By 1962 the civil rights leaders and their allies in the Kennedy administration were pressing the Secretary of Defense to end segregation in the reserve components and in housing, schools, and public accommodations in communities adjacent to military installations. Such an extension of policy, certainly the most important to be contemplated since President Truman's executive order in 1948, would involve the Department of Defense in the fight for servicemen's civil rights, thrusting it into the forefront of the civil rights movement.
Given the forces at work in the department, it was by no means certain in 1962 that the fight against discrimination would be extended beyond those vestiges that continued to exist in the military community itself. In Robert McNamara the department had an energetic secretary, committed to the principle of equal treatment and opportunity, and, since his days with the Ford Motor Company in Michigan, a member of the NAACP. But, as his directives indicated, McNamara had much to learn in the field of race relations. As he later recalled: "Adam [Yarmolinsky] was more sensitive to the subject [race relations] in those days than I was. I was concerned. I recognized what Harry Truman had done, his leadership in the field, and I wanted to continue his work. But I didn't know enough."1
Some of McNamara's closest advisers and some civil rights advocates in the Kennedy administration, increasingly critical of current practices, were anxious to instruct the secretary in the need for a new racial outlook. But their efforts were counterbalanced by the influence of defenders of the status quo, primarily the manpower bureaucrats in the secretary's office and their colleagues in the services. These men opposed substantive change not because they objected to the reformers' goals but because they doubted the wisdom and propriety of interfering in what they regarded as essentially a domestic political issue.
Superficially, the department's racial policy appears to have been shaped by a conflict between traditionalists and progressives, but it would be a mistake to apply these labels mechanically to the men involved. There were among them several shades of opinion, and they were affected as well by complex political and social pressures. Many of those involved in the debate shared a similar goal. A continuum existed, one defense official later suggested, that ranged from a few people who wanted for a number of reasons to do nothing—who even wanted to tolerate the continued segregation of National Guard units called to active duty in 1961—to men of considerable impatience who thought the off-limits sanction was a neglected and obvious weapon which ought to be invoked at once.2 Nevertheless, these various views tended to coalesce into a series of mutually exclusive arguments that can be analyzed.3
One group, from whom Adam Yarmolinsky, McNamara's special assistant, might be singled out as the most prominent member, developed arguments for a new racial policy that would encourage the services to modify local laws and customs in ways more favorable to black servicemen. Unlike earlier reformers in the department who acted primarily out of an interest in military efficiency, these men were basically civil libertarians, or "social movers," as Secretary of the Air Force Zuckert called them. They were allied with like-minded new frontiersmen, including the President's special counsel on minority affairs and Attorney General Kennedy, who were convinced that Congress would enact no new civil rights legislation in 1962. The services, this group argued, had through their recent integration found themselves in the vanguard of the national campaign for equal treatment and opportunity for Negroes, and to some it seemed only logical that they be used to retain that lead for the administration. These men had ample proof, they believed, for the proposition that the services' policies had already influenced reforms elsewhere. They saw a strong connection, for example, between the new Interstate Commerce Commission's order outlawing segregation in interstate travel and the services' efforts to secure equal treatment for troops in transit. In eject, in the name of an administration handicapped by an unwilling legislature, they were asking the services to fly the flag of civil rights.
If their motives differed from those of their predecessors, their rhetoric did not. Yarmolinsky and his colleagues argued that racial discrimination, particularly discrimination in housing and public accommodations, created a serious morale problem among black GI's, a contention strongly supported by the recent Civil Rights Commission findings. While the services had always denied responsibility for combating discrimination outside the military reservation, these officials were confident that the connection between this discrimination and military efficiency could be demonstrated. They were also convinced that segregated housing and the related segregation of places of public accommodation were particularly susceptible to economic pressure from military authorities.
ADAM YARMOLINSKY [Photograph not included.]
This last argument was certainly not new. For some time civil rights spokesmen had been urging the services to use economic pressure to ease discrimination. Specifically, Congressman Powell, and later a number of civil rights groups, had called on the armed forces to impose off-limits sanctions for all servicemen against businesses that discriminated against black servicemen. Clear historical precedent seemed to exist for the action demanded by the controversial Harlem legislator because from earliest time the services had been declaring establishments and whole geographical areas off limits to their officers and men in order to protect their health and welfare. In view of the services' contention that equal treatment and opportunity were important to the welfare of servicemen, was it not reasonable, the spokesmen could ask, for the armed forces to use this powerful economic weapon against those who discriminated?
Those defense officials calling for further changes also argued that even the limited reforms already introduced by the administration faced slow going in the Department of Defense. This point was of particular concern to Robert Kennedy and his assistants in the Justice Department who agreed that senior defense officials lacked neither the zeal nor the determination to advance the civil rights of black servicemen but that the uniformed services were not, as Deputy Secretary Gilpatric expressed it, "putting their hearts and souls into really carrying out all of these directives and policies." Reflecting on it later, Gilpatric decided that the problem in the armed forces was one of pace. The services, he believed, were willing enough to carry out the policies, but in their own way and at their own speed, to avoid the appearance of acting as the agent of another federal department.
All these arguments failed to convince Assistant Secretary for Manpower Runge, some officials in the general counsel's office, and principal black adviser on racial affairs James Evans, among others. This group and their allies in the services could point to a political fact of life: to interfere with local segregation laws and customs, specifically to impose off-limits sanctions against southern businessmen, would pit the administration against powerful congressmen, calling down on it the wrath of the armed services and appropriation committees. To the charge that this threat of congressional retaliation was simply an excuse for inaction, the services could explain that unlike the recent integration of military units, which was largely an executive function with which Congress, or at least some individual congressmen, reluctantly went along, sanctions against local communities would be considered a direct threat by scores of legislators. "Even | one obscure congressman thus threatened could light a fire over military sanctions," Evans later remarked, "and there were plenty of folks around who were eager to fan the flames."
JAMES EVANS [Photograph not included.]
Even more important, the department's equal opportunity bureaucracy argued, was the need to protect the physical well-being of the individual black soldier. In a decade when civil rights beatings and murders were a common occurrence, these men knew that Evans was right when he said "by the time Washington could enter the case the young man could be injured or dead." Operating under the principle that the safety and welfare of the individual transcended the civil rights of the group, these officials wanted to forbid the men, both the black and the increasing number of white activists, to disobey local segregation laws and customs.
The opponents of intervention pointed out that the services would be ill-advised to push for changes outside the military reservation until the reforms begun under Truman were completely realized inside the reservation. Ignoring the argument that discrimination in the local community had a profound effect on morale, they wanted the services to concentrate instead on the necessary but minor reforms within their jurisdiction. To give the local commander the added responsibility for correcting discrimination in the community, they contended, might very well dilute his efforts to correct conditions within the services. And to use servicemen to spearhead civil rights reform was a misuse of executive power. With support from the department's lawyers, they questioned the legality of using off-limits sanctions in civil rights cases. They constantly repeated the same refrain: social reform was not a military function. As one manpower spokesman put it to the renowned black civil rights lawyer, Thurgood Marshall, "let the Army tend its own backyard, and let other government agencies work on civil rights."4
Runge and the rest were professional manpower managers who had a healthy respect for the chance of command error and its effect on race relations nationally. In this they found an ally in Secretary of the Air Force Eugene M. Zuckert, one of the architects of Air Force integration in 1949. American commanders lacked training in the delicate art of community relations, Zuckert later explained, and should even a few of them blunder they could bring on a race crisis of major proportions. He sympathized with the activists' goals and was convinced that the President as Commander in Chief could and should use the armed forces for social ends; but these social objectives had to be balanced against the need to preserve the military forces for their primary mission. Again on the practical level, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gilpatric was concerned with the problems of devising general instructions that could be applied in all the diverse situations that might arise at the hundreds of bases and local communities involved.5
Many of the manpower officials carefully differentiated between equal treat. meet, which had always been at the heart of the Defense Department's reforms, and civil rights, which they were convinced were a constitutional matter and belonged in the hands of the courts and the Justice Department. The principle of equal treatment and opportunity was beyond criticism. Its application, a lengthy and arduous task that had occupied and still concerned the services' racial advisers, had brought the Department of Defense to unparalleled heights of racial harmony. Convinced that the current civil rights campaign was not the business of the Defense Department, they questioned the motives of those who were willing to make black GI's the stalking horse for their latest and perhaps transient enthusiasm, in the process inviting congressional criticism of the department's vital racial programs. In short, Assistant Secretary Runge and his colleagues argued that the administration's civil rights campaign should be led by the Justice Department and by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, not the Defense Department, which had other missions to perform.
