A Report by The President's Committee
United States Government Printing Office Washington: 1950
Letter of Transmittal
The President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services herewith reports to the President.
Executive Order 9981 of July 26, 1948, states: "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." This order further authorized the Committee "to examine into the rules, procedures and practices of the armed services in order to determine in what respect such rules, procedures and practices may be altered or improved with a view to carrying out the policy of this order."
The Committee appointed by the President has conducted such an inquiry and has made recommendations to the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretaries of the three services. It was the judgment of the Committee that these recommendations, when put into actual practice, would bring an end to inequality of treatment and opportunity. All of the Committee's recommendations have been approved and accepted by the President, the Secretary of Defense and the service Secretaries. They are now in effect.
This submission, therefore, is a report of the work of the Committee and of the measures adopted by the services to carry out
the President's policy. Chapter I contains the Committee's interpretation of its mission; an account of its method of work; and a summary of the progress which has been made.
Chapters II, III, IV, and V present a more detailed description of the racial policies and practices in the services at the beginning of the Committee's inquiry; the Committee's estimate of those policies and practices as measured against the President's policy; the recommendations of the Committee and the reasons for them.
It is the Committee's conviction that the present programs of the three services are designed to accomplish the objectives of the President. As the programs are carried out, there will be, within the reasonably near future, equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed forces with a consequent improvement in military efficiency.
In submitting its report, the Committee desires to express its appreciation to the White House staff, the Department of Defense and the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force and to all organizations and individuals that have facilitated the work of the Committee.
Lester B. Granger
Dwight R. G. Palmer
John H. Sengstacke
William E. Stevenson
Charles Fahy, Chairman
Executive Order 9981
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Executive Order 9981
Establishing the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services
Whereas it is essential that there be maintained in the armed services of the United States the highest standards of democracy, with equality of treatment and opportunity for all those who serve in our country's defense:
Now, therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, by the Constitution and the statutes of the United States, and as Commander in Chief of the armed services, it is hereby ordered as follows:
1. 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.
2. There shall be created in the National Military Establishment an advisory committee to be known as the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, which shall be composed of seven members to be designated by the President.
3. The Committee is authorized on behalf of the President to examine into the rules, procedures and practices of the armed services in order to determine in what respect such rules, procedures and practices may be altered or improved with a view to carrying out the policy of this order. The Committee shall confer and advise with the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Secretary of the Air Force, and shall make such recommendations to the President
and to said Secretaries as in the judgment of the Committee will effectuate the policy hereof.
4. All executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government are authorized and directed to cooperate with the Committee in its work, and to furnish the Committee such information or the services of such persons as the Committee may require in the performance of its duties.
5. When requested by the Committee to do so, persons in the armed services or in any of the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government shall testify before the Committee and shall make available for the use of the Committee such documents and other information as the Committee may require.
6. The Committee shall continue to exist until such time as the President shall terminate its existence by Executive Order.
HARRY S. TRUMAN
The WHITE HOUSE, July 26,1948.
The President appointed the following to be members of the Committee:
Charles Fahy, Chairman
Alphonsus J. Donahue
Lester B. Granger
Dwight R. G. Palmer
John H. Sengstacke
William E. Stevenson
Mr. Alphonsus J. Donahue died in July 1949. Mr. Charles Luckman has not actively participated in the work of the Committee.
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Toward the Goal: A Summary of Progress
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Toward the Goal: A Summary of Progress
Executive Order 9981, issued on July 26, 1948, declared it 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," the President directed, "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."
By the same order the President announced there would be created in the National Military Establishment a committee of seven members with authority "to examine into the rules, procedures and practices of the armed services" in order to determine what changes were necessary to carry out the President's policy.
In discharging its duties, the Committee was directed by the President to confer and advise with the Secretary of Defense and the Secretaries of the three services, and finally to make recommendations to the President and the aforementioned Secretaries.
The Committee Interprets Its Mission
At the outset of its deliberations the Committee was agreed that the problem with which it was charged was not merely one of simple justice. In addition to the factor of equality of treatment and opportunity was the factor of military efficiency, the making of a better armed service.
