Academic journal article Military Review

Black Soldier, White Army: The 24th Infantry Regiment in Korea

Academic journal article Military Review

Black Soldier, White Army: The 24th Infantry Regiment in Korea

Article excerpt

BLACK SOLDIER, WHITE ARMY: The 24th Infantry Regiment in Korea by William T. Bowers, William M. Hammond, and George L. MacGarrigle. 294 pages. Washington, DC: US Army Center of Military History. 1996. $32.00.

Why, this official history of the 24th Infantry Regiment in the Korean War seeks to determine, did this particular segregated regiment perform as it did in combat during 1950 to 1951? In the foreword to the book, Chief of Military History Brigadier General John W. Mountcastle deplores "the corrosive effects of segregation and the racial prejudices" that produced a system which "crippled the trust and mutual confidence so necessary among soldiers and leaders of combat units and weakened the bonds that held the 24th together, producing profound effects on the battlefield."

Such a profoundly flawed system's continued existence in 1950 seems incredible in light of American military history. Despite African Americans' demonstrated willingness to volunteer and serve throughout the country's history, and regardless of their success in integrated as well as segregated units, World War II planners chose, once again, to segregate black soldiers and noncommissioned officers, primarily under white officers' leadership. This "flawed" institutional racism system produced a number of problems in the training base as well as in combat.

The net result of World War II's wasteful and restrictive personnel policies was to unnecessarily limit the use of black troops, thereby negatively impacting operational commanders prosecuting the war in the active theaters. African American soldiers in the segregated Army truly represented a lost opportunity as the result of being restricted in overall numbers to a fixed percentage of the population, prohibited by assignment policy from the unrestrained utilization of black manpower that was mobilized and available, and otherwise prevented from being introduced into combat at the right place and time. In 1950, this was the legacy the 24th Infantry Regiment carried into combat.

The authors painstakingly researched the 24th's record the year it served as a segregated unit and present it with fairness and sensitivity. …

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