Black Soldier, White Army
Black Soldier, White Army The 24th Infantry in Korea Executive Summary
This study analyzes the history of the 24th Infantry regiment in the Korean War to determine the quality of its performance during that conflict and the causes of any deficiencies that occurred. Background
In late September 1950, two months after the beginning of the Korean War, the commander of the 25th Infantry Division, Major General William B. Kean, requested that the Eighth Army disband the all-black 24th Infantry regiment because it had demonstrated that it was "untrustworthy and incapable of carrying out missions expected of an infantry regiment."
Thus began a controversy that has continued to this day. Critics of the regiment have charged that the 24th was a dismal failure in combat. The African Americanveterans of the organization and others, meanwhile, have contended that the unit did far better than its critics would concede and that its main problem was racial prejudice.
For a while, with the integration of the Armed Forces, the talk on both sides largely disappeared, but when the U.S. Army's official history of the Korean War, South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu, authored by Roy E. Appleman, appeared in 1961, it reignited the controversy by publicizing the background of Kean's charges. During the late 1970s, as a result, a number of individuals began an effort to persuade the Army to revise its history to reflect a more balanced view of the performance of the regiment. In 1987, the Secretary of the Army, John O. Marsh, Jr., directed that the U.S. Army Center of Military History undertake a study of the subject. This history is the result. Methodology and Sources
As the project proceeded, it became clear that what happened to the 24th was, in part, the product of injustices that had afflicted the black soldier from the very beginning of the American republic. Because of that, the authors decided to begin their story with a brief rendition of the background of the African American soldier in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A short chapter also appears on blacks in the post-World War II Army, when many of the trends that would bear immediately upon the 24th began to come to light. Since the unit's experience as an occupation force in Japan influenced what happened to it during its early months in Korea, that portion of its story also received serious treatment.
Few historical problems are more demanding than those that accompany an attempt to reconstruct the performance of a military unit in combat. Every platoon, company, battalion, regiment, and division is a unique entity, composed of thinking human beings who act not as robots but as individuals with definite needs and beliefs. Even so, the people who compose those units, or any group, will not always behave as they might on their own. A group mind can come into play when unusual circumstances intrude, and the effects it produceswhether acts of extreme bravery or of mass confusionmay at times seem hardly rational. Much depends upon the group's self-identity and the mutual trust of its members in one another and in their leaders. If those are solid all will be well, but if they are weak, the unpredictable may occur. In addition, a group's identity can take new forms over time as circumstances and personalities change. Given those uncertainties and the many variables involved, the attributes that produce success in combat are not always discernable.
Indeed, the nature of combat is such that it is sometimes difficult even for participants to describe the events that occurred coherently and completely. Danger, confusion, and stress distract attention from the main course of the fighting. Meanwhile, perspectives vary widely, depending on an individual's responsibilities and his location on the battlefield. The view and understanding of a private will hardly resemble those of a unit commander. Each will reflect the truth of what happened in his own way. In addition, the emotional intensity of combat may deepen the natural tendency of a soldier to forget unpleasant events and to focus his attention on aspects of the fighting that appeal to his sense of self-worth. The difficulties and confusion that plague the early months of any war compound the problem where the conflict in Korea is concerned. Committed to combat on the spur of the moment, forces in the field had little time or opportunity for extensive combat interviews.
In coming to terms with these challenges, the authors had to rely upon contemporary descriptions of combat compiled by the units involved. They included daily journals, operational orders and messages, memoranda for the record, war diaries from every level of command, maps, graphs, and overlays.
These materials contained a wealth of information, but it was clear from the beginning that they could tell only part of the story. If some were beautifully detailed and honest, others were poorly formed and less than forthcoming.
To fill the gap, the authors resorted to oral history, but there were also problems with that approach. The participants in that effort, recounting their experiences in interviews, had to struggle against their own imperfect memories. Details of one combat action sometimes merged so completely with those of others that the resulting stories bore little resemblance to events that were already well established in official records.
Among the sources that proved most valuable to the study were the transcripts of interviews conducted in 1950 and 1951 by inspector general teams during the course of three official investigations into the 24th's conduct in battle. These materials had to be used with great caution because they were, at times, racially biased and self-serving. Nevertheless, they contained a wealth of information about the fighting, some of it gathered within days of the events described from witnesses who would soon be killed in combat. Many whites in those interviews blamed their black subordinates or enlisted soldiers for every problem, and the blacks, on occasion, held their tongues or played to the prejudices of their interviewers. Statements of that sort, however, were easily balanced against the official record and against the comments of individuals who were willing to speak their minds.
