The Defense Department's response to the recommendations of the Gesell Committee marked the close of a well-defined chapter in the racial history of the armed forces. Within a single generation, the services had recognized the rights of black Americans to serve freely in the defense of their country, to be racially integrated, and to have, with their dependents, equal treatment and opportunity not only on the military reservation but also in nearby communities. The gradual compliance with Secretary McNamara's directives in the mid-1960's marked the crumbling of the last legal and administrative barriers to these goals.
In retrospect, several causes for the elimination of these barriers can be identified. First, if only for the constancy and fervor of its demands, was the civil rights movement. An obvious correlation exists between the development of this movement and the shift in the services' racial attitudes. The civil rights advocates—that is, those spokesmen of the rapidly proliferating civil rights organizations and their allies in Congress, the White House, and the media— formed a pressure group that zealously enlisted political support for equal opportunity measures. Their metier was presidential politics. In several elections they successfully traded their political assistance, an unknown quantity, for specific reform. Their influence was crucial, for example, in Roosevelt's decision to enlist Negroes for general service in the World War II Navy and in all branches of the Army and in Truman's proclamation of equal treatment and opportunity; it was notable in the adjudication of countless discrimination cases involving individual black servicemen both on and off the military base. Running through all their demands and expressed more and more clearly during this period was the conviction that segregation itself was discrimination. The success of their campaign against segregation in the armed forces can be measured by the extent to which this proposition came to be accepted in the counsels of the White House and the Pentagon.
Because the demands of the civil rights advocates were extremely persistent and widely heard, their direct influence on the integration of the services has sometimes been overstressed. In fact, for much of the period their most important demands were neutralized by the logical-sounding arguments of those defending the racial status quo. More to the point, the civil rights revolution itself swept along some important defense officials. Thus the reforms begun by James Forrestal and Robert McNamara testified to the indirect but important influence of the civil rights movement.
Resisting the pressure for change was a solid bloc of officials in the services which held out for the retention of traditional policies of racial exclusion or segregation. Professed loyalty to military tradition was all too often a cloak for prejudice, and prejudice, of course, was prevalent in all the services just as it was in American society. At the same time traditionalism simply reflected the natural inclination of any large, inbred bureaucracy to preserve the privileges and order of an earlier time. Basically, the military traditionalists—that is, most senior officials and commanders of the armed forces and their allies in Congress—took the position that black servicemen were difficult to train and undependable in battle. They cited the performance of large black combat units during the world wars as support for their argument. They also rationalized their opposition to integration by saying that the armed forces should not tee' en instrument of social change and that the services could only reflect the social mores of the society from which they sprang. Thus, in their view, integration not only hindered the services' basic mission by burdening them with undependable units and marginally capable men, but also courted social upheaval in military units.
Eventually reconciled to the integration of military units, many military officials continued to resist the idea that responsibility for equal treatment and opportunity of black servicemen extended beyond the gates of the military reservation. Deeply ingrained in the officer corps was the conviction that the role of the military was to serve, not to change, society. To effect social change, the traditionalist argued, would require an intrusion into politics that was by definition militarism. It was the duty of the Department of Justice and other civilian agencies, not the armed forces, to secure those social changes essential for the protection of the rights of servicemen in the civilian community.1 If these arguments appear to have overlooked the real causes of the services' wartime racial problems and ignored some of the logical implications of Truman's equal treatment and opportunity order, they were nevertheless in the mainstream of American military thought, ardently supported, and widely proclaimed.
The story of integration in the armed forces has usually, and with some logic, been told in terms of the conflict between the "good" civil rights advocates and the "bad" traditionalists. In fact, the history of integration goes beyond the dimensions of a morality play and includes a number of other influences both institutional and individual.