Such were the rationalizations that had kept the Department of Defense out of the field of community race relations for over a decade, and the opponents of change in a strong position. Their opposition was reasonable, their allies in the services were legion, they were backed by years of tradition, and, most important, they held the jobs where the day-to-day decisions on racial matters were made. To change the status quo, to move the department beyond the notion that the guarantee of equal rights stopped at the boundaries of military installations, might seem "desirable and indeed necessary" to Yarmolinsky and his confreres,6 but it would take something more than their eloquent words to bring about change.
Yarmolinsky was convinced that the initiative for such a change had to come from outside the department. Certain that any outside investigation would quickly reveal the connection between racial discrimination in the community and military efficiency, he wanted the Secretary of Defense to appoint a committee of independent citizens to investigate and report on the situation.7 The idea of a citizens' committee was not new. The Fahy Committee provided a recent precedent, and in August 1961 Congressman Diggs had asked the Secretary of Defense to consider the appointment of such a group, a suggestion rejected at the time by Assistant Secretary Runge.8 But Yarmolinsky enjoyed opportunities unavailable to the Michigan congressman; he had the attention and the support -of Robert McNamara. In the latter's words: "Adam suggested another broad review of the place of the Negro in the Department. The committee was necessary because the other sources—the DOD manpower reports and so forth—were inadequate. They didn't provide the exact information I needed. This is what Adam and I decided."9 This decision launched the Department of Defense into one of the most important civil rights battles of the 1960's.
On 24 June 1962 John F. Kennedy announced the formation of the President's Committee on Equality of Opportunity in the Armed Forces, popularly designated the Gesell Committee after its chairman, Gerhard A. Gesell.10 It was inevitable that the Gesell Committee should be compared to the Fahy Committee, given the similarity of interests, but in fact the two groups had little in common and served different purposes. The Fahy Committee had been created to carry out President Truman's equal treatment and opportunity policy. The Gesell Committee, on the other hand, was less concerned with carrying out existing policy than with developing a new policy for the Department of Defense. The Fahy Committee operated under an executive order and sought an acceptable integration program from each service. The Gesell Committee enjoyed no such advantage, although the Truman order was technically still in effect and could have been used to support it. (The Kennedy administration ignored this possibility, and Yarmolinsky warned one presidential aide that the Truman order should be quietly revoked lest someone question why the Gesell Committee had not been afforded similar stature.)11
Again unlike the Fahy Committee, which forced its attention upon a generally reluctant Defense Department at the behest of the President, the Gesell Committee was created by the Secretary of Defense; the presidential appointment of its members bestowed an aura of special authority on a group that lacked the power of its predecessor to make and review policy. McNamara later put it quite bluntly: "The committee was the creature of the Secretary of Defense. Calling it a President's committee was just window-dressing. The civil rights people didn't have a damn thing to do with it. We wanted information, and that's just what the Gesell people gave us."l2 In fact, Yarmolinsky conceived the project, named it, nominated its members, and drew up its directives. Only when it was well along was the project passed to the White House for review of the committee's makeup and guidelines.l3
This special connection between the Department of Defense and the Gesell Committee influenced the course of the investigation. True to his concept of the committee as a fact-finding team, McNamara personally remained aloof from its proceedings, never trying to influence its investigation or findings. Ironically, Gesell would later complain about this remoteness, regretting the secretary's failure to intervene in the case of the recalcitrant National Guard.14 He could harbor no complaint, however, against the secretary's special assistant, Yarmolinsky, who carefully guided the committee's investigation to the explosive subject of off-base discrimination. Even while expressing the committee's independence, Gesell recognized Yarmolinsky's influence. "It was perfectly cleat, Gesell later noted, "that Yarmolinsky was interested in the off-base housing and discrimination situation, but he had no solution to suggest. He wanted the committee to come up with one.''l5 Yarmolinsky formally spelled out this interest when he devised the group's presidential directive. The committee, he informed Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson during March 1962, would devote itself to those measures that should be taken to improve the effectiveness of current policies and procedures in the services and to the methods whereby the Department of Defense could improve equality of opportunity for members of the armed forces and their dependents in the civilian community. 16
The citizens chosen for this delicate task, "integrationists all,''l7 were men with backgrounds in the law and the civil rights movement, their nearest common denominators being Yale University and acquaintance with Yarmolinsky, a graduate of Yale Law School.18 Chairman Gesell was a Washington lawyer, educated at Yale, an acquaintance of Yarmolinsky's with whom he shared a close mutual friend, Burke Marshall, also from Yale and the head of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. Gesell always assumed that this friendship with Marshall explained his selection by the Kennedy administration for such a sensitive task.19 Black committeemen were Nathaniel S. Colley, a California lawyer, civil rights advocate associated with the NAACP, and former law school classmate of Yarmolinsky's; John H. Sengstacke, publisher of the Chicago Defender and a member of the Fahy Committee; and Whitney M. Young, Jr., of the National Urban League. The other members were Abe Fortas, a prominent Washington attorney and former Yale professor; Benjamin Muse, a leader of the Southern Regional Council and a noted student of the civil rights movement; and Louis Hector, also a Yale-educated lawyer, who was called in to replace ailing Dean Joseph O'Meara of the Notre Dame Law School. Gesell arranged for the appointment of Laurence I. Hewes III, of Yale College and Law School, as the committee's counsel.
Some of the members had definite ideas on how the committee should operate. Warning of a new mood in the black community where "impatience and expectations" were far different from what they were at the time of the Fahy Committee, Whitney Young wanted the committee to prepare a frank and honest report free of the "taint of whitewash." To that end he wanted the group's directive interpreted in its broadest sense as leading to a wide-ranging examination of off-base housing, recreation, and educational opportunity, among other subjects. He wanted an investigation at the grass roots level, and he offered specific suggestions about the size and duties of the staff to achieve this. Young also recommended commissioning "additional citizen teams" to assist in some of the numerous and necessary field trips and wanted the committee to use Congressman Diggs and his files.20
Benjamin Muse, on the other hand, considered direct, personal investigation of specific grievances too time-consuming. He wanted the group to concentrate instead on the command level, holding formal conferences with key staff officials. The best way to impress upon the services that the White House was serious, he told Gesell, was to learn the opinions of these officials and to elicit, "subject to our private analysis and discount," a great deal of helpful information.21
Chairman Gesell compromised. He wanted the group to develop some broad
recommendations on the basis of a limited examination of specific complaints.
President Kennedy agreed. He told Gesell: "don't go overboard and try to
visit every base, but unless you see at least some bases you will never
understand the situation."22 White House assistant
Lee C. White suggested that while the committee had no deadline it should
be advised that a report would be needed in June if any legislative proposals
were to be submitted to Congress.
At the same time he wanted the White House to make clear that the member "and particularly the Negro members," would be left free to act as they chose. 23
In the end the committee's operations owed something to all these suggestions.
The group worked out of a small office near the White House and pointedly
distant from the Pentagon. Its formal meetings were rare—only seven in
all—and were used primarily to hear the presentations of service officials
and consider the committee's findings. At a meeting in November 1962, for
instance, Gesell arranged for five Air Force base commanders to discuss
the application of the equal opportunity policy in their commands and in
communities and describe their own duties as they saw them.24
The chairman explained that the infrequent meetings were used mostly for "needling people and asking for statistics." Some black members at first opposed asking the services for statistical data on the grounds that such request would reinforce the tendency to identify servicemen by race, thus encouraging racial assignments and, ultimately, racial quotas. The majority, however, wisp convinced of the need for statistical material, and in the end the requests formal such information enjoyed the committee's unanimous support.25
Most of the committee's work was done in a "shirt sleeve" atmosphere, as its chairman described it, with a staff of four people.26 Members, alone and in groups, studied the mountains of racial statistics, some prepared by the staff of the Civil Rights Commission, and the lengthy answers to committee question. mires prepared by the services. The services also arranged for on-site inspections by committee members.27 The field trips proved to be of paramount importance, not only in ascertaining the conditions of black servicemen and their dependents but also in fixing the extent of the local commander's responsibility for race relations. Operating usually in two-man biracial teams, the committee members would separate to interview the commander, local businessmen, and the men themselves. The firsthand information thus gathered had a profound influence on the committee's thinking, an influence readily discernible in its recommendations to the President.