In dealing with documentary materials, the authors sought to verify controversial occurrences by seeking out multiple sources for the same information. If only one source existed, the reliability of previous assertions from that source was checked, and if any doubt remained, an attempt was made to verify the account by seeking the assistance and comments of veterans who had already proved themselves knowledgeable. After that, if doubts still persisted, the information was not used. The same sort of approach applied to oral history interviews. An attempt was made in every case to corroborate stories from one source with material from others or from written records. Where that proved impossible, the credibility of the source became a concern. Was that person in a position to know? Did he have something to gain from the statement? Was the rest of the information he provided reliable and accurate as far as we could tell? If the responses to those questions were adequate, in important cases, the material was sometimes used, but always with an explanation in a footnote. In the same way, throughout the study, we tried to label hearsay and rumor as such. But whether or not a comment was well founded, the mere fact that a number of soldiers said substantially the same thing gave it weight as an indicator of the morale and cohesion of the regiment.
To achieve balance, the authors sought to fit the 24th into the context of what other military units were doing at the same time and in the same place. The comparison proved difficult to make, if only because all-white regiments never experienced the particular social and psychological burdens segregation imposed on the 24th. A lack of resources also figured in. Over four hundred oral history interviews went into the effort to construct a history for the 24th. A similar effort to do the same for other regiments serving in Korea at the time was impossible.
Within these limitations, the authors did manage to pair the 24th with several similar regiments, the 5th, 27th, and 35th Infantry Regiments, all of which served in the same vicinity and experienced the same sort of combat. Drawing upon the official records of those units and conducting a number of interviews with their veterans in order to determine how each fared in combat, the authors were able to delineate at least the rough dimensions of how the 24th fared in comparison with those organizations. Historical Background
Was the 24th's reputation in Korea deserved, or was it a gross distortion of the facts brought on by racial prejudice? If bigotry was involved, were there nevertheless some grains of truth at the base of the regiment's poor reputation? If so, where does the truth end and the prejudice begin?
The situation in the 24th Infantry did not arise in a day. It grew out of a history extending back over a hundred years to the abolition of the system of slavery that had marred the American experience from its beginning. For once the African American had been freed of his bondage and had gained some rights of citizenship, it made sense that he should serve in the nation's armed forces. Yet vast hostility to blacks remained in the very fabric of the society, so much so that the integration of whites and blacks into the nation's Army seemed out of the question. As a result, although blacks served, they always did so apart, segregated into battalions, regiments, and divisions reserved exclusively for them. They fought dependably and creditably on the Western Frontier, in the Spanish American War, and during the Philippine Insurrection, but they never seemed able to overcome the attitudes of the white nation that employed them. Instead, the white world pulled back into itself by enacting "separate but equal" laws that had the effect of rendering African Americans and their contributions invisible. When segregated soldiers rebelled against that system at Houston at the beginning of World War I, the mistrust they engendered among whites helped to erase whatever credit black units had earned in earlier wars and influenced how white commanders viewed them in subsequent conflicts.
In World Wars I and II, the African American soldier seemed destined for failure from the beginning. Ascribing to assertions that blacks were lazy and of low intellect, the Army's commanders used them mainly to perform menial tasks, such as unloading ships and digging ditches. Even when finally constrained by political pressure to form all-black regiments and divisions and to allow African Americans to enter combat, they tended to employ them in areas where little would be lost if they failed. When black Americans performed well, as they did when they fought under French command in World War I, white America made little of their successes, but when they failed, as some did, the news was well circulated. Over all, few in positions of authority were willing to admit that the system of racial segregation was at fault or that a lack of mutual confidence and respect between the black soldier and his white commanders had all but destroyed the sense of oneness, mutual dependency, and self-worth in black units that are the chief constituents of good military performance. The 24th Infantry in Japan
The 24th Infantry's service in the occupation of Japan was a model not only of the tensions that dogged all-black units in that day but also of the subtle interplay those problems could have with the many challenges the Army faced in the postwar period. On the surface, conditions within the unit seemed favorable. The regiment was well situated in its base at Gifu, and life seemed good for its troops. Down below, however, there was much that was wrong.
To begin with, the Army itself was undergoing extreme turbulence. Personnel strengths gyrated up and down throughout the postwar period as budgets and manpower policies changed with the political winds. Training declined, equipment shortages grew, and officers who might have sought to make the military a career left the service. Training improved in 1949 but still remained inadequate.
