The Library of Congress Veterans History Project Home 
Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project
Home » Search Results » Roscoe Tyson Spann

"I often wonder what happened to my men I spent all that time with." (Video Interview, 28:34)

   Roscoe Tyson Spann
Image of Roscoe Tyson Spann
Roscoe Spann at time of service
War: World War II, 1939-1946
Branch: Army
Unit: 92nd Infantry Division ("Buffalo"); 93rd Infantry Division
Service Location: Fort Huachuca, Arizona
Rank: First Lieutenant
Place of Birth: Mounds, IL
View Full Description

Roscoe Spann was in medical school in 1941 when his local draft board notified him. Feeling that his education to be a doctor was more important, he managed for six months to ignore the notice, but the FBI finally caught up to him. He decided to make the most of his service and attended Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning, Georgia, where he confronted segregated conditions. Assigned to Ft. Huachuca to train troops of the 92nd and 93rd Divisions, Spann was told he was too good a trainer to be assigned overseas. He spent most of the war in the Arizona desert, where a cold war between black and white officers never thawed. Spann was court-martialed for striking a white officer, and though he was found guilty, he was given a promotion several months later. A request by him and his fellow officers to meet with General Benjamin O. Davis, the highest ranking black officer in the Army, failed to ease the tensions.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (4 clips)
»Complete Interview  (65 min.)
»Photo Album (7 photos)
 Other Materials
»Newsclipping from unidentified source: "Officer Recalls 2 U.S. Armies--1 Black, 1 White"
More like this
»Buffalo Soldiers
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (4 items)
At Ft. Benning for OCS, he and two other black men staying in former CCC barracks, just to be apart from the white soldiers; having their own waiters and a busboy; whites not wanting them there; they were 3 out of 258; taking two years of West Point courses in one year; proud of his ability to stick it out. (03:38) Training black troops at Huachuca; one of his fellow soldiers was Coleman Young, future mayor of Detroit; maneuvering by the fort's administration so that they didn't come in contact with white soldiers; was company commander who did special training for mountain and desert warfare; hearing that Patton did not want any black troops sent over to him; lauding Truman for desegregating the armed forces. (06:45) Never went overseas; told that he was too valuable as a trainer to be sent away from Huachuca; training Buffalo Soldiers (92nd) and the Blue Helmet (93rd), the only black officer to serve with both; doing a monthly forced march of 26 miles to Tombstone and "attacking" the town; spending the night and getting trucked back to camp; difficult transition from studying medicine to teaching men how to kill; maneuvers in Louisiana with the 93rd under tough conditions; sent back to Arizona to train the 92nd ; never saw the men he trained after they left. (05:07)
Court martialed for insubordination; dealing with prejudiced white Southern officers who were in some cases not as well trained as he; hitting a white superior officer; sent on a train to Kentucky for court martial; humorous story of a sign in Texas he saw from the train; convicted and sent back to Arizona; several months later, promoted to First Lieutenant; dissatisfied black officers at Huachuca asking for a meeting with only black general in the army, Benjamin O. Davis; did not go well when Davis referred to the officers as "boys." (13:08)  
Home » Search Results » Roscoe Tyson Spann
  The Library of Congress
  May 29, 2007
Veterans History Project Home
Contact Us