The committee concluded from its investigations that serious discrimination against black servicemen and their families existed at home and abroad within the services and in the civilian community, and that this discrimination affected black morale and military efficiency. Regarding evidence of discrimination within the services, the committee isolated a series of problems existing "both service-wide and at particular bases."28 Specifically, the group was not convinced by official reasons for the disproportionately small number of Negroes in some services, especially among the noncommissioned officers and in the officer corps. Chairman Gesell called the dearth of black officers a "shocking condition."29 His group was particularly concerned with the absence of black officers on promotion boards and the possibility of unfairness in the promotion process where photos and racial and religious information were included in the selection files made available to these boards. It also noted the failure of the services to increase the number of black ROTC graduates. The committee considered and rejected the idea of providing preferential treatment for Negroes to achieve better representation in the services and in the higher grades.30
Overrepresentation of black enlisted men in certain supply and food services was obvious. 31 Here the committee was particularly critical of the Navy and the Marine Corps. On another score, the Chief of Naval Personnel noted that the committee "considers the Navy and Marines far behind the Army and Air Force, particularly in the area of community relations," a criticism, he admitted, "to some extent" justified.32 So apparent was the justification that, at the suggestion of the Secretary of the Navy, Gesell discussed with Under Secretary Paul B. Fay, Jr., ways to better the Navy's record in its "areas of least progress."33 Gesell later concluded that the close social contact necessary aboard ship had been a factor in the Navy's slower progress.34 Whatever the reason, the Navy and Marine Corps fell statistically short of the other services in every category measured by the Gesell group.
The "sex thing," as Gesell referred to the interracial problems arising from off-duty social activities, also proved to be important, especially for noncommissioned officer and service clubs and base-sponsored activities in the community. The committee itself had persuaded the National United Services Organization to integrate its facilities, and it wanted local commanders to follow up by inviting black civilians to participate in USO dances and entertainments. 35 The committee also discussed discrimination in military police assignments, segregation in local transport and on school buses, and the commander's attitude toward interracial associations both on and off the military reservation.
Despite its criticism of the imperfect application of service race policies—some servicewide, others confined to certain bases—the committee reported to the President that the services had made "an intelligent and far reaching advance toward complete integration, and, with some variations from service to service, substantial progress toward equality of treatment and opportunity."36 Gesell called the services the nation's "pace setter," and he was convinced that they had not received sufficient credit for their racial achievements, which were "way ahead of General Motors and the other great corporations.37 That the services were more advanced than other segments of American society in terms of equal treatment and opportunity was beyond dispute; nevertheless, serious problems connected with racial prejudice and the armed forces' failure to understand the fundamental needs of black servicemen remained. The commit tee's investigation, with its emphasis on off-base realities and its dependence on statistics and other empirical data, did not lend itself to more than a superficial treatment of these subtle and stubborn, if unmeasurable, on-base problems.
The committee believed that some of what appeared discriminatory was in reality the working of such factors as the black serviceman's lack of seniority, deficiencies in education, and lack of interest in specific fields and assignments. Looking beyond these, the fruits of institutional racism, the committee concluded that much of the substantiated discrimination disclosed in its investigations had proved to be limited in scope. But whether limited or widespread, discrimination had to be eliminated. Prompt attention to even minor incidents of discrimination would contribute substantially to morale and serve to keep before all servicemen the standard of conduct decreed by executive policy.38
The committee was considerably less sanguine over conditions encountered by black servicemen off military bases. In eloquent paragraphs it outlined for the President the injustices suffered by these men and their families in some American communities, the effect of these practices on morale, and the consequent danger to the mission of the armed forces. It reviewed the services' efforts to eliminate segregated housing, schooling, and public accommodations around the military reservations and found them wanting. Local commanders, the committee charged, were often naive about the existence of social problems an generally did not keep abreast of departmental policy specifying their obligations; they were especially ill-informed on the McNamara-Gilpatric directive and memorandums on equal treatment. Often quizzed on the subject, the com menders told the committee that they enjoyed very fine community relationships. To this Whitney Young would answer that fine community relationships and racial injustice were not necessarily exclusive.39
THE GESELL COMMITTEE MEETS WITH THE PRESIDENT. Left to right: Laurence
Hewes III, Executive Secretary; Nathaniel S. Colley; Benjamin Muse; Gerhard A. Gesell; President Kennedy; Whitney M. Young, Jr.; John H. Sengstacke; and Abe Fortas. [Photograph not included.]
This community-based discrimination, the committee found, had become a greater trial for black servicemen and their families because of its often startling contrast to their life in the services. There was even evidence that some of the off-base segregation, especially overseas, had been introduced through the efforts of white servicemen. Particularly irritating to the committee were restrictions placed on black participation in civil rights demonstrations protesting such off-base conditions. The committee wanted the restrictions removed.40
In the end the committee's reputation would rest not so much on its
carefully developed catalog of racial discrimination. After all, others,
most notably the Civil Rights Commission, had recently documented the problems
encountered by black servicemen, although not in the detail offered by
the Gesell group, and had convincingly tied this discrimination to black
morale and military efficiency. The committee's major contribution lay
rather in establishment of a new concept in command responsibility that
directly attacked the traditional parochialism of the services' social
It should be the policy of the Department of Defense and part of the mission of the chain of command from the Secretaries of the Services to the local base commander not only to remove discrimination within the Armed Forces, but also to make every effort to eliminate discriminatory practices as they affect members of the Armed Forces and their dependents within the neighboring civilian communities.41
In effect the committee proposed a new racial policy for the Department of Defense, one that would translate the services' promise of equality of treatment and opportunity into a declaration of civil liberties. To that end it recommended the adoption of a set of techniques radically new to the thinking of the military commanders, one that grew out of the committee's own experiences in the field.
Chairman Gesell later recollected how this recommendation developed:
I remember in particular our experiences at the bases at Augusta and Pensacola. This made a strong impression on me. I saw discrimination on bases right under the noses of the commanders who were often not even aware of it. And I saw much discrimination in communities around the bases. Sometimes unbelievable. At Pensacola, for example, I found that the Station had never used Negroes for guard duty at the main gate where they would be seen by the public, black and white. We told this to the commander and reminded him of the effect that it had on black morale. He changed it immediately. On base the housing for blacks was segregated off to one side in poor run-down shacks below the railroad tracks. We told the commander who admitted that he had some substandard housing units but was unaware of any segregation in housing. The commander promised to report to us about this in two weeks. He did later report: "the whole housing area has been bulldozed and all housing on base integrated." It was examples like this that convinced me that there was much the commanders could do.42
This sense of racial progress made a vivid impression on committee member Muse who later recalled that "it was amazing how much activity our presence stirred up. It showed that a lot could be done by commanders."43 Gesell and Muse were particularly impressed by how local commanders, acting firmly but informally, could achieve swift breakthroughs. But actually, as the Gesell-Young trip to Pensacola demonstrated, often more than the base commander was involved in these dramatic reforms. A week after their trip to Florida, Gesell and Young had a casual chat with Under Secretary Fay about conditions at Pensacola, particularly housing conditions, that, they claimed, had contributed to a "literally disgraceful" state of black morale, leading black sailors "almost to the point of rebellion." Although the base commander seemed concerned, he had deferred to his military superior who lacked the "philosophical outlook oriented toward the successful implementation of equal opportunity policies." Fay was quick to see the point. He pledged the Navy to a "constructive effort" to eliminate the problem at Pensacola "prior to the Committee's reporting date [to the President] of 1 June "44 In a matter of hours Fay was arranging to send Die Inspector General to Pensacola, but the matter did not end there In late May committee counsel Hewes asked the Assistant Secretary of Defense concerned with military installations about housing at Pensacola, thus setting off yet another investigation of the base.45
Gesell saw the reforms at Pensacola as a direct result of his own suggestion to a commander. He seemed unaware that his remarks to Fay had set in motion a chain of action behind the scenes. In the weeks following, black servicemen were moved from the substandard segregated housing to integrated Navy-controlled housing both on and off base. The local commander also arranged for the desegregation of some off-base social facilities in a effort to improve black morale.46 If the changes at Pensacola appear more closely related to the committee's political clout in Washington than to the commander's interest in reform, they also demonstrate the power for reform that the commander could exercise. This was the committee's main point, that equal opportunity was a command responsibility.47 But it would be hard to sell in the Department of Defense where, as Gesell himself later admitted, resistance to what was perceived as a political matter was common to most American military officers.48
The most controversial recommendation, however, was that the armed forces
should, when necessary, exercise economic sanctions against recalcitrant
businesses. In the name of troop morale and military efficiency, the committee
wanted commanders to put public accommodations off limits for all servicemen,
and it wanted the Secretary of Defense, as a last resort, to close the
military installations in communities that persisted in denying black servicemen
their civil rights.49 Again, Gesell elaborated
on the power of base commanders and recommended tactics.