The Eighth Army in Japan provides a case in point. Most of its soldiers were civilians at heart, intent upon enjoying the pleasures of life in occupied Japan, where a GI's salary could pay for an abundance of readily available pleasures. In many units, black-market activities thrived, alcoholism was rife, and venereal disease flourished. But the number one transgression in the Eighth Army in the spring of 1950 was drug abuse. It spread with sometimes near abandon in many units, particularly those that served like the 24th Infantry in or near large port cities.
The 24th Infantry, for its part, experienced the same difficulties as the rest of the Army, but it generally maintained high esprit de corps. It gained a deserved reputation for its prowess at sports and its fine marching. Its training was on a par with that of most other units, and at the beginning of the Korean War it was one of a few that had undergone some form of regimental maneuvers. While the General Classification Test scores for its men were significantly lower than for the whites in other regiments, those figures were inadequate as measures of innate intelligence. Indeed, many white officers assigned to the regiment would later insist that the enlisted men and noncommissioned officers of the unit, whatever their schooling, often knew their jobs and did them well.
Even so, the 24th remained a racially segregated regiment, and the effects of that system ate incessantly into the bonds that held the unit together. They were often hidden at Gifu, which had become an artificial island for blacks"our own little world," as some of the men described itbut even there, discontent festered just beneath the surface calm. Unwritten but firmly held assignment policies, for example, ensured that black officers, whatever their competence, would rarely if ever command whites. Throughout the years prior to the Korean War, as a result, except for one lieutenant colonel, the senior commanders of the regiment were white. As for its field-grade officers, only the chaplains and a few majors in unimportant assignments were black.
The mistrust that resulted on both sides was largely hidden behind a screen of military conventions and good manners, but it was still there. Black officers were frustrated and resentful. They saw that most promotions and career-enhancing assignments went to white officers, some of whom were clearly inferior to them in education and military competence. Aware, as well, that few if any of them would ever rise to a rank above captain, they could only conclude that the Army considered them second class. They retaliated by developing a view, as one African American lieutenant observed years later, that the 24th was a "penal" regiment for white officers who had "screwed up." The whites, for their part, although a number got along well with their black colleagues, mainly kept to themselves.
The tensions that existed among the regiment's officers had parallels in enlisted ranks. At times, black soldiers worked well with their white superiors and relations between the races were open, honest, and mutually fulfilling, primarily because the white officers recognized the worth of their subordinates and afforded them the impartiality and dignity they deserved. Many whites, however, shared the racially prejudiced attitudes and beliefs common to white civilian society. Although infrequent, enough instances of genuine bigotry occurred to cement the idea in the minds of black enlisted men that their white officers were racially prejudiced.
As the regiment's stay lengthened at Gifu, an unevenness came into being that subtly affected military readiness. In companies commanded by white officers who treated their men with respect but refused to accept low standards of discipline and performance, racial prejudice tended to be insignificant, and a bond, of sorts, developed between those who were leaders and those who were led. In others, often commanded by officers who failed to enforce high standards out of condescension, because they wished to avoid charges of racial prejudice, or because they were simply poor leaders, the bonds of mutual respect and reliance were weak. On the surface, all seemed to run well within those units. Underneath, however, hostility and frustration lingered, to break forth only when the units faced combat and their soldiers realized their lives depended on officers they could not trust.
The problem might have had little effect on readiness if officers had received the time to work out their relationships with their men, but competition among them for Regular Army commissions, under the so-called Competitive Tour Program, produced a constant churning within the regiment. Officers arrived at units, spent three months in a position, and then departed for new assignments. In addition, the officer complements of entire companies sometimes changed abruptly to maintain segregation and to ensure that a black would never command whites. Under the circumstances, officers often had little time to think through what they were doing. Not only were their own assignments temporary, the group of officers they commanded was also in constant turmoil. A confluence of good officers might, for a time, produce a cohesive, effective, high-performing company, but everything might dissolve over night with a change of command.
Under the circumstances, the personality of the regimental commander was vital, and for much of the time in Japan the unit was commanded by an officer who seemed ideally suited for the job. Strong, aggressive, experienced, Colonel Michael E. Halloran held the respect and support of most of his subordinates, whether commissioned or enlisted. The performance of the regiment while he was in charge was all that anyone could have expected at that time and in that place. The effectiveness of Halloran's successor is more in question. Colonel Horton V. White was intelligent and well intentioned, but his low-key, hands-off style of command did little to fill the void when Halloran departed.