The most prominent of these institutional factors were federal legislation and executive orders. After World War II most Americans moved slowly toward acceptance of the proposition that equal treatment and opportunity for the nation's minorities was both just and prudent.2 A drawn-out process, this acceptance was in reality a grudging concession to the promptings of the civil rights movement; translated into federal legislation, it exerted constant pressure on the racial policy of the armed forces. The Selective Service Acts of 1940 and 1948, for example, provided an important reason for integrating when, as interpreted by the executive branch, their racial provisions required each service to accept a quota of Negroes among its draftees. The services could evade the provisions of the acts for only so long before the influx of black draftees in conjunction with other pressures led to alterations in the old racial policies. Truman's order calling for equality of treatment and opportunity in the services was also a major factor in the racial changes that took place in the Army in the early 1950's To a great extent the dictates of the civil rights laws of 1964 and 1965 exerted similar pressure on the services and account for the success of the Defense Department's comprehensive response during the mid-1960's to the discrimination faced by servicemen in the local community.
VIETNAM PATROL. Men of the 3th Infantry advance during "Operation Baker." [Photograph not included.]
Questions concerning the effect of law on social custom, and particularly the issue of whether government should force social change or await the popular will, are of continuing interest to the sociologist and the political scientist. In the case of the armed forces, a sector of society that habitually recognizes the primacy of authority and law, the answer was clear. Ordered to integrate, the members of both races adjusted, though sometimes reluctantly, to a new social relationship. The traditionalists' genuine fear that racial unrest would follow racial mixing proved unfounded. The performance of individual Negroes in the integrated units demonstrated that changed social relationships could also produce rapid improvement in individual and group achievement and thus increase military efficiency. Furthermore, the successful integration of military units in the 1950's so raised expectations in the black community that the civil rights leaders would use that success to support their successful campaign in the 1960's to convince the government that it must impose social change on the community at large. 3
Paralleling the influence of the law, the quest for military efficiency was another institutional factor that affected the services' racial policies. The need for military efficiency had always been used by the services to rationalize racial exclusion and segregation; later it became the primary consideration in the deciston of each service to integrate its units. Reinforcing the efficiency argument was the realization by the military that manpower could no longer be considered an inexhaustible resource. World War II had demonstrated that the federal government dare not ignore the military and industrial potential of any segment of its population. The reality of the limited national manpower pool explained the services' guarantee that Negroes would be included in the postwar period as cadres for the full wartime mobilization of black manpower. Timing was somewhat dependent on the size and mission of the individual service; integration came to each when it became obvious that black manpower could not be used efficiently in separate organizations. In the case of the largest service, the Army, the Fahy Committee used the failure to train and use eligible Negroes in unfilled jobs to convince senior officials that military efficiency demanded the progressive integration of its black soldiers, beginning with those men eligible for specialist duties. The final demonstration of the connection between efficiency and integration came from those harried commanders who, trying against overwhelming odds to fight a war in Korea with segregated units, finally began integrating their forces. They found that their black soldiers fought better in integrated units.
MARINE ENGINEERS IN VIETNAM. Men of the 11th Engineer Battalion move culverts into place In a mountain stream during "Operation Pegasus." [Photograph not included.]
Later, military efficiency would be the rationale for the Defense Department's fight against discrimination in the local community. The Gesell Committee was used by Adam Yarmolinsky and others to demonstrate to Secretary McNamara if not to the satisfaction of skeptical military traditionalists and congressional critics that the need to solve a severe morale problem justified the department's intrusion. Appeals to military efficiency, therefore, became the ultimate justification for integrating the units of the armed forces and providing for equal treatment of its members in the community.
Beyond the demands of the law and military efficiency, the integration
of the armed forces Was also influenced by certain individuals within the
military establishment who personified America's awakening social conscience.
They led the services along the road toward integration not because the
law demanded it, nor because activists clamored for it, nor even because
military efficiency required it, but because they believed it was right.
Complementing the work of these men and women was the opinion of the American
serviceman himself. Between 1940 and 1965 his attitude toward change was
constantly discussed and predicted but only rarely solicited by senior
officials. Actually his opinion at that time is still largely unknown;
documentary evidence is scarce, and his recollections, influenced as they
are by the intervening years of the civil rights movement, are unreliable.