In the Committee's view the task could not be accomplished solely on the basis of information gathered in formal testimony, though such testimony must be a necessary step in the Committee's inquiry. The President had directed the Committee to examine into the procedures and practices of the three services. Such an examination, the Committee decided, required three lines of inquiry, each one of which would provide a check upon the other two.
First, it was necessary for the Committee to have a comprehensive understanding of the whole field of personnel policy and administration in the three services, including recruitment, basic training, technical training, assignment, promotion, and the so-called career guidance programs. Without such information the Committee did not feel competent to judge (a) whether the services were denying opportunity to any of their personnel solely on account of race and (b) whether their racial policies and practices promoted or reduced military efficiency.
Second, the Committee needed to make a study of the historical experience of the three services with racial groups, for it was on the basis of this experience that the services largely explained and rationalized their present policies and practices.
Third, the Committee wished to supplement its technical and historical studies with field trips so that it would have first hand information.
One other problem concerned the Committee. This was how best to secure the endorsement by the armed services of those measures which, in the Committee's judgment, might be needed to effect the President's policy. The Committee believed that progress could be made most readily by a presentation of the facts, by suggestions for corrective measures, and by convincing the services of the reasonableness and effectiveness of its recommendations.
The services, though subject to civilian control, are old institutions with long established customs and habits. The Committee believed that reforms would be more readily accepted and make headway faster if they represented decisions mutually agreed upon. Imposed decisions can be enforced by discipline but joint decisions engage the loyalty of those who have concerted them.
Therefore the Committee decided that it would confer with the services at each step of the way, confident that its recommendations would win support as the services became convinced they were sound in principle and would improve the efficiency of the military establishment. If this could be accomplished, the Committee contemplated that its recommendations would be implemented concurrently with their acceptance, and that a report to the President would then represent not a future objective but a program in being. This plan of work had the President's approval.
The Course of the Inquiry
At the beginning of its inquiry the Committee heard testimony from 67 witnesses, including the Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, as well as the Army Chief of Staff; the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Personnel, the Air Force Director of Personnel Planning, the Army Director of Personnel and Administration; a former Assistant Secretary of War who headed the Special Troop Policies Committee in World War II; the chairman of the board of general officers that in 1945 formulated a new Army racial policy; civilian personnel experts from the three services; and individuals and representatives of civilian organizations concerned with minority group interests.
The testimony of these witnesses, totaling 1,025 pages, has been bound and indexed. Copies are being deposited with the Secretary
of Defense, the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, the General Staffs of the Army and Air Force, the Bureau of Personnel of the Navy, the Library of Congress, and the Archives.
Through the cooperation of the Navy Bureau of Personnel, the office of the Director of Personnel Planning in the Air Force, the Army general staff divisions of Personnel and Administration and Organization and Training, the Personnel Research and Procedures Branch of the Army Adjutant General's Office and the Historical Records Section of the Army, the Committee has been able to secure a comprehensive understanding of the personnel policies and operations of the three services and a thorough knowledge of the policies governing minority groups.
These agencies made freely available to the Committee and its staff all the historical and technical information necessary to the Committee's study, and representatives of the services were always available to the Committee for guidance and consultation. The day to day conferences and collaboration of the Committee's staff and the technical experts of the services greatly facilitated the work of the Committee.
Finally, the Committee and its staff made field investigations covering eight Navy ships and stations, seven Air Force bases, and ten Army posts. In addition the Committee itself has held more than 40 meetings.
The scope of the executive order required that there be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin. Members of various minority groups have asserted the existence of discrimination on these grounds, but no evidence was presented to the Committee and no specific facts were found indicating formally defined service policies denying equality of treatment and opportunity except with respect to Negroes. In their
case practices resulting in inequality of treatment and opportunity had the sanction of official policy and were embodied in regulations.
The Committee felt, therefore, that its examination should leave room for gathering facts and developing conclusions affecting all minorities, but that it should proceed with the material on hand concerning the specific status of Negroes in the services. Once this racial factor should be satisfactorily disposed of, the Committee believed, a formula would be evolved applicable to all minorities. For this reason specific mention is limited throughout the report to recommendations and changes affecting Negroes.