It would be interesting to determine what the results would have been if the 24th had gone to war under Halloran rather than White, but the efficiency of a unit in combat is rarely determined by the presence of a single individual, however experienced and inspiring. What is clear, is that if the 24th went into battle much as the other regiments in the Eighth Army didpoorly trained, badly equipped, and short on experienceit carried baggage none of the others possessed, all the problems of trust and lack of self-confidence that the system of segregation had imposed. The Korean War: Deployment and Initial Combat
The mistrust endemic to the 24th Infantry began to appear just as soon as word arrived at Gifu in early July 1950 that the regiment was to depart for Korea along with its associated engineers and artillery. Almost immediately, rumors began to circulate among both whites and blacks that the regiment would never go into combat because of the supposed poor performance of all-black units in earlier wars. Then, as the date of departure approached, white officers began to hear reports that a black chaplain had undermined the chain of command by suggesting during a meeting that it was inappropriate for men of color to fight one another on behalf of whites. Black officers received unsubstantiated word that the black commander of the 1st Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel James F. Lofton, had been reassigned to prevent him from commanding whites in combat. And, even as the unit moved from Pusan to Sangju in central South Korea, a speculative story made the rounds to the effect that the regimental executive officer had faked a heart attack rather than go into combat with an all-black unit.
Although indicative of poor discipline in portions of the 24th and a source of doubts on the part of whites about the advisability of committing the regiment to war, disturbances at Gifu and later at the port of Moji on the first leg of the trip from Japan to Korea involved only a small minority of the unit's men and said little about its readiness. In fact, on paper, the 24th was probably more prepared for combat than the other regiments of the 25th Division. It had three full battalions instead of the two characteristic of the post-World War II Army, and if its equipment was old and worn and its men nervous and unseasoned, it had, at least, exercised at the regimental level in field maneuvers. Unlike Major General William F. Dean's 24th Infantry Division, the unit also had the opportunity to introduce itself gradually to combat rather than have to face enemy fire from almost the moment it arrived. Indeed, its 3d Battalion was fortunate enough to win a small victory at Yechon, one of the first successes of the war for United Nations forces.
While hardly significant for the course of the war, Yechon could have had important benefits for both the 3d Battalion and the rest of the 24th. Once the soldier has tasted victory, so the reasoning goes, his self-confidence rises and combat becomes easier for him to face. In the case of the 24th, however, there was no time for Yechon to take root. The unit began to encounter misfortunes almost immediately, just as soon as it entered combat near the town of Sangju in late July.
There was no single reason for what happened. An aggressive enemy, old and worn equipment, inexperience at all levels, leadership failures high and low, casualties among key personnel, and a lack of bonding and cohesion in some units all played their part. There was no lack of courage among the officers and men. A number of well-trained squads, platoons, and companies performed ably. Nevertheless, all military units undergo a winnowing when they first enter combat. Inept officers die or move aside to make room for the more competent. Much the same thing happened in the other American regiments fighting in Korea at that time. The same reasons for failure were present and the same process occurred.
Disturbing trends nonetheless emerged within the 24th almost immediately, and no one took action to correct them. When straggling increased to sometimes epidemic proportions, the leadership of the regiment did little more to stop it than to return offenders to their units. Every occurrence made the next one easier. Some units became so accustomed to withdrawals that their men began to abandon their positions at only the sound of firing or after receiving minor enemy sniper or mortar fire. As the trend continued, the trust of one soldier on the line for the man next to him deteriorated and each became more inclined to flee.
Other units experienced similar difficulties, but what happened in the 24th was complicated by segregation and the expectations it fostered. In an attempt to lead by example, officers stayed at their posts with those of their men who were willing to hold, suffering inordinately high casualties as a result. As that occurred, mistrust between whites and blacks grew apace and rumors began to circulate among the whites about how black soldiers had abandoned a wounded white officer on the battlefield. Whites in other units picked up the stories and spread them, giving credence to the word of white officers who, in some cases, appeared to be shifting blame for what happened from themselves to their men alone.