Yet it was clearly the serviceman's generally quiet acceptance of new social
practices, particularly those of the early 1950's, that ratified the services'
racial reforms. As a perceptive critic of the nation's racial history described
conditions in the services in 1962:
There was a rising tide of tolerance around the nation at that time. I was thrilled to see it working in the services. Whether officers were working for it or not it existed. From time to time you would find an officer imbued with the desire to improve race relations.... It was a marvel to me, in contrast to my recent investigations in the South, to see how well integration worked in the services.4
Indeed, it could be argued, American servicemen of the 1950's became a positive if indirect cause of racial change. By demonstrating that large numbers of blacks and whites could work and live together, they destroyed a fundamental argument of the opponents of integration and made further reforms possible if not imperative.
The interaction of all these factors can be seen when equal treatment and opportunity in the armed forces is considered in two distinct phases, the first culminating in the integration of all active military units in 1954, the second centering around the decision in 1963 to push for equal opportunity for black servicemen outside the gates of the military base. 5
The Navy was the acknowledged pioneer in integration. Its decision during World War II to assign black and white sailors to certain ships was not entirely a response to pressures from civil rights advocates, although Secretary James Forrestal relied on his friends in the Urban League, particularly Lester Granger, to teach him the techniques of integrating a large organization. Nor was the decision solely the work of racial reformers in the Bureau of Naval Personnel, although this small group was undoubtedly responsible for drafting the regulations that governed the changes in the wartime Navy. Rather, the Navy began integrating its general service because segregation proved painfully inefficient. The decision was largely the result of the impersonal operation of the 1940 draft law. Although imperfectly applied during the war, the antidiscrimination provision of that law produced a massive infusion of black inductees. The Army, with its larger manpower base and expanable black units, could evade the implications of a nondiscrimination clause, but the sheer presence of large numbers of Negroes in the service, more than any other force, breached the walls of segregation in the Navy.
LOADING A ROCKET LAUNCHER. Crewmen of the USS Carronade participating in a coordinated gunfire support action near Cu Lai, Vietnam. [Photograph not included.]
The Navy experiment with an all-black crew had proved unsatisfactory, and only so many shore-based jobs were considered suitable for large segregated units. Bowing to the argument that two navies—one black, one white—were both inefficient and expensive, Secretary Forrestal began to experiment with integration during the last months of the war and finally announced a policy of integration in February 1946. The full application of this new policy would wait for some years while the Navy's traditional racial attitudes warred with its practical desire for efficiency.
The Air Force was the next to end segregation. Again, immediate outside influences appeared to be slight Despite the timing of the Air Force integration directive in early 1949 and Secretary Stuart Symington's discussions of the subject with Truman and the Fahy Committee, plans to drop many racial barriers in the Air Force had already been formulated at the time of the President's equal opportunity order in 1948. Nor is there any evidence of special concern among Air Force officials about the growing criticism of their segregation policy. The record clearly reveals, however, that by late 1947 the Air staff had become anxious over the manpower requirements of the Gillem Board Report, which enunciated the postwar racial policy that the Air Force shared with the Army.
The Gillem Board Report would hardly be classified as progressive by later standards; its provisions for reducing the size of black units and integrating a small number of black specialists were, in a way, an effort to make segregation less wasteful. Nevertheless, with all its shortcomings, this postwar policy contained the germ of integration. It committed the Army and Air Force to total integration as a long-range objective, and, more important, it made permanent the wartime policy of allotting 10 percent of the Army's strength to Negroes. Later branded by the civil rights spokesmen as an instrument for limiting black enlistment, the racial quota committed the Army and its offspring, the Air Force, not only to maintaining at least 10 percent black strength but also to assigning black servicemen to all branches and all job categories, thereby significantly weakening the segregated system. Although never filled in either service, the quotas guaranteed that a large number of Negroes would remain in uniform after the war and thus gave both services an incentive to desegregate.
