The article Yanks Under Fire was written by John Ohl to clarify the rumours that African-Americans could not amount to much in battle after the failed ambush by the Japanese in Bougainville during the Second World War. This was after an article was written by Billy Rowe who was covering the events of the 93rd Infantry Division failed to provide the in-depth details of the occurrence of the events, cause and what happened after. Ohl researched further, and this paper will summarize Ohl's article, his point of view, and the validity of his conclusion.
Ohl narrates the predicaments the African-Americans went through from the day they are enlisted to the day they are in the battle fronts. Before African American soldiers were enlisted, there had to be an intervention by African American leaders who campaigned for all people of color to serve in the army. A law was passed that African Americans to be allowed to serve in all branches of the military. These soldiers were enlisted through segregation where there were trained in lower standards compared to the whites and also had their hospitals and churches in the training camps. The army leaders were reluctant to take African-Americans to fight overseas in an assumption that the African-Americans had low intelligent qualities, therefore, could not be used as front line troops.
As a result of enlisting African Americans in the army, the 93rd Infantry Division made of colored soldiers was formed. The K Company from the 25th Infantry Division was led by Captain James Curran when they were sent to battle in Bougainville. A Japanese platoon ambushed the Infantry as they were following a trail that led them to an abandoned temporary hospital. This attack weakened the platoon's formation as many were confused and frightened. As Ohl narrates, this was due to inadequate training and lacking knowledge of the region's harsh terrain. The Infantry suffered both casualty and firearm loss in the midst of the ambush. A report was drafted by Col Frank Lucas whose investigations concluded that "the poor battle conduct of the patrol was caused by fright, lack of initiative and individual desire for self-preservation only of the majority of the men in the company" (Ohl, 53)
Soon afterward the war, Walter White, an African American leader, and a reporter wrote a letter to President Roosevelt campaigning against the rumors surrounding the 25th Infantry at Bougainville and that the incident should not be used to discriminate African Americans to serve in any branch in the army. The plea was heard, and a law was passed to desegregate the military and people of all color were eligible for all positions in the military.
The author of the article is well versed with the context of the events and have researched some references he raised forth the issue of racism and discrimination that was left out in Billy Rowe's PITTSBURGH COURIER article who was covering the events live in Bougainville. Ohl further helps us understand the reason why the K Company failed its first mission by analyzing that it was due to inadequate training and lack of morale and not because of the racial beliefs that African Americans were weak in wars.
It is evident from the article that the author shuns the previous method of selecting African American in the army where they were chosen through segregation and were not allowed to fight alongside white soldiers. This shows us that the author advocates for human equality and from his point of view we are all equal no matter the color of our skin. Ohl being a professor of history has a vast knowledge of wars, and how they can be won and one way is through strong unity of the state without discrimination.
We understand his humanity's point of view as he explains that African Americans fought for America and many parts of the world before. The author also highlights the people who campaigned for racial equality such as Walter White and the African American leaders by acknowledging their work in his article.
In conclusion, the author enlightens us on one of our greatest flaws as a human, and that is judging others based on their physical appearance or their history. It is ironical segregating soldiers in the training camps and expecting them to fight for their country against an enemy who is far away while their enemy is at home. The African America soldiers fought battles against the enemy abroad and against the racism at home. It is evident from the article that the sacrifice made by the African American soldiers to go to war so that they can improve the living conditions for their own at home paid off when desegregation of army service was initiated. It was the first step to attaining a nation free of racial discrimination as other agencies of the government followed suit.
The author aimed to uncover the hidden truths in historical events some of which the intricate details are the ones which changed history. He achieves this by commending the soldiers' courage and perseverance of the hostile conditions they had to endure both at home and abroad. He concludes by saying even though desegregation has been achieved, there are still people who believe that African Americans cannot amount to much and until that perception is changed we will always be at war with ourselves.
Ohl, John Kennedy. "Yanks Under Fire: K Company." World War II History (2005): 9.
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