White stereotypes contributed to the process. In other units, commanders held officers responsible for the performance of their men and concentrated upon military causes for any failures that occurred. In the case of the 24th, military reasons meant less. Failures often were attributed to the race of the men. Blacks were afraid of the dark, so the reasoning went. They would not dig foxholes, and they lacked the native intelligence to keep their equipment in good repair. The Pusan Perimeter
The problems confronting the regiment deepened when the fighting shifted south from Sangju during August and September to the area west of Masan on the Pusan Perimeter. Casualties among officers reached critical levels, with some companies going through five commanders in less than a month, and the replacements were often inexperienced and untrained in infantry skills. The situation was little better among the sergeants. As for the enlisted men, many replacements reported for duty unable even to load and fire their rifles without first receiving instruction. Already deteriorating, the self-confidence of the unit and the trust of its members in one another worsened. More failures occurred.
Despite the pattern, when the 24th pulled into the Pusan Perimeter, it managed to hold the line. In the fight for Battle Mountain, Company C was reduced to a shell and other portions of the regiment suffered heavily. Misfortune, nevertheless, continued to dog the regiment. Focused on the mountains south of Haman rather than on the low hills just to the west of the town, the unit was unprepared on 1 September when the enemy attacked through the center of its position and the 2d Battalion collapsed. Unreliable South Korean troops manning portions of the line were partially to blame. So were a weak regimental reserve and poorly fortified positions. A key ingredient in the collapse, however, was the large number of stragglers who left their positions without leave during the early portions of the fight. Remnants of Companies E and G held on. Much of Company F escaped to the north. The battalion command post conducted a brief but spirited defense. Even so, the 2d Battalion ceased to exist as a combat organization, and only the fortuitous presence of the 27th Infantry saved the day.
The white leadership of the regiment and the division blamed the soldiers of the 24th for what had happened, but they themselves were at least as much at fault. The new regimental commander, Colonel Arthur J. Champeny, and his staff had not only approved the weak tactical dispositions of the 2d Battalion, but Champeny himself had done much to destroy whatever self-confidence was left in the regiment's men by making ill-advised, public remarks about the conduct of blacks in World War II.
It was at that point that General Kean recommended that the Eighth Army dissolve the regiment. The evidence submitteda whole series of exhaustive interviews with black and white officersgave overwhelming testimony to the presence of heavy straggling within the unit but said little about the tactical incompetence and the accumulating failures of leadership that were at the root of what had happened. Kean's recommendation led to further investigations and to a determination that the 24th should indeed be disbanded, but the Eighth Army's inability to organize a new regiment to take the unit's place on short notice put the decision on hold for a time.
In the interim, Champeny, and his successor, Colonel John T. Corley, moved at last to punish chronic stragglers. Long overdue, the effort put an effective end to the problem, but the court-martials that followed did nothing to rehabilitate the 24th Infantry's reputation in the eyes of white commanders. Indeed, a sentence of death handed down against a lieutenant who had refused to return to the line only added to the aura of shame surrounding the regiment. The Move into North Korea
The 24th itself soldiered on despite those difficulties. Over the preceding months, casualties had taken a heavy toll of the unit's problem soldiers. Still, a core of brave, capable enlisted men remained. To that group was added a whole new shift of soldiers, untrained and inexperienced but unencumbered by feelings of mistrust, racial alienation, and drug dependency that had afflicted a number of their predecessors. These men learned their jobs and drew together under the strain of combat. A new group of white officer replacements also arrived. Some were also green, but many were capable, combat-seasoned veterans of World War II. If they had their prejudices, they kept them to themselves to gain the confidence of their subordinates. The 24th, to all intents, was a new unit peopled by new men.
The regiment took long strides toward recovery during the attack north that followed the U.S. landing at Inchon and the breakout from Pusan. The troops had time to train, and, in the process of fighting their way back to Seoul, they gained in confidence. The test for them came during the offensive into North Korea following the recapture of Seoul, when United Nations forces crossed the Ch'ongch'on River and neared North Korea's border with China. Advancing in late November through rugged terrain north of the town of Kunu-ri while flanking units moved to either side along valley floors, the body of the regiment played only a minor defensive role when the Chinese counterattacked, but the unit still incurred heavy damage in the fighting that ensued.
