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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

Re: A Cautionary Tale!
In Response To: Re: A Cautionary Tale! ()

Lloyd, do you know what happened to Almond after Truman fired MacArthur?

Wonder what rationale was used during World War II to give the command of the 92nd Division to Almond.

Hondon B. Hargrove's introduction to his book "Buffalo Soldiers in Italy: Black Americans in World War II" reads as follows:

[Of the ninety American divisions deployed in World War II, many have been the object of glowing accolades. Over the years, movies, books, magazines, and radio and television "Specials" have extolled their exploits. Even divisions which fought poorly or not at all, have been praised and credited with brilliant feats of arms. One, the 106th Infantry Division, was decimated in its first contact with the enemy in December, 1944, with over 70 percent of its effectives killed, wounded, or captured. Yet, a story in the Saturday Evening Post of 9 September, 1946 bore the title: "The Glorious Collapse of the 106th."

Such, however, was not the case with the 92nd Infantry (Buffalo) Division, the only so-called "black" infantry division to see combat in Europe. Created in a season when complete segregation was prevalent in America, it was beset continuously by controversy because of the same rigid policy of segregation in the Army.

Except for a few chaplains and medical officers, all commanders and staff officers from division down through regiment and battalion levels, were white, as were most of the company commanders. All enlisted men were black.

In nine months of bitter combat in Italy, it was castigated by its commander, Major General Edward M. Almond, and his subordinate commanders, as a "failure," and the fighting capabilities of its black soldiers and officers were severely criticized. Stories of, "melting away" and "cowardly per­formance" were published in news magazines and have been repeated in other media over the years. No black officer in the division was considered capable of commanding an infantry battalion and none were promoted to major.

Not surprisingly, prevailing animosities toward black people at the time - over the country and in the Army - led to negativism about black soldiers, contributing to the usually unfavorable evaluations by their commmanders.

Contrary to its commanders' evaluations, however, 12,096 decorations and citations were won by the Buffalo Soldiers: Among them were 3 Distinguished Service Crosses (second highest award for valor in combat), 16 Legion of Merit Medals, 102 Silver Stars, 753 Bronze Stars, 76 Air Medals, 1910 Purple Hearts, and the Military Cross for Merit in War was awarded by the Italian government.

These were more awards for valor in combat than many American divisions received.

Casualties were heavy and were incurred in direct contact with the enemy. Five hundred eighteen (518) were killed in action and 2242 were wounded in action; 67 died of wounds, and 21 were prisoners of war. Of these casualties, only 18 were officers above the rank of captain; all others were junior officers (mostly black) and enlisted men.

Of all American divisions, the Buffalo Division has been least examined outside of the military establishment, yet in many ways it was one of the most fascinating and surprising of them all.]

One wonders what the outcome would have been if competent and tolerant officers had been assigned to the Division.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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