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Racial Unrest in the Fleet during the Vietnam War Era
It is hard to determine what dominated more newspaper headlines in America during the 1960s and early ‘70s: the Vietnam War or America’s turbulent racial climate. Oddly, however, these two pivotal moments are rarely examined in tandem.
John Darrell Sherwood has mined the archives of the U.S. Navy and conducted scores of interviews with Vietnam veterans — both black and white and other military personnel to reveal the full extent of racial unrest in the Navy during the Vietnam War era, as well as the Navy’s attempts to control it. During the second half of the Vietnam War, the Navy witnessed some of the worst incidents of racial strife ever experienced by the American military. Sherwood introduces us to fierce encounters on American warships and bases, ranging from sit-down strikes to major race riots.
The Navy’s journey from a state of racial polarization to one of relative harmony was not an easy one, and Black Sailor, White Navy focuses on the most turbulent point in this road: the Vietnam War era.
An African American Artilleryman in World War II and Beyond
Emiel Owens served his country in the 777th Field Artillery, involved in actions from Omaha Beach to the occupation army in the Philippines. Like the rest of the U.S. Army at the time, the 777th was a segregated unit. Remarkably few memoirs by African Americans have been published from the World War II era, making Owens’s account especially valuable. Because he situates his military experience in the larger context of his life and the society in which he lived, his story also reveals much about the changing racial climate of the last several decades. A native Texan, Owens recounts his early experiences in a small, rural school outside Austin during the hard times of the Depression. In 1943, he was drafted into the army, landing in England in August 1944. Ten days later he was on Omaha Beach. By November 3 Owens and his unit were supporting the 30th Infantry Division as it attacked German towns and cities leading into the Ruhr Pocket and the Huertgen Forest. Owens starkly portrays the horror of the Kohlscheid Penetration. He was awarded a certificate of merit for his actions in that theater. With help from the G.I. bill, Owens returned to college and then to graduate school at Ohio State University, since universities in his home state were still closed to African Americans. He earned a Ph.D. in economics, which led to a productive academic and consulting career. This is a uniquely captivating story of an African American man’s journey from a segregated Texas town to the battlefields of Europe and on to postwar success in a world changed forever by the war Americans—black and white—had fought.
The Civil War Letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw
In this book Shaw speaks for himself with equal eloquence through nearly two hundred letters he wrote to his family and friends during the Civil War. The portrait that emerges is of a man more divided and complex--though no less heroic--than the Shaw depicted in the celebrated film Glory. The pampered son of wealthy Boston abolitionists, Shaw was no abolitionist himself, but he was among the first patriots to respond to Lincoln's call for troops after the attack on Fort Sumter. After Cedar Mountain and Antietam, Shaw knew the carnage of war firsthand. Describing nightfall on the Antietam battlefield, he wrote, "the crickets chirped, and the frogs croaked, just as if nothing unusual had happened all day long, and presently the stars came out bright, and we lay down among the dead, and slept soundly until daylight. There were twenty dead bodies within a rod of me."
When Federal war aims shifted from an emphasis on restoring the Union to the higher goal of emancipation for four million slaves, Shaw's mother pressured her son into accepting the command of the North's vanguard black regiment, the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts. A paternalist who never fully reconciled his own prejudices about black inferiority, Shaw assumed the command with great reluctance. Yet, as he trained his recruits in Readville, Massachusetts, during the early months of 1963, he came to respect their pluck and dedication. "There is not the least doubt," he wrote his mother, "that we shall leave the state, with as good a regiment, as any that has marched."
Despite such expressions of confidence, Shaw in fact continued to worry about how well his troops would perform under fire. The ultimate test came in South Carolina in July 1863, when the Fifty-fourth led a brave but ill-fated charge on Fort Wagner, at the approach to Charleston Harbor. As Shaw waved his sword and urged his men forward, an enemy bullet felled him on the fort's parapet. A few hours later the Confederates dumped his body into a mass grave with the bodies of twenty of his men. Although the assault was a failure from a military standpoint, it proved the proposition to which Shaw had reluctantly dedicated himself when he took command of the Fifty-fourth: that black soldiers could indeed be fighting men. By year's end, sixty new black regiments were being organized.
