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Experiencing War: African Americans at War: Fighting Two Battles (Stories from the Veterans History Project, Library of Congress)

They joined the military as part of the World War II effort to defeat totalitarian regimes based on myths of racial and national superiority. These African American men and women were well aware of the large irony built into the fact that they were serving in racially segregated units. They set out to prove that black soldiers could fight and serve as well as any others, and that they deserved equal status both inside the barracks and in the civilian world from which they came.

Featured Story: Pearle W. Mack, Jr.
Pearle W. Mack, Jr. - link to story

"I can almost remember the first time I saw a black major, especially during World War II-that just didn't happen." (Video Interview, Part 1, 29:17)

Pearle Mack grew up in an integrated neighborhood in Topeka, Kansas, and his first encounter with racism occurred when he tried to enlist in the Army the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked. He served in the segregated Army of World War II, with few officers of his own color to look up to. Then he made a life in the armed forces, watching the strict bonds of segregation loosen and attitudes change over the next thirty years, through two more wars.

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Pearle W. Mack, Jr.'s story
Experience more Stories of African American Pioneers more stories
"We had two wars to fight: prejudice...and those Japs." -- Bobby Wallace
Rutherford Vincent Brice - link to story

"I was one of those, I would say, fortunate blacks."

Rutherford Vincent Brice's story

Prudence Burrell - link to story

"I didn't come in the Army to service any of them, I came in to nurse them."

Prudence Burrell's story

Frank Hosendove - link to story

"That's when our captain said we were as much a part of that crew as anyone else."

Frank Hosendove's story

Coleridge Augustus Jemmott - link to story

Coleridge Augustus Jemmott's story

Harry W. Leavell - link to story

"...they did everything they could to keep you from succeeding."

Harry W. Leavell's story

Isaiah A. McCoy, Jr. - link to story

"Whenever one of us got a command in World War II, it was because they ran out of white guys..."

Isaiah A. McCoy, Jr.'s story

Quentin Smith - link to story

"The white boys went in at 18; we couldn't come in unless you had a college degree."

Quentin Smith's story

Oneida Miller Stuart - link to story

"We were called 'nigger' many a time... But you just kept on going."

Oneida Miller Stuart's story

Bobby J. Wallace - link to story

"I've been taught that name-calling is one thing, but what you are is another."

Bobby J. Wallace's story

Essie Dell Woods - link to story

"... you had to get used to the idea that you were not their favorite."

Essie Dell Woods' story

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  February 7, 2006
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