definition of a "Negro unit," that is, one whose strength was over 50 percent black, statistics show how radical was the change in just one year. (Table 5)
|Month||Black Units||Integrated Units||Negroes Assignedto BlackUnits||Negroes Assignedto IntegratedUnits1|
Despite the predictions of some analysts, the effect of integration on black recruitment proved to be negligible, In a service whose total strength remained about 415,000 men during the first year of integration, Negroes numbered as follows (Table 6):
|Date||OfficerStrength1||EnlistedStrength1||Percentageof Air ForceStrength|
|December 1948||Not available||Not available||6.5|
|June 1949||319 (47)||21,782 (2,196)||6.0|
|August 1949||330 (32)||23,568 (2,275)||6.5|
|December 1949||368 (18)||25,523 (3,072)||7.2|
|May 1950||341 (8)||25,367 (2,611)||7.1|
The Air staff explained that the slight surge in black recruits in the early months of integration was related less to the new policy than to the abnormal recruiting conditions of the period. In addition to the backlog of Negroes who for some time had been trying to enlist only to find the Air Force quota filled, there were many black volunteers who had turned to the quota-free Air Force when the Army, its quota of Negroes filled for some time, stopped recruiting Negroes.
With Negroes seeing in over 1,500 separate units there was no need to invoke the 10 percent racial quota in individual units as Vandenberg had ordered. One notable exception during the first months of the program was the Air Training Command, where the rapid and unexpected reassignment of many black airmen caused some bases, James Connally in Texas, for example, to acquire a great many Negroes while others received few or none. To prevent a recurrence of the Connally experience and "to effect a smooth operation and proper adjustment of social importance," the commander of the Air Training Command imposed an 8 to 10 percent black quota on his units and established a procedure for staggering the assignment of black airmen in small groups over a period of thirty to sixty days instead of assigning them to any particular base in one large increment, These quotas were not applied to the basic training flights, which were completely integrated. It was not uncommon to find black enlistees in charge of racially mixed training flights.29 Of all Air Force organizations, the Training Command received the greatest number of black airmen as a result of the screening and reassignment. (Table 7)
At the end of the first year under the new program, the Acting Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, General Nugent, informed Zuckert that integration had progressed "rapidly, smoothly and virtually without incident."30 In view of this fact and at Nugent's recommendation, the Air Force canceled the monthly headquarters check on the program.
TABLE 7—RACIAL COMPOSITION OF THE TRAINING COMMAND, DECEMBER 1949
|A. Flight Training||White||Black||Percent Black|
|B. Technical Training||White||Black||Percent Black|
|C. Indoctrination (Basic) Training|
|D. Officers Candidate Training (candidates graduating from 28 November through 26 December 1949)|
|E. Course Representation|
|Base||No. of Courses b||No. of Courses with Blacks|
To some extent the Air Force's integration program ran away with itself Whatever their personal convictions regarding discrimination, senior Air Force officials had agreed that integration would be limited. They were most concerned with managerial problems associated with continued segregation of the black flying unit and the black specialists scattered worldwide. Other black units were not considered an immediate problem. Assistant Secretary Zuckert admitted as much in March 1949 when he reported that black service units would be retained since they performed a "necessary Air Force function.''3l As originally conceived, the Air Force plan was frankly imitative of the Navy's postwar program, stressing merit and ability as the limiting factors of change. The Air Force promised to discharge all its substandard men, but those black airmen either ineligible for discharge or for reassignment to specialist duty would remain in segregated units.
Yet once begun, the integration process quickly became universal. By the end of 1950, for example, the Air Force had reduced the number of black units to nine with 95 percent of its black airmen serving in integrated units. The number of black officers rose to 411, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year, and black airmen to 25,523, an increase of 15 percent, although the proportion of blacks to whites continued to remain between 6 and 7 percent.32 Some eighteen months later only one segregated unit was left, a 98-man outfit, itself more than 26 percent white. Negroes were then serving in },466 integrated units.33
There were several reasons for the universal application of what was conceived as a limited program. First, the Air Force was in a sense the captive of its own publicity. While Secretary Symington had carefully delineated the limits of his departmental plan for the Personnel Policy Board in January 1949, he was carried considerably beyond these limits when he addressed President Truman in the open forum of the Fahy Committee's first formal meeting:
As long as you mentioned the Air Force, sir, I just want to report to you that our plan is to completely eliminate segregation in the Air Force. For example, we have a fine group of colored boys. Our plan Is to take those boys, break up that fine group, and put them with the other units themselves and go right down the line all through these subdivisions one hundred percent.34
Later, Symington told the Fahy Committee that while the new program would probably temporarily reduce Air Force efficiency "we are ready, willing, and pervious to embark on this idea. We want to eliminate the fundamental aspect of class in this picture. " 35 Clearly, the retention of large black units was incompatible with the elimination of class distinctions.
The more favorable the publicity garnered by the plan in succeeding months, the weaker the distinction became between the limited integration of black specialists and total integration. Reinforcing the favorable publicity were the monthly field reports that registered a steady drop in the number of black units and a corresponding rise in the number of integrated black airmen. This well-publicized progress provided another, almost irresistible reason for completing the task.
More to the point, the success of the program provided its own impetus to total integration. The prediction that a significant number of black officers and men would be ineligible for reassignment or further training proved ill-founded. The Air Force, it turned out, had few untrainable men, and after the screening process and transfer of those eligible was completed, many black units were so severely reduced in strength that their inactivation became inevitable. The fear of white opposition that had inhibited the staff planners and local commanders also proved groundless. According to a Fahy Committee staff report in March 1950, integration had been readily accepted at all levels and the process had been devoid of friction. "The men," E. W. Kenworthy reported, "apparently were more ready for equality of treatment and opportunity than the officer corps had realized."36 At the same time, Kenworthy noted the effect of successful integration on the local commanders. Freed from the charges of discrimination that had plagued them at every turn, most of the commanders he interviewed remarked on the increased military efficiency of their units and the improved utilization of their manpower that had come with integration. They liked the idea of a strictly competitive climate of equal standards rigidly applied, and some expected that the Air Force example would have an effect, eventually, on civilian attitudes.37
MUSIC MAKERS of the U.S. Far East Air Force prepare to celebrate Christmas. Korea, 1950. [Photograph not included.]
For the Air Force, it seemed, the problem of segregation was all over
but for the celebrating. And there was plenty of that, thanks to the Fahy
Committee and the press. In a well-publicized tour of a cross section of
Air Force installations in early 1950, Kenworthy surveyed the integration
program for the committee. His favorable report won the Air Force laudatory
headlines in the national press and formed the core of the Air Force section
of the Fahy Committee's final report, Freedom to Serve.38
For its part, the black press covered the program in great detail
and gave its almost unanimous approval. As early as July 1949, for example,
Dowdal H. Davis, president of the Negro Newspaper Publishers Association,
reported on the highly encouraging reaction to the breakup of the mad,
and the headlines reflected this attitude: "The Air Force Leads the Way,"
the Chicago Defender headlined; "Salute to the Air Force," the Minneapolis
Spokesman editorialized; and "the swiftest and most amazing upset
of racial policy in the history of the U.S. Military," Ebony concluded.
