When World War II erupted, over 2.5 million black men registered for the draft and one million served as draftees or volunteers in all of the branches of the Armed Forces during conflict. Most black men who served were in the Army and were relegated to segregated combat support groups.

African-American soldiers in the U.S. Army during the War totaled 909,000. They served predominately in two all-black divisions (92nd and 93rd).

By 1994 145,000 black men served in the US Army Air Force, which included the 99th Fighter Squadron known to most as the “Tuskegee Airmen”.

167,000 African-American sailors served in the Navy. Initially all were mess attendants and cooks. In this capacity, they were many times also assigned duties as gun crews handling ammunition. In 1942, general service was opened for African-Americans to serve in other capacities. In March 1944, the first thirteen African-American naval officers were commissioned.

In June of 1942, the United States Marine Corps began admitting black recruits for the first time since the American Revolution. The men received their training at a segregated camp in Montford Point, North Carolina. More than 19,000 African-American Marines passed through Montford Point during World War II, and almost 13,000 were assigned to overseas defense battalions or combat support companies.

Black women also served in World War ll. The more than 6,200 black women who served in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) did so in segregated units and lived and trained under those conditions.

Bill Chambrés

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