There was also much that they could do in the community to improve the lot of their blacks. If only they were sensitive to the situation.... For example, we visited the local community leaders. I would put it to the local banker who held the mortgage on the local bowling alley: "what would you do if you were a commander and some of your men were barred from the local bowling alley?" He got the point and the alley outside the base was desegregated overnight. To another I said, "you know, I'm just a lawyer down here on a temporary job, and I can only talk with you about these things. But you can't tell about those guys in Washington. They will have to be closing some bases soon. Now put yourself in their shoes. Which would you shut, those bases that don't have race problems or chose that dolt' Again, they got the point. In other words, an implied economic threat by the commander would work well. Hell, the commanders were always getting good citizenship awards and ignoring the major citizenship problem of the era. Commanders were local heroes, and they had plenty of influence. They use it. The trouble was most commanders were ignorant of the ferment among their own men on this subject, In all my trips I hinted at sanctions and base closings. The clutch uncle a, preach. I wanted the commanders to do the same. I talked economics to the commune leaders. It opened their eyes. The commanders could do the same.50
The committee further refined its concepts of economic sanctions during the course of its hearings. Commanders were frequently quizzed on the probable effects of the imposition of off-limits sanctions or base closings.51 Despite the reluctance of most commanders to invoke sanctions, committee members assuming that no community would long persist in a social order detrimental to its economic welfare, came to the belief that ultimately only a firm and uncompromising policy of economic sanctions would eliminate off-base discrimination. The committee was obviously aware of the controversial aspects of its recommendation, and it stressed that the department's objective should always be "the preservation of morale, not the punishment of local communities which have a tradition of segregation."52
Mindful of the wish expressed by the White House staff that a report be submitted by mid-1963, the committee, acting unanimously, completed on 13 June 1963 an initial report on discrimination in the services and the local community, postponing the results of its time-consuming and less-pressing investigation of the National Guard and overseas posts until a later date. 53 Complete accord among the members had not been automatic. The chairman later recalled that the group's black members had remained somewhat aloof during the months of investigation, perhaps because at first they felt the report might be a whitewash of executive policy, but that they became "enthusiastic" when they read his draft and quickly joined in the preparation of the final version.54
The reason for this enthusiasm was a report that faithfully reflected
the realities of discrimination suffered by black servicemen and proposed
solutions based on conclusions drawn by the members from their months of
discussion and investigation. The committee's conclusions and recommendations
were the natural reaction of a group of humane and sensible men to the
overwhelming evidence of continued discrimination against black servicemen.
National policy, the committee told the President, required that this discrimination
be eliminated, for
equal opportunity for the Negro will exist only when it is possible for him to enter upon a career of military service with assurance that his acceptance and his progress will be in no way impeded by reason of his color. Clearly, distinctions based on race prevent full utilization of Negro military personnel and are inconsistent with the objectives of our democratic society.55
The committee wanted responsibility for eliminating these color distinctions in the services shifted to the local commander. Commanders, it believed, needed to improve their communication with black servicemen and should be "held accountable to discover and remedy discrimination" in their commands. The committee, in short, wanted racial sensitivity made a function of command.
Command responsibility for equal opportunity, the committee emphasized, was particularly important "in the area of most pressing concern, off-base discrimination." It wanted local commanders to attack discrimination in the community by seeking the voluntary compliance of local businessmen and by establishing biracial community committees. The committee asserted that despite the services' claims to the contrary the Department of Defense had made no serious effort to achieve off-base compliance with its antidiscrimination measures through voluntary action. Commanders had been given little guidance thus far, and a carefully planned program of voluntary action should be given a chance. If it failed, commanders should be able to employ sanctions against the offending businesses; if sanctions failed, the services should consider closing installations in offending areas. The committee again stressed the need to fix responsibility for the program on local commanders. A commander's performance should be monitored and rated, and offices should be established in the Department of Defense and in the individual services to devise programs, monitor their progress, and bring base commanders into close working relationship with other interested and responsible federal agencies.
Although their recommendations were later excoriated by critics as a radical usurpation of state sovereignty and a threat to civil liberties, the committee had meant only to provide a graduated solution to a national defense problem. Let reform begin with the local commander's improving conditions on his base and pressing for voluntary changes in the local community. Only when this tactic failed—and the committee predicted that failure would be a rare occurrence—should the services employ economic sanctions.
A firm philosophical assumption underlay all these recommendations. The committee believed that the armed forces, a worldwide symbol of American society, had to be the leader in the quest for racial justice. Social reform, therefore, both within the services and where it affected servicemen in the community beyond, was a legitimate military function. To the extent that these reforms were successful, the armed forces would not only be protecting the civil rights of black servicemen but also providing a standard against which civilian society could measure its conduct and other nations could judge the country's adherence to its basic principles.56
The Gesell Committee's conclusion that discrimination in the community was tied to military efficiency meshed well with the civil rights philosophy of the New Frontier. Responding to the committee's report, President Kennedy cited "the interests of national defense, national policy and basic considerations of human decency" to justify his administration's interest in opening public accommodations and housing to black servicemen. He considered it proper to ask the "military community to take a leadership role" in the matter and asked Secretary McNamara to review the committee's recommendations.57 The secretary, in turn, personally asked the service secretaries to comment on them recommendations and assigned the Deputy Under Secretary of the Army (Manpower), Alfred B. Fitt, to act as coordinator and draw up the Defense Department's reply.58
The comments thus solicited revealed that some of McNamara's senior subordinates had not been won over by the committee's arguments that the services should take an active role in community race relations.59 The sticking point at all levels involved two important recommendations: the rating of commanders on their handling of racial matters and the use of economic sanctions In regard to the proposal to close bases in communities that persisted in racial discrimination, the Secretary of the Navy said bluntly: "Do not concur. Base siting is based upon military requirements."60 These officials promised that commanders would press for voluntary compliance, but for more aggressive measures they preferred to wait for the passage of federal legislation—they had in mind the administration's civil rights bill then being considered by Congress—which would place the primary responsibility for the protection of a serviceman's civil rights in another federal department. The Secretary of the Air Force suggested that the services continue to plan, but defer action on the committee's recommendations until Congress acted on the civil rights bill.61
Despite the opposition to these recommendations, Fitt saw room for compromise
between the committee and the services. Noting, for example, that the services
wanted to do their own monitoring of their commander's performance, Fitt
agreed this would be acceptable so long as the Secretary of Defense could
monitor the monitors. Adding that officers, like other human beings, tended
to concentrate on the tasks that would be reviewed by superiors, he wanted
to see a judgment of a commander's ability to handle discrimination matters
In the narrative portion of his efficiency report. On the question of sanctions, Fitt pointed out to McNamara that the services now understood that their equal opportunity responsibilities extended beyond the limits of the military reservation but that several of their objections to the use of sanctions were sound. He suggested the secretary approve the use of sanctions in discrimination cases but place severe restraints on their imposition, restricting the decision to the secretary's office.