Pointing to the Air Force program as the best, the Pittsburgh Courier
called the progress toward total integration " better than most dared
hope. " 39
General Vandenberg and his staff were well aware of the rapid and profound Change in the Air Force wrought by the integration order. From the start his personnel chief carefully monitored the program and reviewed the reports from the commands. ready to investigate any racial incidents or differences attributable to the new policy. The staff had expected a certain amount of testing of the new policy by both white and black troops, and with few exceptions the incidents reported turned out to be little more than that, Some arose from attempts by Negroes to win social acceptance at certain Air Force installations, but the majority of cases involved attempts by white airmen to introduce their black comrades into segregated off-base restaurants and theaters. Two examples might stand for all. The first involved a transient black corporal who stopped off at the Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., to get a haircut in a post exchange barbershop. He was refused service and in the absence of the post exchange officer he returned to the shop to trade words and eventually blows with the barber. The corporal was subsequently court-martialed, but the sentence was set aside by a superior court.40 Another case involved a small group of white airmen who ordered refreshments at a segregated lunch counter in San Antonio, Texas, for themselves "and a friend who would join them later." The friend, of course, was a black airman. The Inspector General reported this incident to be just one of a number of attempts by groups of white and black airmen to integrate lunch counters and restaurants. In each case the commanders concerned cautioned their men against such action, and there were few reoccurrences.41
The commanders' warnings were understandable because, as any official from Secretary Symington on down would quickly explain, the Air Force did not regard itself as being in the business of forcing changes in American society; it was simply trying to make the best use of its manpower to build military efficiency in keeping with its national defense mission.42 But in the end the integration order proved effective on both counts. Racial feelings, racial incidents, charges of discrimination, and the problems of procurement, training, and assignment always associated with racially designated units had been reduced by an appreciable degree or eliminated entirely. The problems anticipated from the mingling of blacks and whites in social situations had proved to be largely imaginary. The Air Force adopted a standard formula for dealing with these problems during the next decade. Incidents involving black airmen were treated as individual incidents and dealt with on a personal basis like any ordinary disciplinary case. Only when there was no alternative was an incident labeled "racial" and then the commander was expected to deal speedily and firmly with the troublemakers.43 This sensible procedure freed the Air Force for a decade from the charges of on-base discrimination that had plagued it in the past.
MAINTENANCE CREW, 462d Strategic Fighter Squadron, disassembles aft section of an F-84 Thunderstreak [Photograph not included.]
Without a doubt the new policy improved the Air Force's manpower efficiency, as the experience of the 3202d Installation Group illustrates. A segregated unit serving at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, the 3202d was composed of an all-black heavy maintenance and construction squadron, a black maintenance repair and utilities squadron, and an all-white headquarters and headquarters squadron. This rigid segregation had caused considerable trouble for the unit's personnel section, which was forced to assign men on the basis of color rather than military occupational specialty. For example, a white airman with MOS 345, a truck driver, although assigned to the unit, could not be assigned to the heavy maintenance and construction squadron where his specialty was authorized but had to be assigned to the white headquarters squadron where his specialty was not authorized. Clearly operating in an inefficient manner, the unit was charged with misassignment of personnel by the Air Inspector; in July 1950 it was swiftly and peaceably, if somewhat belatedly, integrated, and its three squadrons were converted to racially mixed units, allowing an airman to be assigned according to his training and not his color.44
The preoccupation of high officials with the effects of integration on a soldier's social life seemed at times out of keeping with the issues of national defense and military efficiency. At one of the Fahy Committee hearings, for instance, an exasperated Charles Fahy asked Omar Bradley, "General, are you running an Army or a dance?" 45 Yet social life on military bases at swimming pools, dances, bridge parties, and service clubs formed so great a part of the fabric of military life that the Air Force staff could hardly ignore the possibility of racial troubles in the countless social exchanges that characterized the day-today life in any large American institution. The social situation had been seriously considered before the new racial policy was approved. At that time the staff had predicted that problems developing out of integration would not prove insurmountable, and indeed on the basis of a year's experience a member of the Air staff declared that at the point where the Negro and the white person are actually in contact the problem has virtually disappeared. Since all races of Air Force personnel work together under identical environmental conditions on the base, it is not unnatural that they participate together, to the extent that they desire, in certain social activities which are considered a normal part of service life. This type of integration has been entirely voluntary, without incident, and considerably more complete and more rapid than was anticipated.46
JET MECHANICS work on an F-100 Supersabre, Foster Air Force Base, Texas. [Photograph not included.]
The Air staff had imposed only two rules on interracial social activities: with due regard for sex and rank all Air Force facilities were available for the unrestricted use of all its members; troublemakers would get into trouble. Under these inflexible rules, the Fahy Committee later reported, there was a steady movement in the direction of shared facilities. "Here again, mutual respect engendered on the job or in the school seemed to translate itself into friendly association. "47 Whether it liked it or not, the Air Force was in the business of social change.
Typical of most unit reports was one from the commander of the 1701st Air Transport Wing, Great Falls Air Force Base, Montana, who wrote Secretary Symington that the unit's eighty-three Negroes, serving in ten different organizations, lived and worked with white airmen "on an apparently equal and friendly basis."48 The commander had been unable to persuade local community leaders, however, to promote equality of treatment outside the base, and beyond its movie theaters Great Falls had very few places that allowed black airmen. The commander was touching upon a problem that would eventually trouble all the services: airmen, he reported to Secretary Symington, although they have good food and entertainment on the base, sooner or later want to go to town, sit at a table, and order what they want. The Air Force was now coming into conflict with local custom which it could see no way to control. As the Air Force Times put it, "The Air Force, like the other services, feels circumspect policy in this regard is the only advisable one on the grounds that off-base segregation is a matter for civilian rather than military decision."49
But this problem could not detract from what had been accomplished on the bases. Judged by the standards it set for itself before the Fahy Committee, the Air Force had achieved its goals. Further, they were achieved in the period between 1949 and 1956 when the percentage of blacks in the service doubled, an increase resulting from the Defense Department's qualitative distribution of manpower rather than the removal of the racial quota.50 During these years the number of black airmen rose from 5.1 to 10.4 percent of the enlisted strength and the black officers from 0.6 to 1.1 percent. Reviewing the situation in 1960, Ebony noted that the program begun in 1949 was working well and that white men were accepting without question progressive racial practices forbidden ~ their home communities. Minor racial flare-ups still occurred, but integration 3 was no longer a major problem in the Air Force; it was a fact of life.51
The changing government attitude toward integration in the late 1940's had less dramatic effect on the Navy than upon the other services because the Navy was already the conspicuous possessor of a racial policy guaranteeing equal treatment and opportunity for all its members. But as the Fahy Committee and many other critics insisted, the Navy's 1946 equality guarantee was largely theoretical; its major racial problem was not one of policy but of practice as statistics demonstrated. It was true, for example, that the Navy had abolished racial quotas in recruitment, yet the small number of black sailors—17,000 during 1949, averaging 4.5 percent of the total strength—made the absence of a quota academic. 52 It was true that Negroes served side by side with white sailors in almost every occupation and training program in the Navy, but it was also a fact that 62 percent of all Negroes in the Navy in 1949 were still assigned to the nonwhite Steward's Branch. This figure shows that as late as December 1949 fewer than 7,000 black sailors were serving in racially integrated assignments.53 Again, with only 19 black officers, including 2 nurses, in a 1949 average officer strength of 45,464, it meant little to say that the Navy had an integrated officer corps. A shadow had fallen, then, between the promise of the Navy's policy and its fulfillment, partly because of indifferent execution.