Once again the Army could postpone the logical consequences of its racial policy by the continued proliferation of its segregated combat and service units. But the new Air Force almost immediately felt the full force of the Gillem Board policy, quickly learning that it could not maintain 10 percent black strength separate but equal. It too might have continued indefinitely enlarging the number of service units in order to absorb black airmen. Like the Army, it might even have ignored the injunction to assign a quota of blacks to every military occupation and to every school. But it was politically impossible for the Air Force to do away with its black flying units, and it became economically impossible in a time of shrinking budgets and manpower cuts to operate separate flying units for the small group of Negroes involved. It was also unfeasible, considering the small number of black rated officers and men, to fill all the positions in the black air units and provide at the same time for the normal rotation and advanced training schedules. Facing these difficulties and mindful of the Navy's experience with integration, the Air Force began serious discussion of the integration of its black pilots and crews in 1947, some months before Truman Issued his order.
Committed to integrating its air units and rated men in 1949, the Air staff quietly enlarged its objectives and broke up all its black units, thereby making the Air Force the first service to achieve total integration. There- were several reasons for this rapid escalation in what was to have been a limited program. As devised by General Edwards and Colonel Mart of the Air staff the plan demanded that all black airmen in each command be conscientiously examined so that all might be properly reassigned, further trained, retained in segregated units, or dismissed. The removal of increasing numbers of eligible men from black units only hastened the end of those organizations, a tendency ratified by the trouble-free acceptance of the program by all involved.
The integration of the Army was more protracted. The Truman order in 1948 and the Fahy Committee, the White House group appointed to oversee the execution of that order, focused primarily on the segregated Army. There is little doubt that the President's action had a political dimension. Given the fact that the Army had become a major target of the President's own Civil Rights Commission and that it was a highly visible practitioner of segregation, the equal opportunity order would almost have had to be part of the President's plan to unite the nation's minorities behind his 1948 candidacy. The order was also a logical response to the threat of civil disobedience issued by A. Philip Randolph and endorsed by other civil rights advocates. In a matter of weeks after Truman issued his integration order, Randolph dropped his opposition to the 1948 draft law and his call for a boycott of the draft by Negroes.
It remained for the Fahy Committee to translate the President's order into a working program leading toward integration of the Army. Like Randolph and other activists, the committee quickly concluded that segregation was a denial of equal treatment and opportunity and that the executive order, therefore, was essentially a call for the services to integrate. After lengthy negotiations, the committee won from the Army an agreement to move progressively toward full integration. Gradual integration was disregarded, however, when the Army, fighting in Korea, was forced by a direct threat to the efficiency of its operations to begin wide-scale mixing of the races. Specifically, the proximate reason for the Army's integration in the Far East was the fact that General Ridgway faced a severe shortage of replacements for his depleted white units while accumulating a surplus of black replacements. So pressing was his need that even before permission was received from Washington integration had already begun on the battlefield. The reason for the rapid integration of the rest of the Army was more complicated. The example of Korea was persuasive, as was the need for a uniform policy, but beyond that the rapid modernization of the Army was making obsolete the large-scale labor units traditionally used by the Army to absorb much of its black quota. With these units disappearing, the Army had to find new jobs for the men, a task hopelessly complicated by segregation.
The postwar racial policy of the Marine Corps struck a curious compromise between that of the Army and of the Navy. Adopting the former's system of segregated units and the latter's rejection of the 10 percent racial quota, the corps was able to assign its small contingent of black marines to a few segregated noncombatant duties. But the policy of the corps was only practicable for its peacetime size, as its mobilization for Korea demonstrated. Even before the Army was forced to change, the Marine Corps, its manpower planners pressed to find trained men and units to fill its divisional commitment to Korea, quietly abandoned the rules on segregated service.
While progressives cited the military efficiency of integration, traditionalists used the efficiency argument to defend the racial status quo. In general, senior military officials had concluded on the basis of their World War II experience that large black units were ineffective, undependable in close combat, and best suited for supply assignments. Whatever their motives, the traditionalists had reached the wrong conclusion from their data. They were correct when they charged that, despite competent and even heroic performance on the part of some individuals and units, the large black combat units had, on average, performed poorly during the war. But the traditionalists failed, as they had failed after World War I, to see the reasons for this poor performance. Not the least of these were the benumbing discrimination suffered by black servicemen during training, the humiliations involved in their assignments, and the ineptitude of many of their leaders, who were most often white.