This suggestion no doubt pleased McNamara. Although the committee's recommendations might be the logical outcome of its investigations, in the absence of a strong federal civil rights law even a sympathetic secretary of defense could not accept such radical changes in the services' community relations programs without reservations. Nor, as Gesell later admitted, could a Secretary of Defense chance the serious compromise to the administration's effort to win passage of such a law that could be caused by some "too gung-ho" commander left to impose sanctions on his own.62 The secretary agreed with the committee that much could be done by individual commanders in a voluntary way to change the customs of the local community, and he wanted the emphasis to be kept there.
Unlike Gesell, who doubted the effectiveness of directives and executive edicts ("trouble-making" he called them), McNamara considered equal opportunity matters "an executive job that should be handled by the Departments, using directives."63 Armed with the committee's call for action and the services' agreement in principle, McNamara turned to the preparation of a directive, the main outline of which he transmitted to the President on 24 July after review by Burke Marshall in the Department of Justice. As McNamara explained to Marshall, "I would like to be able to tell him [the President] that you have read same and offer no objection."64
The Secretary of Defense promised the President to "eliminate the exceptions and guard the continuing reality" of racial equality in the services. In the light of the committee's conclusion that off-base discrimination reduced military effectiveness, he pledged that "the military departments will take a leadership role in combating discrimination wherever it affects the military effectiveness'' of servicemen. McNamara admitted having reservations about some of the committee's recommendations, especially the closing of bases communities that constantly practiced discrimination; such closings, he declared, were not feasible "at this time." Nevertheless he agreed with the committee that off-limits sanctions should be available to the services, for "certainly the damage to military effectiveness from off-base discrimination is no less than that caused by off-base vice, as to which the off-limits sanction is quite customary."65 He failed to add that even though sanctions against vice we regularly applied by the local commander, sanctions against discrimination would be reserved to higher authority.
The directive, in reality an outline of the Department of Defense's civil rights responsibilities and the prototype of subsequent secretarial orders dealt with race, was published on 26 July 1963, the fifteenth anniversary of Harry Truman's executive order. It read in part:
A. Office of the Secretary of Defense:
1. Pursuant to the authority vested in the Secretary of Defense and the provisions of the National Security Act of 1947, as amended, the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower) is hereby assigned responsibility and authority for promoting equal opportunity for members of the Armed Forces.
In the performance of this function he shall (a) be the representative of the Secretary of Defense in civil rights matters, (b) give direction to programs that promote equal opportunity for military personnel, (c) provide policy guidance and review policies, regulations and manuals of the military departments, and (d) monitor their performance through periodic reports and visits to field installations.
2. In carrying out the functions enumerated above, the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower) is authorized to establish the Office of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Civil Rights).
B. The Military Departments:
1. The military departments shall, with the approval of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower), issue appropriate instructions, manuals and regulations in connection with the leadership responsibility for equal opportunity, on and off base, and containing guidance for its discharge.
2. The military departments shall institute in each service a system for regularly reporting, monitoring and measuring progress in achieving equal opportunity on and off base.
C. Military Commanders:
Every military commander has the responsibility to oppose discriminatory practices' affecting his men and their dependents and to foster equal opportunity for them. not only in areas under his immediate control. but also in nearby communities where they may live or gather in off-duty hours. In discharging that responsibility a commander shall not, except with the prior approval of the Secretary of his military department. use the off-limits sanction in discrimination cases arising within the United States.66
After some thirty months in office, Robert McNamara had made a most decisive move in race relations. In the name of fulfilling Harry Truman's pledge of equal treatment and opportunity he announced an aggressive new policy. Not only would the department work to eliminate discrimination in the armed forces, but when servicemen were affected it would work in the community as well. Even more ominous to the secretary's critics was the fact that the new policy revealed McNamara's willingness, under certain circumstances, to use the department's economic powers to force these changes. This directive marked the beginning of McNamara's most active period of participation in the civil rights revolution of the 1960's.
But the secretary's move did not escape strong criticism. The directive was denounced as infamous and shocking, as biased, impractical, undemocratic, brutally authoritarian, and un-American. If followed, critics warned, it would set the military establishment at war with society, inject the military into civilian political controversies in defiance of all traditions to the contrary, and burden military commanders with sociological tasks beyond their powers and to the detriment of their military mission.67
"It is hard to realize that your office would become so rotten and degraded," one critic wrote McNamara. "In my opinion you are using the tactics of a dictator.... It is a tragic event when the Federal Government is again trying to bring Reconstruction Days into the South. Again the military is being used to bring this about." Did businesses not have the right to choose their customers? Did local authorities not have the right to enforce the law in their communities? And surely the white soldier deserved the freedom to choose his associates.68 Another correspondent reproached McNamara: "you have, without conscience and with total disregard for the honorable history of the Military of our Great Nation, signed our freedom away." And still another saw her white supremacy menaced: "We have a bunch of mad dogs in Washington and if you and others like you are not stopped, our children will curse us. We don't want black grandchildren and we won't have them. If you want to dance with them—you have two legs, start dancing."
Not all the correspondents were racist or hysterical. Some thoughtful citizens were concerned with what they considered extramilitary and illegal activities on the part of the services and took little comfort from the often repeated official statement that the Secretary of Defense had no present plans for the use of sanctions and hoped that they would never have to be used.69
Some defenders of the directive saw the whole controversy over sanctions as a red herring dragged across the path of a genuine equal treatment and opportunity program.70 During congressional debate on the directive, the use of off-limits sanctions quickly became the respectable issue behind which those opposed to any reform could rally. The Senate debated the subject on 31 July. the House on 7 August. During lengthy sessions on those days, opponents cast the controversy in the familiar context of states' rights, arguing that constitutional and legal points were involved. As Congressman Durward G. Hall of Missouri put it: "The recommendations made in the report and in the direction indicate a narrowness of vision which, in seeing only the civil rights issue, he blinded itself to the question of whether it is proper to use the Armed Forces to enforce a moral or social, rather than a legal, issue in the civilian sector."71
Opponents argued generally that the directive represented government by fiat, an unprecedented extension of executive power that imposed the armed forces on civilian society in a new and illegal way. If the administration was already empowered to protect the civil rights of some citizens, why, they asked, was it pushing so hard for a civil rights bill? The fact was, several legislators argued, the Department of Defense was interfering with the civil rights of businessmen and practicing a crude form of economic blackmail.72
Critics also discussed the directive in terms of military efficiency. The secretary had given the commanders a new mission, Senator John Stennis of Mississippi noted, that "can only be detrimental to military tradition, discipline, and morale." Elaborating on this idea, Congressman L. Mendel Rivers of South Carolina predicted that the new policy would destroy the merit promotion system. Henceforth, Rivers forecast, advancement would depend on acceptance of integration; henceforth, racial quotas would "take the place of competence for purposes of promotion." Others were alarmed at the prospect of civil rights advisers on duty at each base and outside the regular chain of command. This outrage, Congressman H. R. Gross of Iowa charged, "would create the biggest army of snoopers and informers that the military has ever heard of."