Submitted to and approved by the Secretary of Defense, the new Navy plan announced on 7 June 1949 called for a specific series of measures to bring departmental practices into line with policy.54 Once he had gained Johnson's approval, Secretary of the Navy Matthews did not tarry. On 23 June he issued an explicit statement to all ships and stations, abjuring racial distinctions in the Navy and Marine Corps and ordering that all personnel be enlisted or appointed, trained, advanced or promoted, assigned and administered without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin. 55 Admirable and comprehensive, Matthew's statement scarcely differed in intent from his predecessor's general declaration of equal treatment and opportunity of 12 December 1945 and the more explicit directive of the Chief of Naval Operations on the same subject on 27 February 1946. Yet despite the close similarity, a reiteration was clearly necessary. As even the most ardent apologist for the navy's postwar racial Policy would admit, these groundbreaking statements had not done the job, and, to satisfy the demands of the Fahy Committee and the Secretary of Defense, Secretary Matthews had to convince his subordinates that the demand for equal treatment and opportunity was serious and had to be dealt with immediately. His specific mention of the Marine Corps and the problems of enlistment, assignment, and promotion, subjects ignored in the earlier directives, represented a start toward the reform of his department's racial practices currently out of step with its expressed policy.
Yet a restatement of policy, no matter how specific, was not enough. As Under Secretary Dan A. Kimball admitted, the Navy had the formidable task of convincing its own people of the sincerity of its policy and of erasing the distrust that had developed in the black community "resulting from past discriminating practices."56 Those who were well aware of the Navy's earlier failure to achieve integration by fiat were bound to greet Secretary Matthews's directive with skepticism unless it was accompanied by specific reforms. Matthews, aware of the necessity, immediately inaugurated a campaign to recruit more black sailors, commission more black officers, and remove the stigma attached to service in the Steward's Branch.
It was logical enough to start a reform of the Navy's integration program by attacking the perennial problem of too few Negroes in the general service. In his annual report to the Secretary of Defense, Matthews outlined some of the practical steps the Navy was taking to attract more qualified young blacks. The Bureau of Naval Personnel, he explained, planned to assign black sailors and officers to its recruiting service. As a first step it assigned eight Negroes to Recruitment Procurement School and subsequently to recruit duty in eight major cities with further such assignments planned when current manpower ceilings were lifted.57
The Bureau of Naval Personnel had also polled black reservists on the possibility of returning to active duty on recruiting assignments, and from this group had chosen five officers for active duty in the New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Detroit, and Chicago recruiting offices. At the same time black officers and petty officers were sent to extol the advantages of a naval career before black student bodies and citizen groups.58 Their performances were exceedingly well received. The executive secretary of the Dayton, Ohio, Urban League, for example, thanked Secretary Matthews for the appearances of Lieutenant Nelson before groups of students, reporters, and community leaders in the city. The lieutenant, he added, not only "clearly and effectively interpreted the opportunities open to Negro youth in the United States Navy" but also "greatly accelerated" the community's understanding of the Navy's integration program.59 Nelson, himself, had been a leading advocate of an accelerated public relations program to advertise the opportunities for Negroes in the Navy.60 The personnel bureau had adopted his suggestion that all recruitment literature, including photographs testifying to the fact that Negroes were serving in the general service, be widely distributed in predominantly black institution. Manpower ceilings, however, had forced the bureau to postpone action on Nelson's suggestion that posters, films, pamphlets, and the like be used.6l
An obvious concomitant to the increase in the number of black sailors was an increase in the number of black officers. The personnel bureau was well aware of this connection; Comdr. Luther C. Heinz, officer in charge of naval reserve officer training, called the shortage of Negroes in his program a particularly important problem. He promised, "in accord with the desires of the President," as he put it, to increase black participation in the Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps, and his superior, the Chief of Naval Personnel, started a program in the bureau for that purpose. 62 With the help of the National Urban League, Heinz arranged a series of lectures by black officers at forty-nine black schools and other institutions to interest Negroes in the Navy's reserve officers program. In August 1949, for example, Ens. Wesley Brown, the first Negro to be graduated from Annapolis, addressed gatherings in Chicago on the opportunities for Negroes as naval officers.63
At the same time the Bureau of Naval Personnel wrote special press releases, arranged interviews for naval officials with members of the black press, and distributed publicity materials in predominantly black schools to attract candidates and to assure interested young men that race was no bar to their selection. In this connection Commander Heinz bid for and received an invitation to address the Urban League's annual conference in August 1949 to outline the Navy's program. The Chief of Naval Personnel, Rear Adm. Thomas L. Sprague, also arranged for the training of all those engaged in promoting the program- professors of naval science, naval procurement officers, and the like. In states where such assignments were considered acceptable, Sprague planned to appoint Negroes to selection committees.64 In a related move he also ordered that when local law or custom required the segregation of facilities used for the administration of qualifying tests for reserve officer training, the Navy would use its own facilities for testing. This ruling was used when the 1949 examinations were given in Atlanta and New Orleans; to the delight of the black press the Navy transferred the test site to its nearby facilities.65 These efforts had some positive effect. In 1949 alone, some 2,700 black youths indicated an interest in the Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps by submitting applications.66
Despite these well-intentioned efforts, the Navy failed to increase significantly the number of black officers or sailors in the next decade (Table 8). The percentage of Negroes in the Navy increased so slowly that not until 1955, in the wake of the great manpower buildup during the Korean War, did it exceed the 1949 figure. Although the percentage of black enlistments increased significantly at times—approximately 12 percent of all enlistments in 1955 were black. for example—the proportion of Negroes in the Navy's enlisted ranks was only 0.4 percent higher in 1960 than in 1949. While the number of black officers increased more than sevenfold in the same decade, it was still considerably less than 1 percent of the total officer strength, well below Army and Air Force percentages.