There follows a summary account of the extent to which the President's executive order presently is being implemented, with an indication of the policy changes that have been put into effect by the services since the order was issued in July 1948.
All jobs and ratings in the naval general service now are open to all enlisted men without regard to race or color. Negroes are currently serving in every job classification in general service.
All courses in Navy technical schools are open to qualified personnel without regard to race or color and without racial quotas. Negroes are attending the most advanced technical schools and are serving in their ratings both in the fleet and at shore installations.
Negroes in general service are completely integrated with whites in basic training, technical schools, on the job, in messes and sleeping quarters, ashore and afloat.
Chief, first-, second-, and third-class stewards now have the rate of chief, first-, second-, and third-class petty officers. (Policy change adopted June 7, 1949.)
Stewards who qualify for general ratings now can transfer to general service.
The Marine Corps, which as a part of the Navy is subject to Navy policy, has abolished its segregated Negro training units. (Policy change adopted June 7, 1949.) Marine Corps training is now integrated, although some Negro marines are still assigned to separate units after basic training. In this respect the effectuation of Navy policy in the Marine Corps is yet to be completed.
The Air Force
The Air Force announced its new racial policy on May 11, 1949. As a result of this policy, the all Negro 332d Fighter Wing at Lockbourne Field, Ohio, has been broken up, and its personnel either sent to school for further training, transferred to white units in other commands, or separated under current regulations.
A majority of other Negro units has also been abolished. As of January 31, 1950, only 59 Negro units remained, and 1,302 units were racially integrated, as compared with 106 Negro units and only 167 mixed units on June 1, 1949, when the Air Force policy went into effect.
Approximately 74 percent of the 25,000 Negroes in the Air Force on January 31, 1950, were serving in integrated units; and 26 percent still were serving in Negro units. This integration process is continuing.
All Air Force jobs and schools are open to qualified personnel without racial restriction or quotas. Six percent of the total personnel attending technical training schools in January 1950 were Negro.
Negroes serving in mixed units and attending service schools are integrated with whites in living conditions.
All Army jobs now are open to Negroes. (Policy change adopted September 30, 1949.)
All Army school courses are open to Negroes without restriction or quota. (Policy change adopted September 30, 1949.)
For the first time Negroes no longer are limited in assignment to Negro and overhead (housekeeping) units, but are to be assigned according to their qualifications to any unit, including formerly white units. (Policy change adopted January 16, 1950.)
Negroes serving in mixed units will be integrated on the job, in barracks and messes. (Policy change adopted January 16, 1950.)
The 10 percent limitation on Negro strength in the Army has been abolished, and there no longer are Negro quotas for enlistment. (Policy change adopted March 27, 1950.)
The succeeding chapters contain a more detailed account of the Committee's recommendations to the services and the extent to which the President's policy is being implemented.
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Two Basic Questions
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Two Basic Questions
Two principal questions have engaged the attention of military planning staffs whenever they have considered the question of Negro utilization:
1. Do Negroes have the mental and technical qualifications to be used in the full range of military jobs?
2. Shall Negroes be utilized only in Negro units?
Until quite recently all three services had invariably taken the position that (1) Negroes do not have the education and skills to perform efficiently in the more technical military occupations, and (2) Negroes must be utilized, with few exceptions, in segregated units. The basis for this position may be briefly summarized as follows:
1. Tests conducted by the military disclosed that the level of ability and technical skill of Negroes as a group is considerably below that of whites as a group. The services realized that Negroes as a group have not enjoyed comparable educational advantages with whites, and have not had the same opportunity to learn skilled trades. But the services contended that, regardless of the causes of this differential in group ability and skill, they were confronted with a fact which bears upon military utilization, and in the interest of military efficiency they must recognize this fact. Therefore, it was maintained, Negroes could not be employed over the same range of military jobs as whites; they must
be utilized in a limited number of jobs, the majority of them unskilled or semi-skilled.
2. As for the question of racial segregation, the military services argued that they must be guided by precedent and custom. The services must keep abreast of civilian sentiment and practice; at the same time they must take care not to get ahead of the country. To do so might create difficulties 'which would be reflected in morale and military efficiency. Expediency then, and not racial prejudice, imposes on the military a policy of limiting the assignment of Negroes to Negro units.
