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Exhibition Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I

5th Provisional Company Officers Reserve Training Camp Ft. Des Moines, Ia. Panoramic photograph, 1917. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (039.00.00)
Charles Hamilton Houston. Bullet, dog tags, and coat buttons, ca.1917. William L. Houston Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (037.00.00)

African American Officers' Training Camp

Camp Fort Des Moines, Iowa, welcomed its first black recruits for training in May 1917. Trainee Charles Hamilton Houston, who graduated as a 1st lieutenant and was the youngest officer in the camp, is pictured in the second row, fifth from the right. His dog tags, coat buttons, and a bullet represent his first months of military service. Of the 1,250 men who entered Camp Fort Des Moines, forty percent were college graduates. Despite their enthusiasm and dedication, training was limited to the infantry and neglected specialized areas such as artillery or engineering. After four months, the camp graduated 204 2nd lieutenants, 329 1st lieutenants, and 106 captains. They were assigned to the 92nd Division, where they faced fierce racial prejudice from many of their white superior officers and white enlisted men.