The Navy had an explanation for the small number of Negroes. The reduced manpower ceilings imposed on the Navy, even during the Korean War, had caused a drastic curtailment in recruiting. At the same time, with the brief exception of the Korean War, the Navy had depended on volunteers for enlistment and had required volunteers to score ninety or higher on the general classification test. The percentage of those who scored above ninety was lower for blacks than for whites—16 percent against 67 percent, a ratio, naval spokesmen suggested, that explained the enlistment figures. Furthermore, the low enlistment quotas produced a long waiting list of those desiring to volunteer. All applicants for the relatively few openings were thoroughly screened, and competition was so keen that any Negroes accepted for the monthly quota had to be extraordinarily well qualified.67
What the Navy's explanation failed to mention was that the rise and decline in the Navy's black strength during the 1950's was intimately related to the number of group IV enlistees being forced on the services under the provisions
TABLE 8- BLACK MANPOWER, U.S. NAVY
A. Enlisted Strength
|Year||Total Strength||Black Strength||Percent Black|
B. Percentage of Blacks in Steward's and Other Branches
|Year||Steward's Branch||Other Branches|
C. Officer Strength (Selected Years)
|Year||Black Officers on Active Duty||Total Officers|
Source: BuPers, Personnel Statistics Branch. See especially BuPers, "Memo on Discrimination of the Negro," 24 Jan 59, BAF2-014. BuPers Technical Library. All figures represent yearly averages.
of the Defense Department's program for the qualitative distribution of manpower. Each service was required to accept 24 percent of all recruits in group IV from fiscal year 1953 to 1956, 18 percent in fiscal year 1957, and 12 percent thereafter. Between 1953 and 1956 the Navy accepted well above the required 24 percent of group IV men, but in fiscal year 1957 took only 15.1 percent, and in 1958 only 6.8 percent. In 1958, with the knowledge of the Secretary of Defense, all the services took in fewer of the group IV's than the distribution program required, but justified the reduction on the grounds that declining strength made it necessary to emphasize high quality in recruits. In a move endorsed by the Navy, the Air Force finally requested in 1959 that the qualitative distribution program be held in abeyance. On the basis of this request the Navy temporarily ceased to accent all Proud IV and some Proud III men, but resumed recruiting them when it seemed likely that the Secretary of Defense would refuse the request.68
CHRISTMAS IN KOREA, 1950 [Photograph not included.]
The correlation between the rise and fall of the group IV enlistments and the percentage of Negroes in the Navy shows that all the increases in black strength between 1952 and 1959 came not through the Navy's publicized and organized effort to attract the qualified black volunteers it had promised the Fahy Committee, but from the men l forced upon it by the Defense Department's distribution program. The correlation also lends credence to the charges of some of the civil rights critics who saw another reason for the shortage of Negroes. They claimed that there had been no drop in the number of applicants but that fewer Negroes were being accepted by Navy recruiters. One NAACP official claimed that Negroes were "getting the run around." Those who had fulfilled all enlistment requirements were not being informed, and others were being given false information by recruiters. He concluded that the Navy was operating under an unwritten policy of filling recruit quotas with whites, accepting Negroes only when whites were unavailable.69 If these accusations were true, the Navy was denying itself the services of highly qualified black applicants at a time when the Defense Department's qualitative distribution program was forcing it to take large numbers of the less gifted. Certainly the number of Negroes capable of moving up the career and promotion ladder was reduced and the Navy left vulnerable to further charges of discrimination.
As for the shortage of officers, Nelson cited the awareness among candidates that promotions were slower for blacks in the Navy than in the other services where there was "less caste and class to buck."70 Nelson was aware that out of the 2,700 blacks who had indicated an interest in the reserve officer training program in 1949 only 250 actually took the aptitude tests. Of these, only two passed the tests and one of these was later rejected for poor eyesight. An Urban League spokesman believed that some failed to take the tests out of fear of failure but that many harbored a suspicion that the program was not entirely open to all regardless of race. 71 Reinforcing this suspicion was the fact that, despite the intentions of the Bureau of Naval Personnel and the Navy's increasing control over the appointment process, as of 1965 not a single Negro had been appointed to any of the 150-man state selection committees on reserve officer training.72 Also to be considered, as the American Civil Liberties Union later pointed out, was the promotion record of black officers. As late as 1957 no black officer had ever commanded a ship, and while both black and white officers started up the same promotion ladder, the blacks were usually transferred out of the line into staff billets.73
REARMING AT SEA. Ordnancemen at work on the deck of the USS Philippine Sea, off Korea, October l950. [Photograph not included.]
Given the pressure on the personnel bureau to develop some respectable black manpower statistics, it is unlikely that the lack of educated, black recruits can be blamed on widespread subterfuge at the recruiting level. Far more likely is the explanation offered by Under Secretary Kimball, that the black community distrusted the Navy.74 First apparent in the 1940's, this distrust lasted throughout the next decade as younger Negroes continued to show a general apathy toward the Navy, which at times turned into open hostility. In September 1961 the Chief of Naval Personnel reported that recruiters were not infrequently being treated to "booing, hissing and other disorderly conduct" when they tried to discuss the opportunities for naval careers before black audiences. 75
The Navy's poor reputation in the black community centered on the continued existence of the racially separate servants' branch, in the eyes of many the symbol of the service's racial exclusiveness. The Steward's Branch remained predominantly black. In 1949 it had 10,499 Negroes, 4,707 Filipinos, 741 other nonwhites, and 1 white man. Chief stewards continued to be denied the grade of chief petty officer, on the grounds that since stewards were not authorized to exercise military command over others than stewards because of their lack of military training, chief stewards were not chiefs in the military sense of the word. This difference in authority also explained, as the Chief of Naval Personnel put it, why as a general rule chief stewards were not quartered with other petty officers.76 These distinctions were true also for stewards in the first, second, and third classes, a fact in their case symbolized by differences in uniform. Most of the thousands of black stewards continued to be recruited, trained, and employed exclusively in that branch, and thus for over half the Negroes—65 percent—in the 1949 Navy the chance for advancement was severely limited and the chance to qualify for a different job almost nonexistent.
BROADENING SKILLS. Stewards on the USS Valley Forge volunteer for
leading to advancement in other fields, Korea, 1950 [Photograph not included.]