Meeting the military on its own premise and considering these questions strictly from the viewpoint of military efficiency, the Committee had serious doubts as to the reasoning by which the military had traditionally arrived at its policies of limited utilization and racial segregation. To begin with, however, the Committee's skepticism was based on reason rather than on direct observation.
The Committee, conscious of the handicaps under which many Negroes live and their lack of full educational advantages, did not question the contention that the Negro population as a whole did not parallel the white population as a whole in technical skills or education. This was confirmed by tests administered to all personnel in two world wars. For example, 67.8 percent of the 8,720,764 white enlisted males tested by the Army from March 1941 through May 1946, scored 90 and above in the General Classification Test. (The General Classification Test was designed to reflect readiness to absorb military training.) Of the 1,036,819 enlisted male Negroes tested, only 16.6 percent scored 90 and above. Again, 14.4 percent of the whites tested were below 70, as against 51.6 percent Negroes below 70.
The disproportion in the GCT spread for white and Negro elements in the peacetime Army is not so great, partly because of more selective recruiting and partly because of a higher rate of separation for inability to absorb instruction. Even so, 38 percent of the Negroes in the Army, as of March 31, 1949, were 90 and above, as contrasted with 67.2 percent of the whites 90 and above.
The Committee did not dispute this situation. What the Committee questioned were the conclusions which some military officials drew from it. Conceding the differential in skill and ability between the white and Negro elements in the services, did this group difference justify denying to the individual Negro - solely on the ground of race the opportunity to qualify for, and serve in, any job whatsoever? To put racial restrictions upon job opportunities seemed to the Committee to ignore completely the essential factor of individual differences. And insofar as a service refused to a single Negro the technical training and job for which he was qualified, by just so much did the service waste potential skills and impair its own effectiveness. Quite apart from the question of equal opportunity, the Committee did not believe the country or the military services could afford this human wastage.
Furthermore, in considering the question of the Negro unit, it seemed to the Committee that segregation merely aggravated this waste and multiplied the inefficiency. Because of the group differential in skill and education, it seemed obvious that Negro units could not be created which would perform the complete range of functions required in white units, and Negro units therefore could not provide the opportunity for the same diversity of individual skills as white units. Yet a policy of segregation made mandatory the assignment of highly qualified Negroes to racial units where there might be no opening for their skills. At the same time that segregation deprived the skilled Negro of equal
opportunity and deprived the service of his talent, it also magnified the inefficiency of the unskilled majority by concentrating them in separate units.
There still remained the question and it was a question which had been raised whenever the services had considered proposals for widening the opportunities for qualified Negroes - whether, on balance, it were not better to suffer the loss of some individual skills through segregation than encounter difficulty through assigning whites and Negroes to the same unit. Would not the possible loss in efficiency which might result from impaired morale in mixed units (so went the hypothetical question) outweigh the actual loss in efficiency which resulted from racial restrictions upon employment and assignment?
As the Committee sought an answer to these questions, in the historical record and current practice of the services, the experience of the Navy furnished the Committee with valuable guidance.
Two Assumptions Are Put to the Test and Two New Policies are Adopted
It is the policy of the Navy Department that there shall be equality of treatment for all persons in the Navy and Marine Corps without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.
In their attitude and day to day conduct of affairs, officers and enlisted personnel of the Navy and Marine Corps shall adhere rigidly and impartially to the Navy regulations, in which no distinction is made between individuals wearing the uniform of these Services.
All personnel will be enlisted or appointed, trained, advanced or promoted, assigned duty and administered in all respects without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.
In the utilization of housing, messing, berthing and other facilities, no special or unusual provisions will be made for the accommodation of any minority race.
Secretary of the Navy
To All Ships and Stations
7 June 1949
Throughout American history until the end of World War I, the Navy had enlisted Negroes for general service, and Negro sailors had served and fought with credit throughout the fleet. After the First World War, however, the Navy halted Negro enlistments; and when they were opened again in 1932, Negroes were recruited only for service in the messman's branch.