A previous selection of Shaw's correspondence was privately published by his family in 1864. For this volume, Russell Duncan has restored many passages omitted from the earlier edition and has provided detailed explanatory notes to the letters. In addition he has written a lengthy biographical essay that places the young colonel and his regiment in historical context.
African Americans and the Union Navy
One of the lesser known stories of the Civil War is the role played by escaped slaves in the Union blockade along the Atlantic coast. From the beginning of the war, many African American refugees sought avenues of escape to the North. Due to their sheer numbers, those who reached Union forces presented a problem for the military. The problem was partially resolved by the First Confiscation Act of 1861, which permitted the seizure of property used in support of the South’s war effort, including slaves. Eventually regarded as contraband of war, the runaways became known as contrabands. In Bluejackets and Contrabands, Barbara Brooks Tomblin examines the relationship between the Union Navy and the contrabands. The navy established colonies for the former slaves and, in return, some contrabands served as crewmen on navy ships and gunboats and as river pilots, spies, and guides. Tomblin presents a rare picture of the contrabands and casts light on the vital contributions of African Americans to the Union Navy and the Union cause.
Planning for War in Central Europe, 1948-1968
While scholarship abounds on the diplomatic and security aspects of the Cold War, very little attention has been paid to military planning at the operational level. In Blueprints for Battle, experts from Russia, the United States, and Europe address this dearth by closely examining the military planning of NATO and Warsaw Pact member nations from the end of World War II to the beginning of d?tente. Informed by material from recently opened archives, this collection investigates the perceptions and actions of the rival coalitions, exploring the challenges presented by nuclear technology, examining how military commanders' perceptions changed from the 1950s to the 1960s, and discussing logistical coordination among allied states. The result is a detailed study that offers much-needed new perspectives on the military aspects of the early Cold War.
This manuscript is an outgrowth of a presentation Gruber made to the Society of the Cincinnati (as part of the Society’s George Rogers Clark Lecture series) in 2002. It is a hybrid reference book and monograph. The work consists of a substantial introduction, a bibliography of books the officers preferred, a bibliography of books on war that do not appear in any of the inventories (termed books not taken), a set of biographies of the 42 officers on which the study rests, and various appendixes and tables that back up the earlier material.
A classic story of a young man’s journey to adulthood, The Boy of Battle Ford covers Blackman’s years growing up in early post-settlement Illinois, where he gave in to temptations such as drinking, gambling, and the lure of prostitutes before joining the army, finding God and becoming a preacher. Blackman, who notes that he is determined to “write facts” in this book, peppers his story with the sordid details of the sinful times of his life as well as with discussions of faith and of struggling to understand his God and his beliefs.
The Memoir of Johnnie Wickersham
Johnnie Wickersham was fourteen when he ran away from his Missouri home to fight for the Confederacy. Fifty years after the war, he wrote his memoir at the request of family and friends and distributed it privately in 1915. Boy Soldier of the Confederacy: The Memoir of Johnnie Wickersham offers not only a rare look into the Civil War through the eyes of a child but also a coming-of-age story.
Edited by Kathleen Gorman, the volume presents a new introduction and annotations that explain how the war was glorified over time, the harsh realities suppressed in the nation’s collective memory. Gorman describes a man who nostalgically remembers the boy he once was. She maintains that the older Wickersham who put pen to paper decades later likely glorified and embellished the experience, accepting a polished interpretation of his own past.
Wickersham recounts that during his first skirmish he was "wild with the ecstasy of it all" and notes that he was "too young to appreciate the danger." The memoir traces his participation in an October 1861 Confederate charge against Springfield, Missouri; his fight at the battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862; his stay at a plantation he calls Fairyland; and the battle of Corinth.
The volume details Wickersham’s assignment as an orderly for General Sterling Price, his capture at Vicksburg in 1863, his parole, and later his service with General John Bell Hood for the 1864 fighting around Atlanta. Wickersham also describes the Confederate surrender in New Orleans, the reconciliation of the North and the South, and his own return and reunification with his family.
While Gorman’s incisive introduction and annotations allow readers to consider how memories can be affected by the passage of time, Wickersham’s boy-turned-soldier tale offers readers an engaging narrative, detailing the perceptions of a child on the cusp of adulthood during a turbulent period in our nation’s history.