Each portion of the regiment faced its own unique challenge. Located on a ridge overlooking a valley where part of the enemy's main assault occurred, Companies E and G held off strong attacks for most of a day before escaping overnight into the lines of the 9th Infantry. Assisting the 9th until they could make their way back to the 24th, they fought on with distinction. Meanwhile, to the west, most of the 1st Battalion was able to pull back with only minor difficulty, but Company C, fighting as part of Task Force Wilson in another valley, was less fortunate. Because of communications failures and confused command arrangements, the unit found itself abandoned and eventually surrendered. The 3d Battalion, for its part, occupied the center of the 24th's line. Withdrawing without major difficulty and in relatively good order, it nonetheless suffered from breakdowns in control at its own command post as well as at corps and division levels. Holding in an exposed position and unaware that the rest of the regiment had received orders to retreat, the unit suffered a massive enemy attack and collapsed in what became a major debacle. In that case, as with Company C, what happened received heavy play in the press. For white commanders already resolved to disband the 24th, it became just one more example of black ineptitude and the inability of all-black units to carry their load in combat. Recovery and Final Operations
The 24th recovered once more. When it reentered combat in late February 1951, it demonstrated its ability both in the attack and on the defense, but it remained no less immune than any other unit to the misfortunes of war. Its performance at the Han River crossing in March, for example, was all that anyone could have hoped for. The assault across the Hant'an in April, however, only added to its poor image in the eyes of white commanders. In that operation the 1st Battalion performed well, securing a crossing and then advancing through difficult terrain against a strongly emplaced enemy. Setbacks in another area nonetheless diminished that accomplishment. The 3d Battalion also crossed the river, but only after a last-minute change of plans that put it well downstream from the 1st Battalion in difficult terrain, heavily defended by a strong enemy force. The unit made the crossing and pressed forward up a steep mountainside, but then it collapsed under enemy fire and fell back in disorder. Either inadvertently or on purpose, officers passed information to the rear depicting a far more favorable situation than the one that prevailed. When the division commander found out, he lost all confidence in the regiment forever.
From that day on, the division followed the unit's operations closely. Although the regiment delivered a generally solid performance in the attack north of the Hant'an and then conducted an orderly withdrawal to Line Golden after the Chinese Spring Offensive, the suspicion never departed. When it participated in the Eighth Army's drive back to the north in May and June, despite a few exceptions, it again performed well.
When the last commander of the regiment, Colonel Thomas D. Gillis, took charge in August, he received a warning from the division commander that the 24th held the weakest line in all of the Eighth Army. Arriving at the unit, he rapidly decided his superiors were mistaken. Surveying the regiment, he concluded that leadership was the problem and proceeded to relieve a number of officers. His efforts were rewarded on 15 September, when Company F of the 2d Battalion conducted a heroic bayonet and grenade assault. That accomplishment, however, like so much that had happened to the 24th, received little notice. Buried in unit records, the achievement went largely unrecognized and unremembered except by Gillis and a few veterans.
The incident on 15 September marked the last significant attack conducted by the 24th. On 22 September the regiment received formal notice that on 1 October the 14th Infantry regiment would replace it on the line and that it would cease to exist as a unit. For a time, some thought had been given to the possibility that the 24th might remain in Korea as an integrated unit. In that case, it would merely have exchanged groups of personnel with the all-white 34th Infantry regiment, then training in Japan. In the end, however, the Far East Command rejected the plan because it would have violated the 1866 act of Congress that had designated the 24th as an all-black unit. When integration came, as a result, other all-black unitsthe 3d Battalion of the 9th Infantry, for example, and the 64th Tank Battalionremained in existence; the asterisk that designated them as segregated units was dropped from their names and their personnel were exchanged with other regiments in the Eighth Army. Only the 24th Infantry, because of its peculiar legal status, ceased to exist. Conclusions
Over all, if American history shows anything, it reveals that racially segregated combat units have succeeded in battle. Segregated regiments performed well during the American Civil War and throughout the nineteenth century in the United States. The black regiments of the 93d Division in World War I fought to high acclaim, as did segregated platoons thrown into the line after the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.
The results of the study clearly suggest that what happened to the 24th Infantry in Korea was a product of injustices that afflicted black Americans prior to the formal integration of the Army. Until recently, historians have tended to interpret the regiment's performance without recognizing those prejudices and the corrosive effects they had on cohesion within the unit. The whole story is much different. If it reflects lapses of command and deficiencies in leadership, training and equipmentthe sort of failings that burdened all units during the initial stages of the conflictit also contains displays of honor, commitment, selflessness and heroism that are in keeping with the best traditions of the United States Army. Indeed, that the 24th Infantry achieved what it didat Yechon, in the early weeks in Korea, at the Han and Hant'an River crossings, and elsewhere can only underscore the courage and determination of those among its members who chose to persevere and to do their duty in the face of adversity.
Army: Racism played role in all-black unit's failure