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Charles Young at West Point
Brian G. Shellum’s biography of Young’s years at West Point chronicles the enormous challenges that Young faced and provides a valuable window into life at West Point in the 1880s. Academic difficulties, hazing, and social ostracism dogged him throughout his academy years. He succeeded through a combination of focused intellect, hard work, and a sense of humor. By graduation, he had made white friends, and his motivation and determination had won him the grudging respect of many of his classmates and professors.
Until now, scholars of African American and military history have neglected this important U.S. Army trailblazer. Young’s experiences at the U.S. Military Academy, his triumph over adversity, and his commitment to success forged the mold for his future achievements as an Army officer, even as the United States slipped further into the degradation and waste of racial intolerance.
The Military Career of Charles Young
An unheralded military hero, Charles Young (1864–1922) was the third black graduate of West Point, the first African American national park superintendent, the first black U.S. military attaché, the first African American officer to command a Regular Army regiment, and the highest-ranking black officer in the Regular Army until his death. Black Officer in a Buffalo Soldier Regiment tells the story of the man who—willingly or not—served as a standard-bearer for his race in the officer corps for nearly thirty years, and who, if not for racial prejudice, would have become the first African American general. Brian G. Shellum describes how, during his remarkable army career, Young was shuffled among the few assignments deemed suitable for a black officer in a white man’s army—the Buffalo Soldier regiments, an African American college, and diplomatic posts in black republics such as Liberia. Nonetheless, he used his experience to establish himself as an exceptional cavalry officer. He was a colonel on the eve of the United States’ entry into World War I, when serious medical problems and racial intolerance denied him command and ended his career. Shellum’s book seeks to restore a hero to the ranks of military history; at the same time, it informs our understanding of the role of race in the history of the American military.
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.
A Memoir of World War II
" Winner of the Best Aeronautical Book Award from the Reserve Officers Association of the United States "The sky was full of dying airplanes" as American Liberator bombers struggled to return to North Africa after their daring low-level raid on the oil refineries of Ploesti. They lost 446 airmen and 53 planes, but Philip Ardery's plane came home. This pilot was to take part in many more raids on Hitler's Europe, including air cover for the D-Day invasion of Normandy. This vivid firsthand account, available now for the first time in paper, records one man's experience of World War II air warfare. Throughout, Ardery testifies to the horror of world war as he describes his fear, his longing for home, and his grief for fallen comrades. Bomber Pilot is a moving contribution to American history.