For many veterans, serving in the military meant pushing past their own physical and mental limits in order to defeat the enemy. Many African American veterans also had to contend with and break through the limits placed upon them by society. Whether they fought stateside or overseas, in integrated or segregated units, or during World War II, Korea, or Vietnam, the African American veterans profiled here persisted past prejudice to serve their country with honor.
African Americans: Pioneers They joined the military as part of the WWII effort to defeat totalitarian regimes based on myths of racial and national superiority. These African Americans 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 they could fight and serve as well as any others, and deserved equal status.
African Americans: The Next Generation Once WWII dramatized the disconnect between what America was fighting against and its racial policies in the military, African Americans began to see more opportunities in subsequent wars. The stench of racism lingered on, and the controversies attending those wars, especially Vietnam, brought more complex factors into play as well. But for some, race became a non-issue for their entire tour of service.