Some legislators saw sinister things afoot in the Pentagon. Senator Herman E. Talmadge of Georgia thought he recognized a return to the military districting of Reconstruction days, and Congressman F. Edward Hebert of Louisiana warned that "everybody should be prepared for the midnight knock on the door." Congressman Otto E. Passman of Louisiana thought it most likely that Attorney General Kennedy was behind the whole thing; "a tragic state of affairs," he said, if the Justice Department was directing "the missions of the Military Establishment." Congressman Hebert found yet another villain in the piece. Adam Yarmolinsky, whom he incorrectly identified as the author of the McNamara directive, had, Hebert accused, "one objective in mind—with an almost sataniclike zeal—the forced integration of every facet of the Americas way of life, using the full power of the Department of Defense to bring about this change."73 In line with these suspicions, some legislators reported that the secretary's new civil rights deputy, Alfred B. Fitt, was circulating among Southern segregationist businessmen with, in Senator Barry M. Goldwater's words, a dossier gleaned from Internal Revenue reports." Senator Stennis suspected that the Secretary of Defense had come under the influence of "obscure men," and he warned against their revolutionary strategy: "It had been apparent for some time that the more extreme exponents of revolutionary civil rights action have wanted to use the military in a posture of leadership to bring about desegregation outside the boundaries of military bases. " 74
The congressional critics had a strategy of their own. They would try to persuade McNamara to rescind or modify his directive, and, failing that, they would try to change the new defense policy by law. Senators Goldwater, J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, and Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, along with some of their constituents, debated with McNamara while no less than the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Carl Vinson of Georgia, introduced a bill aimed at outlawing all integration activity by military officers.75 Their campaign came to naught because the new policy had its own supporters in Congress,76 and the great public outcry against the directive, so ardently courted by its congressional opponents, failed to materialize. Judging by the press, the public showed little interest in the Gesell Committee's report and comment on the secretary's directive was regional, with much of it coming from the southern press. Certainly the effect of the directive could not compare with the furor set off by the Truman order in 1948.
The attitude of the press merely underscored a fact already obvious to many politicians on Capitol Hill in 1963—equal opportunity in the armed forces had dwindled to the status of a minor issue in the greater civil rights struggle engulfing the nation. The media reaction also suggested that prolonged attacks against the committee and the directive were for hometown consumption and not a serious effort to reverse policy. In effect a last hurrah for the congressional opponents of integration in the armed forces, the attacks failed to budge the Secretary of Defense and marked the end of serious congressional attempts to influence armed forces racial policy.77 The threat of congressional opposition, at times real and sometimes imagined, had discouraged progressive racial policies in the Department of Defense for over a quarter of a century. Its abrupt and public demise robbed the traditionalists in the Department of Defense of a cherished excuse for inaction.
While the argument over the McNamara directive raged, the Gesell Committee worked quietly if intermittently on the final segment of its investigation, the status of blacks stationed overseas and in the National Guard. President Kennedy's death in November 1963 introduced an element of uncertainty in a group serving at the pleasure of the Chief Executive. Special Presidential Counsel Lee C. White arranged for Gesell to meet with President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Gesell offered to disband the committee if Johnson wished. The President left it in being. As Gesell later observed: "The committee felt Johnson understood us and our work in a way better than Kennedy who had no clear idea on how to go with the race issue. We had no trouble with Johnson who could have stopped us if he wanted."78
The committee's operations became even more informal in this final stage. Its investigations completed, its staff dissolved, and its members (now one short with the resignation of Nathaniel Colley) scattered, the committee operated out of Gesell's law office. He was almost exclusively responsible for its final report.79 This informality masked the protracted negotiations that the committee conducted with the National Guard Bureau over the persistent exclusion of Negroes. It also masked the solid investigation by individual committee's members and the voluminous evidence gathered by the staff in support of the group's final report.
These investigations and the documentary evidence again confirmed the findings of the Civil Rights Commission, although the Gesell Committee's emphasis was different. It dismissed the problem of assignment of Negroes to overseas stations. The percentage of Negroes, both officers and men, sent overseas approximated their percentage in the continental United States with rare and "understandable" exceptions—it cited South Africa—averse assignments in the armed forces were made routinely without regard for race.80 The committee also quickly dismissed the problem of discrimination on bases, which it considered "minimal," and as in the United States chiefly the result of poor communication between commanders and men. The group concentrated instead on discrimination off base, especially in Germany. Back from a firsthand look in April 1964, Benjamin Muse reported that local American commanders seemed unwilling to take the matter seriously, but he considered it delicate and complex, principally because prejudice had been most often introduced by American servicemen. He suggested that off-limits sanctions should also be imposed in Germany but "only after consultation and on a basis of mutual understanding with German municipal authorities."81
The committee wanted the recommendations contained in its initial report also applied overseas. Ignoring the oft made distinction about the guest status of overseas service, it wanted the Department of State enlisted in a campaign against discrimination in public accommodations, including the use of off-limits sanctions when necessary. The committee also called for a continuing review to insure equal opportunity in assignments to attaché and mission positions.
The committee devoted the largest portion of its final report to the National Guard, "the only branch of the Armed Forces," it told President Johnson, "which has not been fully integrated."82 Chairman Gesell later reported that when the segregated state guards were pressured they "resisted like hell."83 This resistance had a political dimension, but when Attorney General Kennedy chided that "you are killing us with the Guard," Gesell replied that the committee took orders from the President and would ignore the political problems involved. Nevertheless, before the committee issued its report Gesell sent the portions on the National Guard to the Justice Department for comment, as one justice official noted, "apparently . . . in the hope that its recommendation will not prove embarrassing to the administration."84
The committee admitted that its investigation of the National Guard was incomplete because of the variation in state systems and the absence of statistical data on recruitment, assignment, and promotion in some state guards. It had no doubt, however, of the central premise that discrimination existed. For example, until 1963 ten states with large black populations had no black guardsmen at all. Membership in the guard, the committee concluded, was a distinct advantage for some individuals, providing the chance to perform their military obligation without a lengthy time away from home or work. Because of the peculiar relationship between the reserve and regular systems, National Guard service had important advantages in retirement benefits for others. These advantages and benefits should, in simple fairness, be open to all, but beyond the basic constitutional rights involved there were practical reasons for federal insistence on integration. The committee accepted the National Guard Bureau's conclusion that, since guard units were subject to integration when federalized, their morale and combat efficiency would be improved if their members were accustomed to service with Negroes in all ranks during training.85
The committee stressed executive initiatives. It wanted the President to declare the integration of the National Guard in the national interest. It wanted the Department of Defense to demand pertinent racial statistics from the states. For psychological advantages, it wanted the recent liberalization of guard policies toward Negroes widely publicized. Again suggesting voluntary methods as a first step, the committee called for the use of economic sanctions if voluntary methods failed. The President should lose no time in applying the provisions of the new Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbade the use of federal funds in discriminatory activities, to offending states. As it had been in the case of discrimination in local communities, the committee was optimistic about the success of voluntary compliance. Citing its own efforts and those of the National Guard Bureau,86 the committee reported that the last ten states to hold out had now begun to integrate their guard units at least on a token basis. In fact, the committee's report had to be revised at the last minute because Alabama and Mississippi enrolled Negroes in their enlisted ranks.
Chairman Gesell circulated a draft report containing these findings and recommendations among committee members in September 1964.87 His colleagues suggested only minor revisions, although Whitney Young thought that some of the space spent on complimenting the services could be better used to emphasize the committee's recommendations for further reform. He did not press the point but noted wryly: "if we were as sensitive about the feelings of the victims of discrimination as we are of the perpetuators, we wouldn't have many of these problems to begin with."88 Maj. Gen. Winston P. Wilson, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, also reviewed the draft and found it "entirely fair, temperate and well-founded."89 The committee's final report was sent to the President on 20 November 1964. A month later Johnson sent it along to McNamara with the request that he be kept informed on progress of the negotiations between the secretary and the governors on integration of the National Guard.90
The radical change in the civil rights orientation of the Department
of Defense demanded by the administration's civil rights supporters was
obviously a task too controversial for the department to assume in 1963
on its own initiative. It was, as a member of the Gesell Committee later
remarked, a task that only a group of independent citizens reporting to
the President could effectively suggest.91
In the end the committee did all that its sponsors could have wanted. It
confirmed the persistence of discrimination against black servicemen both
on and off the military base and effectively tied that discrimination to
and military efficiency. The committee's conclusions, logically derived from the Connection between morale and efficiency, introduced a radically expanded concept of racial responsibility for the armed forces.
Although many people strongly associate the Gesell Committee with the use of economic coercion against race discrimination in the community, the committee's emphasis was always on the local commander's role in achieving voluntary compliance with the department's equal opportunity policies. Economic sanction was conceived of as a last resort. The directive of the Secretary of Defense that endorsed these recommendations was also denounced for embracing sanctions, although here the charges were even less appropriate because the use of sanctions was severely circumscribed. It remained to be seen how far command initiative and voluntary compliance could be translated by the services into concrete gains.
1Interv author with McNamara, telecon of 11 May 72, CMH files.
