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16 The Buffalo Soldiers at the Capitol Rotunda On July 23, 2008, African Ameri­ can veterans of many wars, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the leadership of the House and Senate, and other distinguished guests filled the Capitol Rotunda. On the platform were Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who arranged the ceremony; Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; John Boehner, Republican leader of the House; James Clyburn, Majority Whip of the House; Mitch McConnell, Republican leader of the Senate; Harry Reid, majority leader of the Senate; General Colin Powell; and Captain Spencer C. Moore and Sergeant A. William Perry, Buffalo Soldiers. In the front rows were a number of Buffalo Soldiers of the 92nd Division,Tus­ kegee Airmen in red blazers, and members of all branches of the services, young and elderly. The United States Armed Forces Color Guard led by the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps presented the colors, and the United States Army Chorus sang the National Anthem.The occasion commemorated the sixtieth anniversary of the integration of the United States Armed Forces.1 Spencer Moore and Bill Perry together slowly walked to the podium and spoke of their experiences in a segregated army, fighting in the Italian campaign of World War II. They paid tribute to their fallen comrades whom they remember and to the courage of Harry Truman for signing Executive Order 9981, desegregating the armed forces on July 26, 1948. Perry told the distinguished audience: We know that all men are created equal, but in WWII this was not the belief in the United States armed forces. A couple of months after graduation from high school I enlisted in the Army before they drafted me. I was assigned to the 92nd Buffalo Division. Our division was training at four different locations because no Congressional district would allow a division-­ size unit of 15,000 armed black men within their state. So we trained in Arkansas, Alabama, Indiana, and Kentucky. While we were preparing to make the world safe for democracy, we finally got together as a division when the other all Negro division moved out of Fort Huachuca in Arizona. Fort Huachuca is almost on the Mexican The Buffalo Soldiers at the Capitol Rotunda / 151 border. The 92nd was stationed there for about a year and we were not allowed to take leave or get a pass for any town in Arizona. As a Buffalo Soldier the only place you could go on a pass was into Mexico. From Arizona we went to Italy and our division took approximately 3,000 casualties. We have two Medal of Honor winners: Vernon J. Baker and John Fox, and one U.S. Senator, Edward Brooke. Our Division produced Frederic Ellis Davison, the first black person to command an Army brigade in combat and the first black person to reach the rank of major general and to command a division. My parents had three sons in World War II, and they proudly displayed three stars in their window. When I came back at the end of World War II, I took advantage of the GI Bill, graduating from Ohio State University, and I also joined the National Guard. I was in the National Guard when Truman ordered the integration in 1948. We didn’t integrate right away. It took a while and some forward-­thinking leaders to have that happen. But we are here today in an integrated America. I never dreamed that I would go back to Italy and see a statue to the Buffalo Soldiers in Sommocolonia, or participate in the film by Spike Lee based on the novel Miracle at St. Anna by James McBride, and that I would be standing here in the Capitol Rotunda remembering those days and those who went before me and those who still lie in the soil of Italy. He closed with words that reverberated in the Rotunda: “What took us so long to realize that all men are created equal and for America to live up to her creed?” Spencer Moore then addressed the audience: Good morning . . . Speaker Pelosi . . . Members of the 92nd Infantry Division and Guests. I would like to thank Speaker Pelosi and her staff for making it possible for me to be here today to be part of recognizing the anniversary of the desegregation of the military 60 years ago. PresidentTruman’s signing the Executive Order 60 years ago to desegregate the military makes him, in my opinion, one of the greatest presidents of the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780817386207
Related ISBN
9780817317683
MARC Record
OCLC
809774624
Pages
228
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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