World War I is considered the first “modern” war and unfortunately it was fought using archaic strategy, i.e. trench warfare. The result was a “lost generation” with over a million casualties in Great Britain and France alone. The Americans suffered substantial losses as well but not as great as their European counterparts mainly because as is our style, we joined the fighting after everyone else.
Now to the Black soldiers of whom there were roughly 28,000 in France from 1917-1918 and segregated into the 92nd division. Although all of their field officers and above were white, the infantry company officers i.e. Captains, Lieutenants were of color. Organized in October of 1918 the 92nd was initially trained in the U.S. before being re-trained in France by Gen. John Joseph Pershing.
In the attack of Pershing’s Second Army, the 92nd division managed to capture the Bois Frehaut, which turned out to be the best performance of any division of the Second Army. Of all the Americans called into the epic battles of WWI, the only division to actually take German land was the 92nd division.
For as long as the deeds performed by these men go unacknowledged, they will have fought and died for nothing so please, remember them. They fought to maintain freedoms they were denied as Americans, don’t let their struggles be in vain.
If you would like to learn more about the black troops in World War I check out the following books:
- The Unknown Soldiers: African American Troops in World War I Arthur E. Barbeau & Florette Henri
- Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era Chad L. Williams
- Unjustly Dishonored: An African American Division in World War I Robert H. Ferrell
Written by Melissa Geddis