2Ltr, Alfred B. Fitt to author, 22 May 72, CMH files.
3The following summary of opinions is based upon (1) Intervs: author with McNamara, 11 May 72, Gerhard A. Gesell, 13 May 72, Robert E. Jordan 111, 7 Jun 72, James C. Evans, 4 and 22 Mar 72; O'Brien with Gilpatric, S May 70; USAF with Zuckert, Apr 73; (2) Ltrs: Fitt and Yarmolinsky to author, 22 May 72 and 30 May 72, respectively; Rudolph Winnacker, OSD Historian, to Jam" C. Evans, 17 Jul 70; Evans to DASD (CR), 20 Jul 70; ASD (M) to Congressman Charles C. Diggs, Jr., 15 Mar 61; idem to John Roemer, Vice Chmn, Baltimore CORE, 3 Aug 62; (3) Memos: USAF Dep for Manpower, Pers, and Organization for SecAF, 9 Nov 62, sub: Meeting of President's Committee on Equal Opportunity in the Armed Forces; ASD (M) for Asst Legal Counsel to President, 7 Nov 61, sub: Racial Discrimination in the Armed Services; Evans to Yarmolinsky, 31 Mar 61. Copies of all in CMH. See also Adam Yarmolinsky, The Military Establishment: Its Impacts in American Society (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), p. 351.
4Interv, author with Evans, 4 Mar 72.
5USAF Oral Hist Interv with Zuckert, Apt 73; Interv, O'Brien with Gilpatric, 5 May 70.
6Ltr, Yarmolinsky to author, 30 May 72, CMH files.
7Not everyone supporting the idea of an investigatory committee was necessarily an advocate of Yarmolinsky's theories. Roy K. Davenport, soon to be appointed a deputy under secretary of the Army for personnel management, decided that an assessment of the status of black servicemen was timely after a decade of integration His professional curiosity, like that of some of the other manpower experts in the services, was piqued more by a concern for the fate of current regulations than an interest in the development of new ones. See Interv, author with Davenport, 31 Oct 71.
8Ltr, Diggs to McNamara, 24 Aug 61; Ltr, ASD (M) to Diggs, 5 Sep 61; Memo, ASD (M) for Asst Legal Counsel to President, 7 Nov 61, sub: Racial Discrimination in the Armed Services. All in ASD (M) 291.2.
9Interv, author with McNamara, 1l May 72.
10Ltr, Kennedy to Gesell, 22 Jun 62, as reproduced in White House Press Release, 24 Jun 62, copy in CMH. For an example of the attention the new committee received in the press, see Washington Post, June 24, 1962.
11Memo, Yarmolinsky for Lee C. White, 26 Jul 62, sub: Revocation of Executive Order 9981, SD 291.2.
12Interv, author with McNamara, 11 May 72; see also Ltr, Yarmolinsky to author, 30 May 72. Yarmolinsky called the presidential appointment an example of the Defense Department's borrowing the prestige of the White House
13Memo, ASD (M) for Asst Legal Counsel to President, 7 Nov 61, sub: Racial Discrimination the Armed Services, ASD (M) 291.2.
14Interv, author with Gesell, 3 Nov 74, CMH files. The Secretary of Defense met with the committee but once for an informal chat.
15Interv, author with Gesell, 13 May 72.
16Memo, Yarmolinsky for vice president, 13 Mar 62, SD 291.2
17Memo, ASD (M) for Lee C. White, Asst Spec Counsel to President, 7 Jun 62. sub: Establishment of Committee on Equality of Opportunity in the Armed Forces, ASD (M) 291.2.
18In discussing the Yale connection in the Gesell Committee, it is interesting to note that at least three other officials intimately connected with the question of equal treatment and opportunity, Alfred B. Fitt, the first Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Civil Rights), Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of the Army, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Gilpatric, were Yale men. Of course, Secretary McNamara was not a Yale graduate; his undergraduate degree is from the University of California at Berkeley, his graduate degree from Harvard.
19Interv, author with Gesell, 13 May 72.
20Ltr, Young to Gesell, 27 Aug 62, Gesell Collection, J. F. Kennedy Library.
21Ltr, Muse to Gesell, 26 Jan 63, Gesell Collection, J. F. Kennedy Library.
22Quoted by Gesell during
interview with author, 13 May 72.
23Memo, White or Dep Atty Gen, 23 Jan 63, copy in Lee C. White Collection, J. F. Kennedy Library (Deputy Attorney general Katzenbach was a member of the White House's civil rights subcabinet.) According to Yarmolinsky, the white suggestion might have originated with Secretary McNamara.
24Ltr, Gesell to SecAF, 25 Oct 62, SecAF files.
25Interv, author with Gesell 3 Nov 74.
26Memo, Gesell for Cmte Members, 20 Nov 64, Gesell Collection, J. F. Kennedy Library.
27The committee's considerable probings were reflected in the Defense Department's files. See for example, Memo, SecDef for Secys of Mil Depts et al., 28 Sep 62, sub: President's Committee on Equal Opportunity in the Armed Forces, SD 291.2 (12 Feb 62); Memo, ASD (M) for SA et al., 18 Dec 62, same sub, ASD (M) 291.2; Ltr, SecNav to Gesell, I Apt 63; Memo, Under SecNav for SecNav, 9 Apr 63, sub: Meeting With the President's Cmte on Equal Opportunity in the Armed Forces; Ltrs, Under SecNav to Chmn Gesell, 1 Apr and 3 May 63; last four in SecNav file 5350, GenRecsNav, also Marine Corps Bulletin 5050, 28 Jan 63, Hist Div. HQMC. See also Ltrs, Chmn, President's Cmte, to SecAF, 8 Oct 62, USAF, Report for President's Committee on Equal Opportunity in the Armed Forces, 4 Dec 62, and James P. Goode, AF Dep for Manpower, Personnel, & Organization, to Chmn Gesell, 4 Apr 63, both in 2426 - 62, SecAF files; "Visit of Mr. Nathaniel Colley and Mr. John Sengstacke to 3d Marine Division." Copy in CMH. Additionally, see also Ltr, Bert I. Bernhard, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, to Gesell, 29 Jun 62, Gesell Collection, J. F. Kennedy Library.
28The President's Committee on Equal Opportunity in the Armed Forces, "Initial Report: Equality of Treatment and Opportunity for Negro Military Personnel Stationed Within the United States, June 13, 1963" (hereafter cited as "Initial Rpt"), p. 10. The following discussion of the committee cannot carry the eloquence or force of the group's report, which was reproduced in the Congressional Record, 88th Cong., 1st sess., vol. 109, pp. 14359—69.
29Ltr, Gesell to Under SecNav, 6 Feb 63, SecNav file 5420 (1179), GenRecsNav.
30Intervs, author with Gesell, 13 May 72 and 3 Nov 74.
31Memo, Dep for Manpower, Personnel, & Organization, USAF, for SecAF, 25 Jan 63, sub: Meeting With President's Committee on Equal Opportunity in the Armed Forces, SecAF files.
32Ltr, Chief of NavPers to CONUS District Cmdrs et al., 22 Apr 63, attached to Memo, Chief of NavPers for Distribution List, 24 Apr 63, sub: President's Committee on Equal Opportunity in the Armed Forces, GenRecsNav 5420.
33Ltr, Under SecNav to Gesell, 8 Feb 63, SecNav file 5420 (1179), GenRecsNav. For examples of this exchange between the committee and the Navy, see Ltrs, Gesell to Pay, 6 Feb 63, and Fay to Gesell, 3 May and 5 fun 63, all in SecNav file 5350 GenRecsNav.
34Interv, author with Gesell, 3 Nov 74.
35For an example of how an individual service was handling the USO and other on-base social problems see Memo, Maj Gen John K. Hester, Asst VCofS, USAF, for SecAF, 26 Feb 63, sub: Antidiscrimination Policies, SecAF files. See also "Initial Rpt,'' pp. 73-74.
36"Initial Rpt", p. 10.
37Interv, author with Gesell, 3 Nov 74.
38"Initial Rpt"," pp. 10-11, 30, 51.
