Let Us Fight as Free Men: Black Soldiers and Civil Rights

By Christine Knauer | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
A Mixed Army

Although black soldiers achieved the first victory in Yech’on, the situation of the UN troops in Korea remained unstable. American troops and their allies continued to struggle in Korea’s rugged terrain against the North Korean fighting ability and high stamina. In early September 1950, the loss of Battle Mountain, a hill the opposing sides had long fought over, made the front pages. North Korean troops had broken through American lines. All units on the battlefront were struggling and the North Korean troops again proved superior to Americans, white and black alike.1 Yet it was, once more, black soldiers who came under particular scrutiny and were publicly blamed for general failures and the commanding officers’ weak strategy. With the retreat from Battle Mountain, questions whether blacks made good enough soldiers to fight reemerged.2 With every negative report, the prospect that the recognition of black soldiers’ valiant military service would finally help expand civil rights of African Americans faded.

The army contemplated breaking up the famed all-black 24th Infantry Regiment following black soldiers’ allegedly abysmal failure, and even considered converting it from a combat to a labor unit.3 This possible downgrade and exclusion from combat was considered an “embarrassment” to black soldiers.4 The change would have meant that “the right to fight” of African Americans in the most renowned all-black outfit, a right for which they had struggled for so long, would be renounced. The Pittsburgh Courier, among many others, read it as an “attempt afoot to discredit the marvelous fighting record compiled by the unit during the forty-five terrifying, bloody days of bitter battle.”5 The charges against black soldiers and their performance in the defense of their positions at Battle Mountain were grave: according to many army reports and the white press, African American

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Let Us Fight as Free Men: Black Soldiers and Civil Rights
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Fighting for Respect 13
  • Chapter 2 - Coming Home 33
  • Chapter 3 - Stepping Up the Fight 55
  • Chapter 4 - Mass Civil Disobedience 82
  • Chapter 5 - Truman’s Order 112
  • Chapter 6 - A Country They Never Knew 130
  • Chapter 7 - Black Men at War 163
  • Chapter 8 - A Mixed Army 195
  • Epilogue 224
  • Abbreviations and Acronyms 231
  • Notes 235
  • Index 329
  • Acknowledgments 339
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