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U.S. Army Center of Military History

African-American Units


The 476th Amphibian Truck Company

The 476th Amphibian Truck Company, an African-American unit activated in 1943, experienced segregation and racism at Camp Johnston, Florida, but went on to perform admirably in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Their accomplishments and those of similar African-American units remain one of the little-known stories of the U.S. invasion of the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima. Facing volatile seas and heavy fire, the men of the 476th Amphibian Truck Company drove special land-water vehicles known as DUKWs ("Ducks") which landed Marines and vital supplies on the beachhead. Five Silver Stars and 17 Bronze Stars were awarded to members of the 476th Amphibian Truck Company for their actions during the Iwo Jima landings, but unit members were generally unaware that the 476th was awarded a Navy Unit Commendation. During special ceremonies in 1979, several veterans of the unit gathered at the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, to receive special recognition from the Secretary of the Army for the courageous actions of their unit during World War II.



The 960th Quartermaster Service Company

World War II veterans CPT Albert Smaha, 1LT Jefferson Wiggins, and CPT William Solms, of the 960th Quartermaster Service Company World War II veterans CPT Albert Smaha, 1LT Jefferson Wiggins, and CPT William Solms, of the 960th Quartermaster Service Company

The 960th Quartermaster Service Company, an African-American unit which served during World War II, has a unique story. Overwhelmed by the high number of casualties which resulted from the liberation of the Netherlands, the U.S. Army assigned the Soldiers of the 960th to a duty for which they had not trained or prepared: the digging of thousands of graves in what would become the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten. Today, the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial covers a 65.5-acre site and contains the remains of 8,301 American and Allied servicemembers (43% of the total originally buried in the area). After enduring the difficulties of creating the cemetery and burying thousands of Allied troops, the unit served in Belgium and Germany and was one of the relatively few African-American units to be decorated, receiving a Meritorious Unit Commendation from Ninth Army. A ceremony in 2007 by the current 960th Quartermaster Company celebrated the unit's World War II achievements and displayed the Meritorious Unit Commendation streamer on the unit's colors for the first time.


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