The Navy instituted several changes in the branch in the wake of the Fahy Committee's
recommendations. On 25 July 1949 the Chief of Naval Personnel ordered all chief
stewards designated chief petty officers with all the prerogatives of that status;
in precedence they came immediately after chief dental technicians,77
who were at the bottom of the list. That the change was limited to chief stewards
did not go unnoticed. Joseph Evans of the Fahy Committee staff charged that
the bureau "seemed to have ordered this to accede to the committee's recommendations
never intending to go beyond Chief Stewards."78
Nelson, by now a sort of unofficial ombudsman and gadfly for black sailors,
urged his superiors to broaden the reform, and Kimball warned Admiral Sprague
that limiting the change to chief stewards might be "justified on the
literal statement of intention, but is vulnerable to criticism of continued discrimination." Without compelling reasons to the contrary, he added, " I do not feel that we can afford to risk any possible impression of reluctant implementation of the spirit of the directive "79
Admiral Sprague got the point, and on 30 August he announced that effective with the new year, stewards- first, second, and third class- would be designated petty officers with appropriate pay, prerogatives, and precedence, and that their uniforms would be changed to conform to those of other petty officers. He also amended the bureau's manual to allow commanding officers to change the ratings of stewards without headquarters approval, thus enlarging the opportunity for stewards, in all other respects qualified, to transfer into other ratings.80 These reforms brought about a slow but steady change in the assignment of black sailors. Between January 1950 and August 1953, the percentage of Negroes in the general service rose from 42 to 47 percent of the Navy's 23,000 man black strength, with a corresponding drop in the percentage of those assigned to the Steward's Branch.81
Yet these reforms were modest in terms of the pressing need for a substantive change in the racial composition of the Steward's Branch. Despite the changes in assignment policy, the Steward's Branch was still nearly 65 percent black in 1952, and the rest were mostly Filipino citizens under contract. Secretary of the Navy Kimball's observation that 133 stewards had transferred out of the branch in a recent four-month period hardly promised any speedy change in the current percentages.82 In fact there was evidence even at that late date that some staff members in the personnel bureau were working at cross-purposes to the Navy's expressed policy. Worried about the shortages of volunteers for the Steward's Branch, a group of officials had met in August 1951 to discuss ways of improving branch morale. Some suggested publicizing the branch to the black press and schools, showing that Negroes were in all branches of the Navy including the Steward's. They also studied a pamphlet called "The Advantages of Stewards Duty in the Navy" that gave nine reasons why a man should become a steward.83
Obviously the Navy had to set a steady course if it intended any lasting racial reform of the Steward's Branch, but its leaders seemed ambivalent toward the problem. Despite his earlier efforts to raise the status of stewards, Kimball, in a variation on an old postwar argument, tried to show that the exclusiveness of the Steward's Branch actually worked to the Negro's advantage. As he explained to Lester Granger in November 1952, any action to effect radical or wholesale Ranges in ratings "would not only tend to reduce the efficiency of the Navy, but also in many instances be to the disadvantage or detriment of the individuals concerned, particularly those in the senior Steward ratings."84 Supporting this line of argument, the Chief of Naval Personnel announced the reenlistment figures for the Steward's Branch—over 80 percent during the Korean War period. These figures, Vice Admiral James L. Holloway, Jr., added, proved the branch to be the most popular in the Navy and offered "a rational measure of the state of the morale and job satisfaction."85
These explanations still figured prominently in the Navy's 1961 defense of its racial statistics. Discussing the matter at a White House meeting of civil rights leaders, the Chief of Naval Personnel pointed out that all the black stewards could be replaced with Filipinos, but the Navy had refrained from such a course for several reasons. The branch still had the highest reenlistment rate. It provided jobs for those group IV men the Navy was obliged to accept but could never use in technical billets. Without the opportunity provided by the branch, moreover, "many of the rated black stewards would probably not achieve a petty officer rating at all."86
However well founded these arguments were, they did not satisfy the Navy's critics, who continued to press for the establishment of one recruitment standard and the assignment of men on the basis of interest and training rather than race. Lester Granger, for example, warned Secretary Kimball of the skepticism that persisted among sections of the black community: "As long as that branch [the Steward's Branch] is composed entirely of nonwhite personnel, the Navy is apt to be held by some to be violating its own stated policy."87 To Kimball's successor, Robert B. Anderson,88 Granger was even more blunt. The Steward's Branch, he declared, was "a constant irritant to the Negro public." He saw some logical reason for the continued concentration of Negroes in the branch but added "logic does not necessarily imply wisdom and I sincerely believe that it is unwise from the standpoint of efficiency and public relations to continue the Stewards Branch on its present basis."89
Granger's suggestion for change was straightforward. He wanted the Bureau of Naval Personnel to find a way to introduce a sufficiently large number of whites into the branch to transform its racial composition. The task promised to be difficult if the charges leveled in the Detroit Free Press were accurate. In May 1953 the paper reported incidents of naval recruiting officials who "by one ruse or another," were shunting young volunteers, sometimes without their knowledge, into the Steward's Branch. 90
Granger's suggestions were taken up by secretary Anderson, who announced his intention of integrating the Steward's Branch and ordered the chief of Naval personnel to draw up plans to that end. 91 To devise some practical measures for handling the problem, the personnel bureau brought back to active duty three officers who had been important in the development of the Navy's 1946 integration policy. Their study produced three recommendations: abolish the segregation of the Steward's Branch from the general service and separate recruitment for its members; consider consolidating the branch with the predominantly white Commissary Branch; and change the steward's insignia. 92
The group acknowledged that the Steward's Branch was a "sore spot with the Negroes, and is our weakest position from the standpoint of Public Relations," and two of their recommendations were obviously aimed at immediate improvement of public relations. Combining the messmen and commissary specialists would of course create an integrated branch, which Granger estimated would be only 20 percent black, and would probably provide additional opportunities for promotions, but in the end it could not mask the fact that a high proportion of black sailors were employed in food service and valet positions. Nor was it clear how changing the familiar crescent insignia, symbolic of the steward's duties, would change the image of a separate group that still performed the most menial duties. Long-term reform, everybody agreed, demanded the presence of a significant number of whites in the branch, and there was strong evidence that the general service contained more than a few group IV white sailors. The group's proposal to abolish separate recruiting would probably increase the number of blacks in general service and eliminate the possibility that unsuspecting black recruits would be dragooned into a messman's career; both were substantial reforms but did not guarantee that whites would be attracted or assigned to the branch.
Admiral Holloway was concerned about this latter point, which dominated his discussions with the secretary of the Navy on 1 September 1953. He had, he told Anderson, discussed with his recruiting specialists the possibility of recruiting white sailors for the branch, and while they all agreed that whites must not be induced to joining by "improper procedures," such as preferential recruitment to escape the draft, they felt that whites could be attracted to steward duty by skillful recruiters, especially in areas of the country where industrial integration had already been accomplished. His bureau was considering the abolition of separate recruiting, but to make specific recommendations on matters involving the stewards he had created an ad hoc committee, under the Deputy Chief of Naval Personnel and composed of representatives of the other bureaus. When he received this committee's views, Holloway promised to take "definite administrative action."93
INTEGRATED STEWARDS CLASS GRADUATES, GREAT LAKES, 1953 [Photograph not included.]
The three recommendations of the reservist experts did not survive intact the ad hoc committee's scrutiny. At the committee's suggestion, Holloway rejected the proposed merger of the commissary and steward functions on the grounds that such a move was unnecessary in an era of high reenlistment. He also decided that stewards would retain their branch insignia. He did approve however, in a decision announced on 28 February 1954, putting an end to the separate recruitment of stewards with the exception of the contract enlistment of Filipino citizens. As Anderson assured Congressman Adam Clayton Powell of New York, only after recruit training and "with full knowledge of the opportunities in various categories of administrative specialties" would an enlistee be allowed to volunteer for messman's duty.94
Admiral Holloway promised a further search for ways to eliminate "points of friction" regarding the stewards, and naval officials discussed the problem with civil rights leaders and Defense Department officials on several occasions in the next years.95 The Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, Adam Yarmolinsky, reported in 1961 that the Bureau of Naval Personnel "was not sanguine" about recruiting substantial numbers of white seamen for the Steward's Branch.96 In answer, the Chief of Naval Personnel could only point out that no matter what their qualifications or ambitions all men assigned to the Steward's Branch were volunteers. As one commentator observed, white sailors were very rarely attracted to the messmen's field because of its reputation as a black specialty.97
Nevertheless, by 1961 a definite pattern of change had emerged in the Steward's Branch. The end of separate recruitment drastically cut the numbers of Negroes entering the rating, while the renewed emphasis on transferring eligible chief stewards to other specialties somewhat reduced the number of Negroes already in the branch. Between 1956 and 1961, some 600 men out of the 1,800 tested transferred to other rating groups or fields. The substantial drop in black strength resulting from these changes combined with a corresponding rise in the number of contract messmen from the western Pacific region reduced for the first time in some thirty years Negroes in the Steward's Branch to a minority Even for those remaining in the branch, life changed considerably. Separate berthing for stewards, always justified on the grounds of different duties and hours, was discontinued, and the amount of time spent by stewards at sea, with the varied military work that sea duty involved, was increased.98
WAVE RECRUITS, Naval Training Center, Bainbridge, Maryland, 1953. [Photograph not included.]