This was the situation at the beginning of World War II and it continued until six months after Pearl Harbor. The Selective Service Act of 1940 provided that "in the selection and training of men under this Act, and in the interpretation and execution of the provisions of this Act, there shall be no discrimination against any person on account of race or color." This provision had no immediate effect in opening up general service ratings to Negroes, however, because the Navy continued to rely on voluntary recruiting until February 1943.
Consequently the Navy continued its peacetime policy of restricting Negroes to the messman's branch on the ground that "the enlistment of Negroes (other than as mess attendants) leads to disruptive and undermining conditions." In response to public inquiries, the Navy issued a statement explaining that "the policy of not enlisting men of the colored race for any branch of the naval service but the messman's branch was adopted to meet the best interests of general ship efficiency . . . . This policy not only serves the best interests of the Navy and the country, but serves as well the best interests of [Negroes] themselves."
After Pearl Harbor, however, the Navy was subjected to considerable pressure from Negro organizations to expand its utilization of Negroes. The Navy at first continued to insist on the exclusion of Negroes from general service, arguing that Negroes were not as adaptable or efficient as whites, and that segregation on shipboard was not feasible. After several exchanges of memoranda, the President finally wrote to the Secretary of the Navy that the matter "should be determined by you and me." Consequently on April 7, 1942, the Navy announced that effective June 1 Negroes would be enlisted for general service as well as mess attendants. But these volunteers, the Navy made clear, would receive basic and advanced training in segregated camps and schools, would be utilized in segregated units, and would be limited in assignment to shore installations and harbor craft. Negroes in general service ratings would not be billeted in seagoing vessels, but would be used principally in construction battalions under the Bureau of Yards and Docks, in supply depots, ordnance stations, and yard (harbor) craft.
In February 1943, as the result of a presidential directive, the Navy finally began to receive its manpower through Selective Service, and at the same time the War Manpower Commission insisted that the Navy accept Negroes proportionately with the other services. The Navy's monthly quota of Negroes mounted quickly from 2,700 to 5,000, then to 7,350 and finally to 12,000. As the influx of Negro selectees increased, the Navy soon discovered that it could not find employment for all of them in shore installations and harbor craft. It also discovered that while the majority of the Negroes received through Selective Service was best fitted for unskilled or semiskilled labor, there was a large number possessing technical skills which could not be put to use so long as Navy policy prevented the assignment of Negroes to the fleet. At the same time, considerable resentment began to be
manifested among Negroes because of the concentration of Negro sailors in ordnance battalions, ammunition depots, and construction units.
Partly in response to this public agitation and partly because of its own concern over the waste of manpower, the Navy sought a solution that would make it possible to prevent the waste with out actually assigning Negroes to white crews in the fleet, which it still feared would cause friction and affect ship efficiency. In late 1943, it manned a destroyer escort and a patrol craft with predominantly Negro crews under white officers. This experiment was only partly successful, and even if it had been entirely successful, it obviously offered no solution to the problem, for Negroes were not available to man segregated cruisers and carriers.
Nine months later, in August 1944, the Navy tried another and more practical experiment, assigning Negroes to 25 auxiliary ships of the fleet. These Negroes were integrated completely with white crews, but no ship was assigned more than 10 percent Negroes in its enlisted complement.
From the experiment with the two segregated ships the Navy had satisfied itself that Negroes could be utilized aboard seagoing vessels in a far greater variety of skills than had been supposed. And from the experiment of assigning Negroes to 25 auxiliary vessels the Navy learned that Negroes could be placed in white crews without trouble. Having learned these two lessons, the Navy in April 1945 announced that henceforth Negro personnel would be eligible for service in all auxiliary fleet vessels, though the 10 percent quota for each ship would still be observed.
Concurrently with the change of policy on fleet assignment for Negro general ratings, the Navy issued a "Guide to the Command of Negro Naval Personnel," in which it stated that "the Navy accepts no theories of racial differences in inborn ability, but expects that every man wearing its uniform be trained and
used in accordance with his maximum individual capacity determined on the basis of individual performance."
