JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
February marks the annual observance of Black History Month, a time to honor and recognize the impacts and significant contributions made by African-Americans throughout the history of the United States. This year, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the World War I, the month of February is dedicated to “African-Americans in Times of War.” From the American Revolution to the present-day War against Terrorism, African-Americans have served honorably and proudly in the defense of the United States.
African-Americans served in the American Revolution and approximately 9,000 black men enlisted in the Continental Army to help secure independence for our new nation. Many served in the Civil War including more than 179,000, who fought to preserve that same nation, comprising nearly 10 percent of the Union Army. Another 40,000 wore the uniform of the Navy and others, along with African-American women, served in various capacities during both World Wars. Nearly three million African-Americans have served under the U.S. flag in global conflicts including countries like Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Moreover, these military men and women have served with distinction. In World War I, Private Henry Johnson was the first American to be awarded the Croix de Guerre from the French government. The award alone is remarkable. However, even more astounding, 170 more of his comrades from the 369th Infantry Regiment, “The Harlem Hellfighters,” also received this honor. Aboard the battleship U.S.S. West Virginia, during the Pearl Harbor attack, Petty Officer 3rd Class Doris “Dorie” Miller’s courageous efforts in the defense of his ship earned him the first Navy Cross awarded to an African-American. Additionally, 89 African-American’s have received the Medal of Honor while serving our great nation.
For more than 240 years, African-American men and women have proudly worn American military uniforms and done so despite many hardships. For 96 years, before the ratification of the 14th Amendment, many served despite not being recognized as U.S. citizens. Fredrick Douglass said, "Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship in the United States." Even after earning citizenship, African-Americans continued serving an additional 80 years in segregated units until President Truman’s Executive Order 9981 ended military segregation.
So, this February ,we pay special tribute to the African-American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who have built a legacy of honorable and valorous service to the United States.