If these changes caused by the increased enlistment of stewards from the' western Pacific relieved the Steward's Branch of its reputation as the black man's navy, they also perpetuated the notion that servants' duties were for persons of dark complexion. The debate over a segregated branch that had engaged the civil rights leaders and the Navy since 1932 was over, but it had left a residue of ill will; some were bitter at what they considered the listless pace of reform, a pace which left the impression that the service had been forced to change against its will. To some extent the Navy in the 1950's failed to capitalize on its early achievements because it had for so long missed the point of the integrationists' arguments about the stewards. In the fifties the Navy expended considerable time and energy advertising for black officer candidates and recruits whom they guaranteed a genuinely equal chance to participate in all specialties, but these efforts were to some extent dismissed by critics as not germane. In 1950, for example, only 114 Negroes served in the glamorous submarine assignments and even fewer in the naval air service.99 Yet this obvious underrepresentation caused no great outcry from the black community. What did cause bitterness and protest in an era of aroused racial pride was the fact that servants' duties fell most exclusively on nonwhite Americans. That these duties were popular—the 80 percent reenlistment rate in the Steward's Branch continued throughout the decade and the transfer rate into the branch almost equaled the transfer out- was disregarded by many of the more articulate spokesmen, who considered the branch an insult to the black public. As Congressman Powell informed the Navy in 1953, "no one is interested in today's world in fighting communism with a frying pan or shoe polish."100 Although statistics showed nearly half the black sailors employed in other than menial tasks, Powell voiced the mood of a large segment of the black community.
The Fahy Committee had acknowledged that manpower statistics alone were not a reliable index of equal opportunity. Convinced that Negroes were getting a full and equal chance to enlist in the general service and compete for officer commissions, the committee had approved the Navy's policy, trusting to time and equal opportunity to produce the desired result. Unfortunately for the Navy, there would be many critics both in and out of government in the 1960's who disagreed with the committee's trust in time and good intentions, for equal opportunity would remain very much a matter of numbers and percentages. In era when a premium would be placed on the size of minority membership, the palm would go to the other services. "The blunt fact is," Granger reminded the Secretary of the Navy in 1954, "that as a general rule the most aspiring Negro youth are apt to have the least interest in a Navy career, chiefly because the Army and Air Force have up to now captured the spotlight.''101 A decade later the statement still held.
ADMIRAL GRAVELY (1973 portrait). [Photograph not included.]
It was ironic that black youth remained aloof from the Navy in the 1950's when the way of life for Negro on shipboard and at naval bases had definitely taken a turn for the better The general service was completely integrated, although the black proportion, 4.9 percent in 1960, was still far less than might reasonably be expected, considering the black population.102 Negroes were being trained in every job classification and attended all the Navy's technical schools. Although not yet represented in proportionate numbers in the top grades within every rating, Negroes served in all ratings in every branch, a fact favorably noticed in the metropolitan press.l03 Black officers, still shockingly out of proportion to black strength, were not much more so than in the other services and were serving more often with regular commissions in the line as well as on the staff. Their lack of representation in the upper ranks demonstrated that the climb to command was slow and arduous even when the discriminatory tactics of earlier times had been removed. In 1961 the Navy could finally announce that a black officer, Lt. Comdr. Samuel L. Gravely, Jr., had been ordered to command a destroyer escort, the USS Falgout. 104
But how were these changes being accepted among the rank and file? Comments from official sources and civil rights groups alike showed the leaven of racial tolerance at work throughout the service.l05 Reporter Lee Nichols, interviewing members of all the services in 1953, 106 found that whites expected blacks to prove themselves in their assignments while blacks were skeptical that equal opportunities for assignment were really open to them. Yet the Nichols interviews reveal a strain of pride and wonderment in the servicemen at the profound changes they had witnessed.
In time integrated service became routine throughout the Navy, and instances
of Negroes in command of integrated units increased. Bigots of both races
inevitably remained, and the black community continued to resent the separate
Steward's Branch, but the sincerity of the Navy's promise to integrate
the service seemed no longer in doubt.
2Negro strength figures as of 5 April 1949. Ltr, ASecAF to Robert Harper, Chief Clerk, House Armed Services Cmte, 5 Apr 49, SecAF files.
3Memo, Symington for Forrestal, 6 Jan 49, SecAF files.
4Memo, Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Cots, USAF. for SecAF. 12 Jan 49 SecAF files.
5Memo, SecAF for Forrestal, 17 Feb 49; Memo, ASecAF for Symington, 24 Mar 49, sub Lockbourne AFI3; both in SecAF files.
6Memo for Files, Osthagen, Asst to ASecAF, 13 Apt 49, SecAF files.
7Ltr, Joseph H. Evans, Assoc Exec Secy, Fahy Cmte, to Fahy Cmte, 23 Jun 49, FC file. See also "U.S. Armed Forces: 1950," Our World 5 (June 1950):11-35.
8Draft Memo, Zuckert for Symington, 15 Feb 49, sub: Air Force Policies on Negro Personnel (not sent), SecAF files.
9Washington Post, April 4, 1949; USAF Oral History Program, Interview with Lt Col Spann Watson (USAF, Ret.), 3 Apr 73.
10Pittsburgh Courier, January 22, 1949.
11Memo, Vandenberg, CofS, USAF, for SecAF, 12 Jan 49, SecAF files.
12Lt Gen I. H. Edwards, "Remarks on Major Personnel Problems Presented to USAF Commanders' Conference Headquarters, USAF," 12 Apt 49, SecAF files. Italics in the original.
13USAF Oral History Program, Interview with Lt Gen Daniel James, Jr., 2 Oct 73. James was to become the first four-star black officer in the armed forces
14Ltr, Marr to author, 19 Jun 70.
15MATS Hq Ltr No. 9, 1 May 49, SecAF files.
16AF Ltr 35-3, 11 May 49. Effective until l I May 1950, the order was superseded by a new but similar letter, AF Ltr 35-78, on 14 September 1950
17Memo, ASecAF for Symington, 12 Jan 49, AF Negro Affairs 49, SecAF files.
18USAF Oral Hist Interv with Zuckert.