Meanwhile, in July 1944, the Navy had abandoned its segregated advanced training schools for Negroes at Camp Robert Smalls and at Hampton Institute, declaring that it did not "consider practical the establishment of separate facilities and quotas for Negroes who qualify for advanced training." Boot training remained segregated, however, until July 1945, when the separate training camp at Great Lakes was abolished, and Negro trainees were assigned to the same companies, barracks, and messes as whites.
In December 1945, the Secretary of the Navy issued a directive to all ships and stations Alnav 423 45 stating that. "In the administration of naval personnel no differentiation shall be made because of race or color. This applies also to authorized personnel of all the Armed Forces of this country aboard Navy ships or at Navy stations and activities."
And finally on February 27, 1946, the Navy took the inevitable step of opening up general service assignments without any restriction. In Circular Letter 48-46, the Navy ordered that –
"Effective immediately all restrictions governing types of assignments for which Negro naval personnel are eligible are hereby lifted. Henceforth, they shall be eligible for all types of assignments in all ratings in all activities and all ships of the naval service. . . .
“In the utilization of housing, messing and other facilities, no special or unusual provisions will be made for the accommodation of Negroes.”
The Committee Looks at the Navy
The Committee was satisfied that in 1949 the stated Navy policy on utilization of Negro enlisted personnel was, on the whole,
a good one. The Navy promised to Negroes in general service full equality of treatment and opportunity. Had this policy been conscientiously carried out?
The records of the Bureau of Personnel show that Negroes are presently serving aboard ship and at shore installations in every general service rating. They are not yet, however, represented in top grades within every rating. This does not at this time indicate inequality of treatment, the Committee is convinced, because considerable time is required to achieve the grade of chief or first class petty officer, and the Navy policy is comparatively recent. Furthermore, to achieve advanced grades in the more technical ratings, an enlisted man must spend long periods at service schools.
Since the end of the war a gradual shift has been taking place in the proportion of Negroes in general service and the messman's branch. At the end of 1945, slightly over 5 percent of the Negroes in the Navy were in general ratings and almost 95 percent in the messman's branch. At the present time 42.6 percent are in general service and 57.4 percent in the messman's branch. Within the near future the number of Negroes in general service will probably exceed those in the messman's branch, since the Navy after the war had a surplus of mess attendants and is no longer recruiting them.
Visits by the Committee and its staff to ships, schools, and naval installations confirmed the Bureau of Personnel figures.
At Newport, R. L, base of Destroyers Atlantic Fleet, the Committee found Negroes with general ratings serving in destroyer crews in a wide variety of jobs.
At the New London, Conn., base of Submarines Atlantic Fleet, Negro submariners were in the crews of submarines, serving not only as messmen but in general service as torpedoman, boatswain's mate, electrician's mate, radioman, sonarman, etc. Negroes were likewise attending the submariner's school at New London.
At the Naval Air Base at Quonset, R. I., Negro mechanics were servicing planes; and aboard the Essex class carriers, U. S. S. Leyte and U. S. S. Kearsarge, which happened to be docked at Quonset at the time of the Committee's visit, Negroes were working throughout the ships, in the engine and boiler rooms, as crane operators, on the plane elevators, as quartermasters and boatswain's mates, and in many other capacities
In boot camp at the Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Ill., the Committee saw Negro trainees being processed with whites on their arrival and assigned to the same companies. In the six technical training schools at Great Lakes electronics technician, machinist's mate, electrician's mate, fire controlman, engineman, and journalist Negroes were represented in every course except journalist. In the difficult electronics technician school, a 48 week course requiring a qualifying GCT score of 130 (as contrasted with 110 for wartime officer candidate school), there were five Negro students.
The unvarying attitude of naval officers interviewed on the Committee's trips was that they were interested solely in the maintenance of training standards and in job performance. If the individual Negro, like the individual white, met the standards and mastered his job, then he had a career in the Navy.
Wherever the Committee or its staff went in its investigation of Navy practice, it found Negroes in general service although in relatively small numbers working, messing, and berthing side by side with whites, ashore and afloat.
