The Military history of African Americans spans from the arrival of the first black slaves during the colonial history of the United States to the present day. There has been no war fought by or within the United States in which African Americans did not participate, including the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican–American War, the Civil War, the Spanish–American War, the World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other minor conflicts.
During World War II, most U.S. black soldiers still served only in maintenance or service positions, or in segregated units. Because of troop shortages during the Battle of the Bulge, Eisenhower decided to integrate the service for the first time. This was an important step toward a desegregated United States military. More than 2,000 black soldiers had volunteered to go to the front. A total of 708 black Americans were killed in combat during World War II.
Doris “Dorie” Miller a Navy mess attendant, was the first African American recipient of the Navy Cross, awarded for his actions during the attack on Pearl Harbour. Miller had voluntarily manned an anti-aircraft gun and fired at the Japanese aircraft, despite having no prior training in the weapon’s use. After training in Hawaii, the Liscome Bay took part in the Battle of Makin Island beginning November 20, 1943. On November 24, the ship was struck in the stern by a torpedo from the Japanese submarine I-175. The aircraft bomb magazine detonated a few moments later, causing the ship to sink within minutes. There were 272 survivors from the crew of over 900, but Miller was not among them. Along with two-thirds of the crew, he was listed as “presumed dead.” On December 7, 1943 — two years after Miller’s heroic actions at Pearl Harbor — his parents were informed that their son was “Missing in action.”
Many soldiers of colour served their country with distinction during World War II. There were 125,000 African Americans who were overseas in World War II. Famous segregated units, such as the Tuskegee Airmen
and 761st Tank Battalion and the lesser-known but equally distinguished 452nd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion proved their value in combat, leading to desegregation of all U.S. Armed Forces by order of President Harry S. Truman in July 1948 via Executive Order 9981.