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A World War II Soldier Finds Segregation on Army Bases

Although over a million African-American men and women served during World War II, they continued to experience discrimination in the armed forces. In addition to being relegated to segregated combat units, often in service-and-supply capacities, black soldiers found that on-base facilities such as officer's clubs and theaters were strictly segregated, even when located in northern states. The author of this letter writes to express his disappointment and outrage upon discovering that "Jim Crow"-like policies of segregation were the rule on the Pennsylvania base where he was stationed.

Atty. Truman K. Gibson
Civilian Aid to Secy of War
White House, Washington, D. C.

Co. C. grp. 2, 1st Reg.
Camp Reynolds, Pa.
Mar. 13, 1944

Dear Mr. Gibson:

As you may recall I wrote you several times while at camp Berkeley, Texas. I am at present in Pennsylvania, on the brink of embarkation for overseas duty. Leaving the south was like coming back to God’s country.

You might readily understand my aversion when I discovered that as far north as Penn. segregation and discrimination is practised in the army camps. I sometimes wish I could be indifferent but I can’t. Right is right and I realize there’s no such thing as half way right. Although in comparison with conditions at camp Berkeley, these here are much more favorable but why are we segregated? Why aren’t we allowed to attend but one theater out of four on the post and why can’t we use any post exchange of our choice? I tried to answer these questions but I’m on the ebb of becoming neurotic.

I didn’t start this war but I didn’t hesitate to come when I believed I was needed. When inducted I honestly believed that as a negroe, I comprised an important part of this nation and it was my partiotic duty to avail myself when my country was in danger of peril. My attitude now is greatly changed. I’m indifferent toward the whole affair.

I sincerely hope that through you Mr. Gibson and others like you, that America will be awaken unto the realization that we too are human and desire to be treated as such and also we want to readily do our part in the progress of the nation.

I feel sure that while we are fighting on the battlefront, you will continually be fighting on the home front, for your fight is as great as ours. Good luck.

Yours truly,

Pvt. Bert B. Babero

Source | Philip McGuire, Ed., Taps for a Jim Crow Army: Letters from Black Soldiers in World War II (Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1983), 173.
Creator | Bert B. Babero
Item Type | Diary/Letter
Cite This document | Bert B. Babero, “A World War II Soldier Finds Segregation on Army Bases,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed November 14, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/721.

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