Above all, the postwar manpower planners drew the wrong conclusion from the fact that the average General Classification Test scores of men in World War II black units fell significantly below that of their white counterparts. The scores were directly related to the two groups' relative educational advantages which depended to a large extent on their economic status and the geographic region from which they came. This mental average of servicemen was a unit problem, for at all times the total number of white individuals who scored in low-aptitude categories IV and V greatly outnumbered black individuals in those categories.
AMERICAN SAILORS help evacuate Vietnamese child. [Photograph not included.]
This greater number of less gifted white servicemen had been spread thinly throughout the services' thousands of white units where they caused no particular problem. The lesser number of Negroes with low aptitude, however, were concentrated in the relatively few black units, creating a serious handicap to efficient performance. Conversely, the contribution of talented black servicemen was largely negated by their frequent assignment to units with too many low-scoring men. Small units composed in the main of black specialists, such as the black artillery and armor units that served in the European theater during World War II, served with distinction, but these units were special cases where the effect of segregation was tempered by the special qualifications of the carefully chosen men. Segregation and not mental aptitude was the key to the poor performance of the large black units in World War II.
Postwar service policies ignored these facts and defended segregation in the name of military efficiency. In short, the armed forces had to make inefficiency seem efficient as they explained in paternalistic fashion that segregation was best for all concerned. "In general, the Negro is less well educated than his brother citizen that is white," General Eisenhower told the Senate Armed Forces Committee in 1948, "and if you make a complete amalgamation, what you are gomg to have Is m every company the Negro is going to be relegated to the minor jobs . . . because the competition is too rough."6
Competence in a great many skills became increasingly important for servicemen in the postwar period as the trend toward technical complexity and specialization continued in all the services. Differences in recruiting gave some services an advantage. The Navy and Air Force, setting stricter standards of enlistment, could fill their ranks with high-scoring volunteers and avoid enlisting large groups of low-scoring men, often black, who were eventually drafted for the Army. While this situation helped reduce the traditional opposition to integration in the Navy and Air Force, it made the Army more determined to retain separate black units to absorb the large number of low-scoring draftees it was obligated to take. A major factor in the eventual integration of the Army—and the single most significant contribution of the Secretary of Defense to that end—was George Marshall's decision to establish a parity of enlistment standards for the services. On the advice of his manpower assistant, Anna Rosenberg, Marshall abolished the special advantage enjoyed by the Navy and Air Force, making all the services share in the recruitment of low-scoring men. The common standard undercut the Army's most persuasive argument for restoring a racial quota and maintaining segregated units.
BOOBY TRAP VICTIM from Company B. 47th Infantry, resting on buddy's back, awaits evacuation.[Photograph not included.]
In the years from 1946 to 1954, then, several forces converged to bring about integration of the regular armed forces. Pressure from the civil rights advocates was one, idealistic leadership another. Most important, however, was the services' realization that segregation was an inefficient way to use the manpower provided by a democratic draft law or a volunteer system made democratic by the Secretary of Defense. Each service reached its conclusion separately, since each had a different problem in the efficient use of manpower and each had its own racial traditions. Accordingly, the services saw little need to exchange views, develop rivalries, or imitate one another's racial policies. There were two exceptions to this situation: both the Army and Air Force naturally considered the Navy's integration experience when they were formulating postwar policies, and the Navy and Air Force fought the Army's proposals to experiment with integrated units and institute a parity of enlistment standards.
Segregation officially ended in the active armed forces with the announcement of the Secretary of Defense in 1954 that the last all-black unit had been disbanded. In the little more than six years after President Truman's order, some quarter of a million blacks had been intermingled with whites in the nation's military units worldwide. These changes ushered in a brief era of good feeling during which the services and the civil rights advocates tended to overlook some forms of discrimination that persisted within the services. This tendency became even stronger in the early 1960's when the discrimination suffered by black servicemen in local communities dramatized the relative effectiveness of the equal treatment and opportunity policies on military installations. In July 1963, in the wake of another presidential investigation of racial equality in the armed forces, Secretary of Defense McNamara outlined a new racial policy. An extension of the forces that had produced the abolition of segregated military units, the new policy also vowed to carry the crusade for equal treatment and opportunity for black servicemen outside the military compound into the civilian community beyond. McNamara's 1963 directive became the model for subsequent racial orders in the Defense Department.