39Memo for Red, USAF Dep for Manpower, Personnel, & Organization, 14 Nov 62, sub Meeting of the President's Committee on Equal Opportunity in the Armed Forces, SecAF file 2426-62.
40Memo, Dep for Manpower, Personnel, & Organization., USAF, for SecAF, 25 Jan 63, sub Meeting With President s committee on Equal Opportunity in the Armed Forces, SecAF files. See also Memo for Red, Marine corps Aide to SecNav, 30 Jan 63, sub Meeting with Navy-Marine Corps Representatives on Equal Opportunity, SecNav file 5420 (1179), GenRecsNav.
41"Initial Rpt, " p. 61.
42Interv, author with Gesell, 13 May 72.
43Idem with Benjamin Muse, 2 Mar 73, CMH files.
44Memo, Under SecNav for SecNav, 9 Apr 63, sub: Meeting With the Presidents Cmte on Equal Opportunity in the Armed Forces, SecNav file 5420, GenRecsNav.
45Ltr, DASD (family Housing) to Chmn Gesell, 4 Jun 63, Gesell Collection, J. F. Kennedy Library.
46Ltr, Under SecNav to Chmn Gesell, 5 Jun 63, copy in Gesell Collection, J. F. Kennedy Library; see also Memo, Under SecNav for SecNav, 13 Sep 63, sub: NAS Pensacola, SecNav file 5420 (1179), GenRecsNav.
47"Initial Rpt," p. 52.
48Interv, author with Gesell, 3 Nov 74.
49"Intial Rpt," pp. 68-71.
50Interv, author with Gesell, 13 May 72.
51Memo for act, Dep for Manpower, Personnel, & Organization, USAF, 14 Nov 62, sub Meeting of Presidents committee on Equal Opportunity in the Armed Forces, SecAF files. Deputy Goode's assumptions about the committee's thinking were later confirmed in its "Initial Rpt,'' pages 68-71, and in authors interview with Gesell on 13 May 1972.
52 "Initial Rpt," p. 70.
53Ltr, Gesell to President Kennedy, 13 Jun 63, copy in CMH.
54Interv, author with Gesell, 13 May 72.
55"Initial Rpt," p. 11.
56Ibid., pp. 92-93.
57Ltr, President to SecDef, 21 Jun 63, copy in CMH. The President also sent the committee s report to the Vice President for comment. Indicative of the Pentagons continuing influence in the committee's work, the Kennedy letter had been drafted by Gesell and Yarmolinsky; see Memo, Yarmolinsky for White, 8 Jun 63, White Collection, J F. Kennedy Library.
58Memo, SecDef for SA et al., 27 Jun 63, sub: Report of the President's Committee on Equal Opportunity in the Armed Forces; see also Memo, ASD (M) for SecDef, 27 Jun 63; both in ASD (M) 291.2.
59Memo, Dep Under SA (M) for SecDef (ca. 10 Jul 63), with service comments attached, copy in ASD 291.2.
60Memo, SecNav for ASD (M), 10 Jul 63, sub Report of the Presidents committee on Equal opportunity in the Armed Forces, SecNav tile 5410, GenRecsNav.
61Memo, SecAF for ASD (M), 10 Jul 63, sub Air Force Response to the Gesell Committee Report, SecAF files.
62Interv, author with Gesell, 13 May 72.
63Ibid., and with McNamara, 11 May 72.
64Memo, McNamara for Burke Marshall (ca. 20 Jul 63), Marshall Papers, J. F. Kennedy Library.
65Idem for President, 24 Jul 63, copy in CMH.
66DOD Dir 5120.36, 26 Jul 63.
67Alfred B. Pitt thus characterized the opposition in his Remarks Before Civilian Aides Conference of the Secretary of Army, 6 Mar 64, DASD (CR) files.
68Ltr to SecDef, 29 Jul 63. This letter and the two following are typical of hundreds received by the secretary and filed in the records of ASD (M).
69Ltr, DASD (CR) to James Wilson, Director, National Security Commission, American Legion, 24 Sep 63, written when the legion had the adoption of a resolution against the directive under consideration. See also Ltrs, DASD (CR) to Sen. Frank Moss, 16 Aug 63, and ASD (M) to Congressman George Huddleston, 13 Aug 63, ASD (M), "Straightening Out the Record," 19 Aug 63; Memo, DASD (CR) for General Counsel, 4 Sep 63, sub: Use of the Off-Limits Power. All in DASD (CR) files.
70Ltr, Fitt to author, 22 May 72.
71CongressionaI Record, 88th Cong., 1st sess., vol. 109, p. 14350.
72Ibid pp. 13778-87, 14349-56
73Quotes are from ibid., pp. 13778,13780,14345-46,14349,14351,14352.
74Ibid., Senate, 31 Ju163, pp.13779,13783.
75Congressional letters critical Of the directive can be found in DASD (CR) and SD files, 1963. See, for example, Ltrs, Fulbright to SecDef, 22 Aug 63, R. C. Byrd to SecDef. 13 Aug 63, Goldwater to SecNav, 17 Jul 63, Rivers to ASD (M) 3 Oct 63, Gillis Long to SecDef, 8 Aug 63, Bob Sikes to SecDef, 15 Ju163. Intense discussion Of the constitutionality of the directive and Of Vinson's bill took place among department officials during September and October 1963. See the following Memos DASD (CR) for ASD (M), 25 Oct 63, sub Vinson Bill Comment With Inclosures; ASD (M) for Under SA et al., 24 Sep 63, sub: H.R. 8460; Asst Gen Counsel (Manpower) for ASD (M), 4 Sep 63. All in ASD (M) 291.2.
76Letters in support of the DOD Directive can be found in ASD (CR) (68A1006) files, 1963.
77A late victim of the anticivil rights forces in Congress was Adam Yarmolinsky. His appointment as deputy director of the Office of Economic Opportunity was withdrawn as a result of criticism in the House. One cause of this criticism was his connection with the Gesell Committee. See Mary McGrory, "A Southern Hatchet Fell, " Washington Star, August 10, 1964.
78The quote is from author's interview with Gesell on 13 May 1972. See also Ltr, White to Gesell, 8 Jan 64, and Memo, Gesell for Members of the Committee, 26 Feb 64, both in Gesell Collection, J. F. Kennedy Library.
79Memo, Gesell for Members of the Committee, 26 Feb 64.
80The President's Committee on Equal Opportunity in the Armed Forces, "Final Report: Military Personnel Stationed Overseas and Membership and Participation in the National Guard, November 1964" (hereafter cited as "Final Report"), copy in CMH.
81Ltr, Muse to Gesell, 23 Apt 64, Gesell Collection, J. F. Kennedy Library.
82"FinalReport." p. 12
83Interv, author with Gesell, 3 Nov 74.
84The Kennedy quote is from the author's interview with Gesell on 13 May 1972. The Justice Department quote is from Memo, Gordon A. Martin (Dept of Justice) for Burke Marshall, 26 Jul 63, sub: Proposed Gesell Cmte Rpt on the National Guard, Marshall Papers, J. F. Kennedy Library.
85"Final Report," pp. 19-20.
86The National Guard Bureau is a joint agency of the Departments of the Army and Air Force which acts as adviser to the service staffs on National Guard matters and as the channel of communication between the two departments and the state guards. The chief of the bureau is always a National Guard officer.
87The draft was also sent for comment to the National Guard Bureau; see Ltr, Chief, NGB, to Gesell, 13 Nov 64, Gesell Collection, J. F. Kennedy Library.
88Memo, Gesell for Members of the President's Committee on Equal Opportunity in the Armed Forces, 20 Nov 64. The quotation is from Ltr, Young to Gesell, 23 Sep 64. For the reaction of other members see, for example, Ltrs, Sengstacke to Gesell, 9 Oct 64, Muse to Gesell, 16 Sep 64, Fortas to Gesell, 29 Sep 64. All in Gesell Collection J. F. Kennedy Library.
89Ltr, Gen Wilson, NGB, to Gesell, 13 Nov 64, Gesell Collection, J. F. Kennedy Library.
90Ltr, President to SecDef, 26 Dec 64, copy in CMH.
91Interv, author with Muse, 2 Mar 73.