19Testimony of Zuckert and Edwards, USAF, Before the Fahy committee. 28 Mar 49, afternoon session, pp.7 - 8.
20Memo, ASecAF for Symington, 29 Apt 49, sub: Department of the Air Force Implementation of the Department of Defense Policy on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, SecAF files.
21Freedom to Serve, pp. 37-38.
22Memo, SecAF for Chmn, PPB, 30 Apr 49. copy in FC file. McCoy and Ruetten. Quest and Response, p.223, call the deletion a victory for the committee.
23USAF Owl Hist Interv with Davis.
24USAF Oral Hist Interv with Zuckert.
25NME Fact Sheet No. 105-49, 27 Jul 49.
26"Report on the First Year of Implementation of Current Policies Regarding Negro Personnel." Incl to Memo, Maj Gen Richard E. Nugent for ASecAF, 14 Jul 50, sub: Distribution of Negro Personnel, PPB 291.2 (9 Jul 50) (hereafter referred to as Marr Report). See also USAF Oral Hist Interv with Marr.
27USAF Oral Hist Interv with Davis.
28President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Forces, "A First Report on the Racial Integration Program of the Air Force," 6 Feb 50, FC file (hereafter cited as Kenworthy Report).
29ATC, "History of ATC, July-December 1949," I:29-31; New York Times, September 18, 1949.
30Memo, Actg DCSPER for Zuckert, 14 Jul 50, USAF file No. 3370, SecAF files.
31Memo, ASecAF for Symington, 25 Mar 49, sub: Salient Factors of air Force Policy Regarding Negro Personnel, SecAF files.
32Air Force Times, 10 February 1951. These figures do not take into account the SCARWAF (Army personnel) who continued to serve in segregated units within the Air Force.
33Memo, DepSecAF for Manpower and Organizations for ASD/M, 5 Sep 52, SecAF files.
34Transcript of the Meeting of the President and the Four Service Secretaries with the Presidents committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, 12 Jan 49, FC file, which reports the President's response as being "That's all right. "
35Testimony of the Secretary of the Air Force Before the Fahy committee, 28 Mar 49, afternoon session, p. 33.
36Kenworthy Report, as quoted and commented on in Memo, Worthington Thompson (Personnel Policy Board staff) for Leva, 9 Mar 50, sub Some Highlights of Fahy committee Report on Air Force Racial Integration Program, SD 291.2.
37Ltr, Kenworthy to Zuckert, s Jan 50, SecAF files.
38See, for example, the Washington Post, March 27, 1950.
39Press reaction summarized in Memo, James c. Evans for PPB, 19 Jan 50, PPB 291.2. See also, Ltr, Dowdal Davis, Gen Manager of the Kansas City Call, to Evans, g Jul 49, SD 291.2; Memo, Evans for SecAF, 5 Jul 49; and Memo, Zuckert for SecAF, 2 Aug 49, both in SecAF files; Chicago Defender, June 18, 1949; Minneapolis Spokesman, January 13, 1950; Ebony Magazine, 4 (September l949):15; Pittsburgh Courier, July 25, 1952; Detroit Free Press, May 14,1953.
40Memo, IG, USAF, for ASecAF, 25 Jul 49, SecAF files.
41Idem for DCSPER, 7 Sep 49, copy in SecAF files; see also ACofS, G-2, Fourth Army, Ft. Sam Houston, Summary of Information, 7 Sep 49, copy in SA 291.2.
42See, for example, Memo, SecAF for SecDef, 17 Feb 49; Ltr, SecAF to Sen. Burnet R. Maybank, 21 49; both in SecAF files.
43Memo, Evans, OSD, for Worthington Thompson, 18 May 53, sub Summary of Topics Reviewed in Thompson's office 15 May 53, SD 291.2.
44History Officer, 3202d Installation Group, "History of the 3202d Installation Group, 1 July-31 October 1950," Eglin AFB, Fla., pp. 8-9.
45This off-the-record comment occurred during the committee hearings in the Pentagon and was related to the author by E. W. Kenworthy in interview on 17 October 1971. See also Memo, Kenworthy to Brig Gen James L. Collins, Jr., 13 Oct 76, copy in CMH.
47Freedom to Serve, p. 41.
48Ltr, Col Paul H. Prentiss, Cmdr, 1701st AT Wing, to SecAF, 27 Dec 49, SecAF files.
49Air Force Times, 10 February 1951.
50Memo for Red, ADS(M), 12 Sep 56, sub: Integration Percentages, ADS(M) 291.2. For further discussion of the qualitative distribution program, see Navy section, below.
5l"Integration the Air Force Abroad," Ebony 15 (March 1960):27.
52Unless otherwise noted all statistics are from information supplied by the Bureau of Naval Personnel. The exact percentage on 1 July 1949 was 4.7; see Memo for Red, ASD(M), 12 Sep 56, sub: Integration Percentages, ASD(M) 291.2.
53Memo, Chief, NavPers, for Under SecNav, 5 Dec 49, sub: Proposed Report to Chairman Personnel Policy Board Regarding the Implementation of Executive Order 9981, Pers 21, GenRecsNav.
54Memo, SecNav for SecDef, 23 May 49, sub: Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Forces, copy in FC file.
55ALNAV 447-49, which remained in force until 23 March 1953 when SecNav Instruction 1000.2 superseded it without substantial change.
56Memo, Under SecNav for Chmn, PPB, 22 Dec 49, sub: Implementation of Executive Order 9981, PPB 291.2
57SecNav, Annual Report to SecDef, FY 1949, p. 230; Memo, Under SecNav Chmn, PPB, 22 Dec 49, sub: Implementation of Executive Order9981, PPB 291.2.
58Memo, Dir, Recruiting Div. BuPers, for Admin Aide to SecNav, 22 Dec 50, sub: Negro Officer in Recruiting on the West Coast; Ltr, SecNav to Actg Exec Dir, Urban League, Los Angeles, 22 Dec 50; both In Pers B6, GenRecsNav.
59Ltr, Charles W. Washington, Exec Secy, Dayton, Ohio, Urban League, to SecNav, 19 Oct 50, copy in Pers 1376, GenRecsNav.
60Memo, Nelson for Charles Durham, Fahy Committee, sub: Implementation of Proposed Navy Racial Policy, 17 Jun 49, FC file.
61Memo, Under SecNav for Chmn, PPB, 22 Dec 49, sub: Implementation of Executive Order 9981, PPB 291.2.
62Memo, Off in Charge, NROTC Tng, for Chief, Plans & Policy Div. BuPers, 14 Jul 49, sub: NROTC Personnel Problems, Pers 424, BuPersRecs.
63Ltr, Granger to Chief, NavPers, 3 Aug 49, Pers 42, BuPersRecs.
64Memo, Dir of Tng, BuPers, for Chief, NavPers, I 1ul 49; Ltr, Granger to Cmdr Luther Heinz, 3 Aug 49; Ltr, Heinz to Granger, 18 Aug 49. All in Pers 42, BuPersRecs. See also Interv, author with Nelson, 26 May 69, and Ltr, Nelson to author, 10 Feb 70, both in CMH files.
