During this year’s Black History Month, G.I. Junk Removal wants to recognize some of the Black Men and Women who bravely fought for our country.
African-Americans have played a significant role in fighting for the United States throughout history and in every American war. According to the 2017 Minority Veterans Report, there were 5,000 African American soldiers in the Revolutionary War, 400,000 African American soldiers in World War I, and 900,000 African American soldiers during World War II. African American soldiers also fought bravely through the Korea Conflict, Vietnam era, Afghanistan and Iraq. According to the Pew Research Center, African Americans now make up 17% of the U.S. Military (slightly above their representation in the country as a whole).
The notable Black men and women we will highlight in this post are: Cathay Williams, Doris Miller, and Henry Ossian Flipper.
When it comes to breaking barriers only a handful can come close to the feat achieved by Cathay Williams.
Cathay Williams, the daughter of a free man and a woman in slavery, was given the status of slave when she was born. She served in the United States Army at a time where women were not even allowed to vote. She had to pose as a man and to enlist under a man’s name - William Cathay. Cathay Williams took on the challenges posed by not only her race, but also her sex. She was the only woman documented to serve in the Army posing as a man.
Today, Williams serves as a symbol of hope against the fight for racial and gender equality.
Doris “Dorie” Miller
Dorie Miller, an African-American sailor, fought off Japanese war planes during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The valiant acts of Dorie Miller awarded him the Navy Cross, the third highest award given at that time in the Navy.
Even when he was not trained for weaponry and fight, Miller played a key role in the attack on Pearl Harbor. While he was tasked to serve breakfast to the soldiers, the necessity of defending against an attack pushed Miller to man the 50 Cal. Anti-aircraft guns and fire on the Japanese planes. This inspired his commander who did the same and manned the other weapon. After Miller used up all of his ammunition and when the Japanese attacks lessened, he helped save the wounded who were stranded.
Miller continued his service in the Navy, receiving various awards along the way. The courage shown by Miller during the attack on Pearl Harbor became the living symbol of all African-American soldiers who took part and became heroes in the Second World War.
Henry Ossian Flipper
Henry Ossian Flipper is remembered as an inspiration for leading the movement in breaking barriers of race and color. A former slave, Flipper served as an inspiration to many by being the first African-American who graduated at West Point, United States Military Academy. His graduation earned him a commission as a second lieutenant in the US Army where he became the first African-American leader of the famous “Buffalo Soldiers,” an all-black regime of the 10th Cavalry Regiment. He eventually became the first black officer to command regular troops in the U.S. Army.
Despite the racism prevalent during his time in the Army which brought him many challenges, Flipper persisted, gaining the respect of even the white civilians he encountered who were impressed by his competency.
After his dismissal from the military, Flipper worked as a civil engineer in El Paso and as an adviser to Senator Albert Fall on Mexican politics. He continued to be the Senator’s assistant in Washington D.C. when the Senator became the Secretary of the Interior in 1921.
These are just a few of the many African-Americans who had worthy contributions in American wars. The National Association for Black Veterans (NABVETS) is an organization that honors the bravery of minority Veterans. The organization aims to preserve historical records and legacy of contributions of African-American Veterans and is geared to providing positive lifestyles and support for Veterans.