This enlargement of the department's concept of equal treatment and opportunity paralleled the rise of the modern civil rights movement, which was reaching its apogee in the mid-1960's. McNamara later acknowledged the influence of the civil rights activists on his department during this period. But the department's racial progress cannot be explained solely as a reaction to the pressures exerted by the civil rights movement. Several other factors lay behind the new and broader policy. The Defense Department was, for instance, under constant pressure from black officers and men who were not only reporting inequities in the newly integrated services and complaining of the remaining racial discrimination within the military community but were also demanding the department's assistance in securing their constitutional rights from the communities outside the military bases. This was particularly true in the fields of public education, housing, and places of entertainment.
The services as well as the Defense Department's manpower officials resisted these demands and continued in the early 1960's to limit their racial reforms to those necessary but exclusively internal matters most obviously connected with the efficient operation of their units. Reinforcing this resistance was the reluctance on the part of most commanders to break with tradition and interfere in what they considered community affairs. Nor had McNamara's early policy statements in response to servicemen's demands come to grips with the issue of discrimination in the civilian community. At the same time, some reformers in the Defense Department had allied themselves with like-minded progressives throughout the administration and were searching for a way to carry out President Kennedy's commitment to civil rights. These individuals were determined to use the services' early integration successes as a stepping-stone to further civil rights reforms while the administration's civil rights program remained bogged down in Congress.
Although these reformers believed that the armed forces could be an effective instrument of social change for society at large, they clothed their aims in the garb of military efficiency. In fact, military efficiency was certainly McNamara's paramount concern when he supported the idea of enlarging the scope of his department's racial programs and when in 1962 he readily accepted the proposal to appoint the Gesell Committee to study the services' racial program.
The Gesell Committee easily documented the connection, long suspected by the reformers, between discrimination in the community and poor morale among black servicemen and the link between morale and combat efficiency. More important, with its ability to publicize the extent of discrimination against black servicemen in local communities and to offer practical recommendations for reform, the committee was able to stimulate the secretary into action. Yet not until his last years in office, beginning with his open housing campaign in 1967, did McNamara, who had always championed the stand of Adam Yarmolinsky and the rest, become a strong participant.
McNamara promptly endorsed the Gesell Committee's report, which called for a vigorous program to provide equal opportunity for black servicemen, ordering the services to launch such a program in communities near military bases and making the local commander primarily responsible for its success. He soft-pedaled the committee's controversial provision for the use of economic sanctions against recalcitrant businessmen, stressing instead the duty of commanders to press for changes through voluntary compliance. These efforts, according to Defense Department reports, achieved gratifying results in the next few years. In conjunction with other federal officials operating under provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, local commanders helped open thousands of theaters, bowling alleys, restaurants, and bathing beaches to black servicemen. Only in the face of continued opposition to open housing by landlords who dealt with servicemen, and then not until 1967, did McNamara decide to use the powerful and controversial weapon of off-limits sanctions. In short order his programs helped destroy the patterns of segregation in multiple housing in areas surrounding most military bases.