65Ltr, Chief, NavPers, to Cmdt, All Continental Naval Dists, 17 Mar 50, Pers 42, BuPersRecs; Memo, Under SecNav for Chmn, PPB, 22 Dec 49, PPB 291.2.
66Memo, Under SecNav for Chmn, PPB, 22 Dec 49, PPB 291.2.
67For a public expression of these sentiments see, for example, Ltr, Capt R. B. Ellis, Policy Control Br, BuPers, to President of Birmingham, Ala., Branch, NAACP, 30 Mar 50, Pers 66 MM, GenRecsNav.
68BuPers, "Memo on Discrimination of the Negro, " 24 January 1959, Pers Al224, BuPers Tech Library.
69Ltr, Exec Secy, GenRecsNav.
70Interv, Nichols with Nelson, 1953, in Nichols Collection; Ltr, Nelson to author, 10 Feb 70; both in CMH files.
71Quoted in Memo, Dir of Tng, BuPers, for Chief, NavPers, 1 Jul 49, Pers 42, GenRecsNav.
72Memo for Red, Evans, 23 Jun 65, sub: NROTC Boards, ASD/M 291.2.
73Ltr, Exec Dir, ACLU, to SecNav, 26 Nov 57, GenRecsNav.
74Memo, Under SecNav for Chmn, PPB, 22 Dec 49, sub: Implementation of Executive Order 9981. Pt 291.2.
75Memo, Chief, NavPers, for Pers B, 23 Sep 61, copy in Harris Wofford Collection, J. F. Kennedy Library.
76Testimony of Vice Adm William M. Fechteler Before the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services (the Fahy Cmte), 28 Mar 49, p. 18.
77BuPers Cir Ltr 115-49, 25 Jul 49.
78Memo, Evans for Fahy Cmte, 23 Aug 49, sub: Progress in Navy, Fahy Papers, Truman Library.
79Memo, Under SecNav for Chief, NavPers, 10 Aug 49, MM (1) GenRecsNav.
80BuPers Cir Ltr 141-49, 30 Aug 49. See also Memo, Under SecNav for Chmn, PPB, 22 Dec 49, sub: Implementation of Executive Order 9981, PPB 291.2; Memo, Chief, NavPers, for SecNav, 4 May 50, sub: Equality of Treatment and Opportunity, Pers 42, GenRecsNav.
81Memo, Dir, Plans and Policy, BuPers. for Capt Brooke Schumm, USN, PPB, 17 Jul 50, sub: Secretary of Defense Semi-Annual Report, Negro Enlisted Personnel Data for, Pers 14B; Memo, Head, Strength and Statistics Br, BuPers, for Head, Technical Info Br, BuPers, 25 Aug 53, sub: Information Requested by LCDR D. D. Nelson Concerning Negro Strength, Pers A14; both in BuPersRecs.
82Kimball was sworn in as Secretary of the Navy on 31 July 1951. Ltr, SecNav to Granger, 19 Nov S2, SecNav files, GenRecsNav.
83BuPers, Plans and Policy Div. "Review of Suggestions and Recommendations to Improve Standards. Morale, and Attitudes Toward Stewards Branch of U.S. Navy" (ca. 2 Aug 51), BuPersRecs.
84Ltr, SecNav for Granger, 19 Nov 52, SecNav files, GenRecsNav.
85Ltrs, Chief, NavPers, to James C. Evans, OSD, 19 Jun 53, and Granger, 28 Jul 53, both in P 8 (4), BuPersRecs.
86Memo, Chief, NavPers, for Pers B, 23 Sep 61, Harris Wofford Collection, J. F. Kennedy Library. See also Memo, Chief, NavPers, for ASD/M, 29 Mar 61, sub: Stewards in U.S. Navy, Pers 8 (4), BuPersRecs; Memo, Special Asst to SecDef, Adam Yarmolinsky, for Frederic Dutton, Special Asst to President, 31 Oct 61, sub: Yarmolinsky Memo of October 26, Harris Wofford Collection, J. F. Kennedy Library.
87Ltr, Granger to SecNav, 24 Oct 52, SecNav files, GenRecsNav.
88Secretary Anderson, appointed by President Eisenhower, became Secretary of the Navy on 4 February 1953.
89Ltr, Granger to SecNav, 24 Apr 53, SecNav files, GenRecsNav
90Detroit Free Press, May 16, 1953
91UP News Release, September 21, 1953, copy in CMH.
92Ltr, Cmdr Durwood W. Gilmore, USNR et al., to Chief, NavPers, ViceAdm J. L. Holloway, Jr., 31 Aug 53, p 8 (4), BuPersRecs.
93Memo, Chief, NavPers, for SecNav, 1 Sep 53, sub: Mr. Granger's Visit and Related Matters, Pers, GenRecsNav.
94Ltr, SecNav to Congressman Adam C. Powell, 19 Mar 54, SecNav files, GenRecsNav.
95See, for example. ASD/M, Thursday Reports, 7 Jan 54 and 12 Apr 56, copies in Dep ASD (Civil Rights) files; see also Memo, Chief, NavPers, for Special Asst to SecDef, 29 Mar 61, sub: Stewards in U.S. Navy, BuPersRecs
96Memo, Adam Yarmolinsky for Fred Dutton, 31 Oct 61, sub: Yarmolinsky Memo of October 26, Hatris Wofford Collection, J. F. Kennedy Library.
97Greenberg,RaceRelationsandAmericanLaw, p. 359.
98Memo, Chief. NavPers, for Special Asst to SecDef, 29 Mar 61, sub Stewards in U.S. Navy, Pers S (4), GenRecsNav.
99The Navy commissioned its first black pilot, Ens. Jesse L Brown. in 1950. He was killed in action in Korea.
100Ltr, Powell to John Floberg, Asst SecNav for Air, 29 Jun 53, SecNav files, GenRecsNav.
101Ltr, Granger to SecNav, 7 Jan 54, SecNav files. GenRecsNav.
102Memo. ASDIM for SA et al., 21 Nov 51, sub: Manuscript on the Negro in the Armed Forces, SecDef 291.2.
103See New York Herald Tribune, December 2, 1957, and New York Post, March 14, 1957.
104Gravely would eventually become the first black admiral in the U.S. Navy.
105See, for example, Ltr, Exec Secy, President's Cmte on Equal Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, to CNO, 21 Jun 49, FC file; Memo, Chief, NavPers, for SecNav, BuPersRecs; Memo, ASD/M for SA et al., 21 Nov 51, sub: Manuscript on the Negro in the Armed Forces, SecDef 291.2; Ltr, Exec Secy, ACLU, to SecNav, 26 Nov 57, SecNav files, GenRecsNav.
106Nichols's sampling, presented
in the form of approximately a hundred interviews with men and women from
all the services, was completely unscientific and informal and was undertaken
for the preparation of his book, Breakthrough on the Color Front. Considering
their timing, the interviews supply an interesting sidelight to the integration
period. They are included in the Nichols Collection, CMH.
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