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Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Impact of The Negative Campaign Against the 92nd Division

Sometimes people want other people to fail. It is a simple as that. Negative campaigns are created to disseminate misinformation, ill-will, and can create major damage. Lies are told repeatedly and so often that the slanderers spewing the misinformation actually start believing the lies. The lies can damage an individual's or a group's reputation, and can place them in a dangerous situation.

The reason some individuals begin their negative campaign are many:  Financial gain, hatred, jealousy, retribution, power-- the list can be endless. Moreover, propaganda and rumor-mills are launched in order to cause confusion and division of loyalty. In modern society, people yearn for power and go to great lengths to achieve it because of its intoxicating effects. The group that is ostracized is tragically rendered powerless and treated as pariahs. However, negative campaigns can be terminated, reversed and eventually, the ultimate truth is revealed.

The culture of calumny does not end overnight. It starts with the courage of one to protest and to challenge. In a previous post I discussed how in World War I the French government awarded African American Soldiers Medal of Honor Awards ( Croix de Guerre) and not the American government.  I described at length the "Harlem Hellfighters", the relentlessly fierce American Army division (93rd) that fought in Europe. Sadly, one regiment was the scapegoat for Negros being viewed as not suitable in combat.

Source: www.goodreads.com


The 92nd division had a horrendous experience in World War I. The 92nd consisted of draftees and included four infantry regiments, three field artillery regiments, a trench mortar battery and three machine gun battalions, a general battalion, an engineer regiment. They received their training at Camp Funston at Fort Riley, Kansas at a segregated facility. The soldiers had a racial incident in their town and were unfairly admonished by their leader, General Robert Bullard, who dispatched  a scathing memo. The memo stated that, "White men made the division, and white men can break it easily if it became a troublemaker".* The 92nd were then sent overseas to France, where they were thrown into battle without an opportunity to develop camaraderie and little training with the French. The 92nd was unfamiliar with the terrain and under- equipped.

Consequently, the 92nd's 368th Infantry regiment did not do well during the Allied Meuse Argonne Offensive in September 1918. The 92rd suffered heavy casualties as a result of a deliberate lack of support. Scoffed their commander General Robert L. Bullard," If you need combat soldiers, and especially if you need them in a hurry, don't put your time upon Negroes." (Quoted by Ulysses Lee, United States Army in World War II: Special Studies: The Employment of Negro Troops. Washington: United States Government Printing Office 1966, p. 20.)

The 92nd Division dubbed themselves "The Buffalo Soldiers" in tribute to the famed Cavalries of the same name. The Buffalo Soldiers were brave African Americans Army soldiers that fought during the Spanish American War, patrolled National Parks, and secured the western frontier. German soldiers, on the other hand, referred to them as "Black Devils" (Schwartzer Teufel) and instituted their own negative campaign against the men. In battle, fliers in perfect English were launched airborne decrying that Negro soldiers should not fight for the English, French and especially America. It lambasted the African Americans in assisting a country that was allegedly "fighting for profit" and discriminated against Blacks. The 92nd were the subject of adverse campaigns from the Germans as well!

The 92nd Division had arrived in France during the latter stages of the war. It was their lot to be assigned the most active and well defended sectors of the front. As a result, the causalities were relatively high for the short period of combat. (www.portraitsinblack.com/buffalosoldiersfirstwar.html)

Members of the 92nd Division were also discredited by claims that they were rapists. Some were removed from their Division on trumped up charges and even court martialed. It took years for the charges to be cleared and the men exonerated.. (exhibitions.nypl.org/africanage/essay-world-war-i-html)



So a formal military policy for the next thirty years undermined Negro soldiers in combat as a result of a mere five days of fighting. Accounts were taken from biased Army officials, ignoring any victories,decorations, and barring testimony from Negro soldiers. The information was submitted to The War Department and the Army War College. (https:armyhistoryorg/09/fighting-for-respect-african-american-soldiers-in-world-war-1/)

Source: www.wolfsonian.org
Early positive WWI Recruitment Poster


The idea of Black soldiers and officers as failures festered postwar and until courageous Black leaders approached the United States Government. Journalists of course, were also instrumental in changing the status quo. When the United States entered World War War in 1941, men of all races and both genders were needed to help defeat the Axis Powers. I bring up the 92nd Division, and negative campaigns for a reason--  my father, a member of a the first World War II combat division, the 51st Battalion, was in a holding pattern. Dad had completed grueling boot camp at Montford Point, Camp LeJeune, NC, yet the 51st Battalion were not sent overseas initially. In fact, when I asked my father about this time period, he tells an interesting story...





Notes: *www.militaryheadgear.com/articles/10-American-WWI. "Segregation Policy and the Birth of the Blue Helmet."

The French decorated the 92nd's entire 1st Battalion of the 367th Infantry and awarded the Croix de Guerre. Other Black officers and enlisted men received the Distinguished Service Cross.

Glossary:
Cavalry-army component mounted on horseback
Infantry-is the branch of an army who fight on foot


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