Had the Navy experienced any difficulty as the result of its policy of assigning men solely on the basis of individual ability and the needs of the service? The Committee was particularly anxious to get a full and candid reply to this question, for until the Navy had finally made the decision to assign Negroes to ships, it had firmly resisted any proposal to expand Negro utilization
beyond the steward's branch on the ground that the intimate associations of ship life precluded any mixing of the races. Integration in general service, the Navy had maintained, would not be in "the best interests of general ship efficiency."
The Committee asked this question not only of commanding officers but also of petty officers and lower grades, both white and Negro. All of those questioned replied that there had been no racial friction. White and Negro sailors at times exchanged words and blows as did white seamen among themselves but these were flare-ups between individuals. There had been no racial animosity. So far as the Committee could discover, what a sailor asked of his shipmate was that he do his job and not be a trouble maker.
The evidence on this question was reassuring, for it seemed to confirm a theory which the Committee had held but which could be put to the proof only by field observation, namely, that respect created between individuals through competence on the job the value which the workman sets upon workmanship would translate itself over a period of time into personal respect and would facilitate the accommodation of the two races in their daily life, and thus act to break down artificial barriers.
The thing that most impressed the Committee about the Navy's experience was that in the relatively short space of five years the Navy had moved from a policy of complete exclusion of Negroes from general service to a policy of complete integration in general service. In this about face, the Navy had not been primarily motivated by moral considerations or by a desire to equalize treatment and opportunity. Undoubtedly public opinion had been a factor in this reversal of policy, but chiefly the Navy had been influenced by considerations of military efficiency and the need to economize human resources. Equality of treatment and opportunity, the Navy had discovered, was a necessary and
inevitable condition and byproduct of a sound policy of manpower utilization.
The Navy had defended the non-utilization of Negroes in general service by citing the lower level of Negro skills and by appealing to the necessity of maintaining ship efficiency and ship morale. It had discovered that, as individuals, Negroes could be trained and utilized in as wide a range of skills as whites, and that failure to use them as individuals resulted in a waste of manpower which neither the Navy nor the country could afford. Still driven by the imperative need for skilled men, the Navy had put Negro ratings aboard ship and found that no trouble resulted. In defense of its new policy the Navy now cites the skills of its Negro manpower and ship efficiency.
The Committee Makes Recommendations to the Navy
Although the Committee found little to criticize in the new policy of the Navy with respect to training and assignment, it was concerned that the opportunities which the Navy offered had not attracted a larger number of Negroes to enlist for general service.
As of January 1,1950 the date of the latest complete figures - the Negro enlisted strength was 15,747 out of a total of 330,098, or 4.7 percent. Of this total Negro enlisted strength 6,647 were in general ratings and 9,110 in the messman's branch. The percentage of Negroes in general ratings was exactly 2 percent.
The relatively small percentage of Negroes in general service could be partly attributed, the Committee believed, to a long memory of the Navy's earlier restrictive policy and to a general unawareness among Negroes that this policy had been discarded. Since the impression seemed to prevail that the Navy lagged behind the other two services, the Committee believed the Navy should correct this impression.
The Committee was also dissatisfied with the small number of Negro officers in the Navy. During the war the Navy had been slow to open its officer candidate school to Negroes. In 1942 two Negroes entered Harvard Medical School under the Navy's officer training program. A year later the Navy opened its V-12 program to Negroes; but since very few Negro students were enrolled in colleges offering V-12 training, only a small number of Negroes were in a position to take advantage of the program. Finally, in February 1944, the Navy selected 22 Negro candidates for commissions in the Naval Reserve. Of these, 12 were finally selected for line officers and given the rank o£ ensign; 10 were appointed staff officers with the rank of ensign or lieutenant junior grade and assigned to the chaplain, dental, medical, civil engineer, and supply corps.
By the end of the war the V-12 program had raised the number of Negro officers to 58. A few of these saw service on small craft or auxiliary ships, but for the most part they were assigned to recruit training and to technical training schools as instructors. Late in the war some of them were detailed to supply units in the pacific where they commanded stevedore outfits.
After VJ-day, almost all the Negro officers, convinced by their wartime experience that the Navy offered them no future, applied for demobilization and discharge. When the Committee began its work early in 1949, there were only four Negro officers on active duty. On January 1, 1950, there were 17 Negro officers on act