Executive Order 9981
Executive Order 9981 was an executive order issued on July 26, 1948, by President Harry S. Truman. It abolished racial discrimination in the United States Armed Forces and eventually led to the end of segregation in the services.
Before Executive Order 9981
Blacks in the military worked under different rules that delayed their entry into combat. They had to wait 3 years before they could begin combat training while a white American would begin training within months of being qualified. The Air Corps was deliberately delaying the training of African Americans even though the Air Corps needed more manpower (Survey and Recommendations). There was a need for desegregation in the military.
In an Army survey conducted among 250 white officers and sergeants that had a colored platoon assigned to their company the following results were found: 77% of both officers and sergeants said they had become more favorable towards colored soldiers after having a colored platoon assigned to their company, (no cases were found where someone said their attitude towards them had turned less favorable), 84% of officers and 81% of sergeants thought the colored soldiers had performed very well in combat, only 5% of officers and 4% of sergeants thought that colored infantry soldiers weren’t as good as white infantry soldiers, and 73% of officers and 60% of sergeants thought the colored soldiers and white soldiers got along together very well (Opinions about Negro Infantry). According to this particular survey there is no reasonable means for segregation in the armed forces.
This particular survey is slightly biased because it interviews officers and sergeants that have had colored platoons assigned to them whereas opinions opposing desegregation are very likely to exist within white soldiers that haven’t had experience with colored soldiers. In the survey 64% of both officers and sergeants said that they felt relatively unfavorable at first about serving in a company that had white platoons and colored platoons (Opinions about Negro Infantry). A separate survey, but the same report, surveyed 1,710 white enlisted men in the European Theater of Operations (ETO). They found that only 192 of those white soldiers, who didn’t have a colored platoon in their company, thought that it was a good idea to have colored platoons and white platoons in the same company. So although there are no reasonable means for segregation, popular opinion opposed segregation.
Attempts to End Discrimination
In 1947, A. Philip Randolph, along with colleague Grant Reynolds, renewed efforts to end discrimination in the armed services, forming the Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service and Training, later renamed the League for Non-Violent Civil Disobedience Against Military Segregation.
Truman's Order expanded on Executive Order 8802 by establishing equality of treatment and opportunity in the military for people of all races, religions, or national origins.
It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin. This policy shall be put into effect as rapidly as possible, having due regard to the time required to effectuate any necessary changes without impairing efficiency or morale.
The order also established a committee to investigate and make recommendations to the civilian leadership of the military to implement the policy.
Most of the actual enforcement of the order was accomplished by President Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration (1953-1961), including the desegregation of military schools, hospitals, and bases. The last of the all-black units in the United States military was abolished in September 1954.
Fifteen years after Truman's order, on July 26, 1963, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara issued Directive 5120.36 obligating military commanders not to employ their financial resources against facilities used by soldiers or their families that discriminated based upon sex or race.
- "Executive Order 9981". Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
- "Survey and Recommendations Concerning the Integration of the Negro Soldier into the Army". Harry S. Truman Library. September 22, 1941.
- "Opinions About Negro Infantry Platoons in White Companies of 7 Divisions". Harry S. Truman Library. July 3, 1945.
- Susan M. Glisson, The Human Tradition in the Civil Rights Movement (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), 91
- Nichols, David A. (2007). A Matter of Justice: Eisenhower and the Beginning of the Civil Rights Revolution. New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 42–50. ISBN 978-1-4165-4554-5.
- Robert B. Edgerton, Hidden Heroism: Black Soldiers in America's Wars, (Barnes & Noble 2009), 165
- Alan L. Gropman, The Air Force Integrates, 1949-1964 (Office of Air Force History, 1986)
- Morris J. MacGregor, Jr., Integration of the Armed Forces, 1940-1965 (US Government Printing Office, 1981)
- Jon E. Taylor, Freedom to Serve: Truman, Civil Rights, and Executive Order 9981 (Routledge, 2013)
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Full text of Executive Order 9981 from the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum
- Integration of the Armed Forces, 1940-1965 (Defense Studies Series) by Morris J. MacGregor, Jr., from the United States Army Center of Military History