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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Why the 51st Defense Battalion Were Sent to the Marshall Islands to Fight

"There were these guys from Chicago...they dated the young women from the islands. They had wigs and high heels sent in for these women to wear," my father explained when I was older. "All you could see were these women trying to walk around in those high heels, because they weren't used to wearing them."


I pictured these young ladies teetering awkwardly in platform sandals in the sand. No nylons because nylons were rationed, the materials were needed for the war effort.  Some of American women's hosiery back then had seams on the back of their legs. Resourceful females would take eyebrow pencils, brown gravy, charcoal, etc. and draw makeshift lines on the back of their legs to give the allusion of seams. Special flesh colored make up was applied to look like nylon.
Seamless hosiery. Nylons were needed to make parachutes.

The Marshallese were Micronesian in origin and migrated from Asia several thousand years ago. They were an island group that was (2,500) miles from Hawaii. Its inhabitants lived on the outer islands and atolls. The islanders survived on subsistence farming and fishing. Many had no electricity.


Marine Major General Charles F.B. Price, in command of American Forces in Samoa had already warned against sending the African Americans there. He based his opinions on his interpretation of the science of genetics. The light skinned Polynesians, whom he considered "'primitively romantic" by nature, had mingled freely with Whites to produce a very high class half caste, and liaisons with Chinese had resulted in a very desirable type of offspring. *

Two Montford Point Marines Black Depot companies that were originally supposed to be sent to Samoa were sent elsewhere due to Major's genetics reasoning. The "infusion of Negro blood" was not desired.

Based on the Major's belief system, which incidentally was common during this time period, the 51st Defense Battalion were thought to be better suited in the Marshall Islands, since the darker population of Micronesians would not be intimidated by the intelligence of the African American Marines sent there. Major General Charles F.B. Price also postulated that  "the level of physical and mental standards among the Black islanders would be raised."

These considerations were similar to the displeasure of African American soldiers socializing with French women during World War I. In this case the policy was instituted to prevent liaisons with the lighter hued Polynesians in the Pacific. Hence the deployment to the Marshall Islands, where the natives had darker pigmentation.

Residents of the Bikini Atoll during evacuation. The island became the site of Post WWII nuclear testing.


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