The federal government's commitment to civil rights, manifest in Supreme Court decisions, executive orders, and congressional actions, was an important support for the Defense Department's racial program during this second part of the integration era. It is doubtful whether many of the command initiatives recommended by the Gesell Committee would have succeeded or even been tried without the court's 1954 school ruling and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Yet in several important instances, such as the McNamara 1963 equal opportunity directive and the open housing campaign in 1967, the department's actions antedated federal action. Originally a follower of civilian society in racial matters, the armed forces moved ahead in the 1950's and by the mid-l96o~s had become a powerful stimulus for change in civilian practices in some areas of the country.7
Achievements of the services should not detract from the primacy of civil rights legislation in the reforms of the 1960's. The sudden fall of barriers to black Americans was primarily the result of the Civil Rights Acts. But the fact and example of integration in the armed forces was an important cause of change in the communities near military bases. Defense officials, prodding in the matter of integrated schooling for dependent children, found the mere existence of successfully integrated on-base schooling a useful tool in achieving similar schooling off-base. The experience of having served in the integrated armed forces, shared by so many young Americans, also exercised an immeasurable influence on the changes of the 1960's. Gesell Committee member Benjamin Muse recalled hearing a Mississippi hitchhiker say in 1961 at the height of the anti-integration, anti-Negro fever in that area: "I don't hold with this stuff about 'niggers'. I had a colored buddy in Korea, and I want to tell you he was all right."8
CAMARADERIE. A soldier of Company C, 7th Infantry, lights a cigarette for a marine from D Company, 26th Marines, during "Operation Pegasus" near Khe Sanh. [Photograph not included.]
In retrospect, the attention paid by defense officials and the services to off-base discrimination in the 1960's may have been misdirected; many of these injustices would eventually have succumbed to civil rights legislation. Certainly more attention could have been paid to the unfinished business of providing equal treatment and opportunity for black servicemen within the military community. Discrimination in matters of promotion, assignment, and military justice, overlooked by almost everyone in the early 1960's, was never treated with the urgency it deserved. To have done so might have averted at least some of the racial turmoil visited on the services in the Vietnam era.
But these shortcomings merely point to the fact that the services were the only segment of American society to have integrated, however imperfectly, the races on so large a scale. In doing so they demonstrated that a policy of equal treatment and opportunity is more than a legal concept; it also ordains a social condition. Between the enunciation of such a policy and the achievement of its goals can fall the shadow of bigotry and the traditional way of doing things. The record indicates that the services surmounted bigotry and rejected the old ways to a gratifying degree. To the extent that they were successful in bringing the races together, their efficiency prospered and the nation's ideal of equal opportunity for all citizens was fortified.
Unfortunately, the collapse of the legal and administrative barriers to equal treatment and opportunity in the armed forces did not lead immediately to the full realization of this ideal. Equal treatment and opportunity would remain an elusive goal for the Department of Defense for years to come. The post-1965 period comprises a new chapter in the racial history of the services. The agitation that followed the McNamara era had different roots from the events of the previous decades. The key to this difference was suggested during the Vietnam War by the Kerner Commission in its stark conclusion that "our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate but unequal."9 In contrast to the McNamara period of integration, when civil rights advocates and Defense Department officials worked toward a common goal, subsequent years would be marked by an often greater militancy on the part of black servicemen and a new kind of friction between a fragmented civil rights movement and the Department of Defense. Clearly, in coping with these problems the services will have to move beyond the elimination of legal and administrative barriers that had ordered their racial concerns between 1940 and 1965.
1Speaking at a later date on this subject, former Army Chief of Staff J. Lawton Collins observed that "when we look about us and see the deleterious effects of military interference in civilian governments throughout . . . many other areas of the world, we can be grateful that American military leaders have generally stuck to their proper sphere. " See Memo, Collins for OSD Historian, 21 Aug 76, copy in CMH.
2For an extended discussion of the moral basis of racial reform, see O'Connor's interview with Hesburgh 27 Mar 66.
3For an extended discussion of the law and racial change, see Greenberg, Race Relations and American Law; Charles C. Moskos, Jr., "Racial Integration in the Armed Forces," Amencan Journal of Sociology 72 (September 1966): 132-48; Ginzberg, The Negro Potential, pp. 127-31.
4Interv, author with Muse, 2 Mar 73.
5Portions of the following discussion have been published in somewhat different form under the title "Armed Forces Integration—Forced or Free?" in The Military and Society, Proceedings of the Fifth Military Symposium (U.S. Air Force Academy, 1972).
6Quoted in Senate, Hearings Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, Universal Military Training, 80th Cong., Id sees., 1948, pp. 995-96.
7For a discussion of this point, see Yarmolinsky's The Military Establishment, pp. 346-51.
8Quoted in Ltr. Muse to Chief of Military History, 2 Aug 76, in CMH.
9Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, p. 1.