The 'Korean War Oral History Collection' includes six interviews, five with African Americans, who give accounts of their service before and during the Korean War (1950-1953) -- and subsequent years in the military. A major theme is segregation and desegregation in the military. As one combat soldier said, Why were we segregated? I mean, we got along. We spoke the same language. Another interviewee summarized as follows: We felt freer in a foreign land than in the land of our birth.
Topics covered include race discrimination -- overt and subtle -- in a now (early 1950s) integrated military. . Interviews discuss forms of racial hostility in the military; black and white service clubs; and segregation in military -- even after President Truman issues Executive Order 9981 in July 1948 abolishing segregation in the armed forces. Other topics include: fighting alongside whites and race on the front lines; African Americans sticking together; African Americans in charge of integrated units; acceptance of segregation during the Korean War and troop integration during the Vietnam War; returning to segregation back in the states and not experiencing segregation on leaves in Japan; receiving medals; reasons for joining military service; the Uniform Code of Military Justice; treatment during basic training and differing treatment at nearby base towns, etc.
Interviews suggest that the Korean War may have speeded integration back in the states. Interviewees discuss their war experiences as an ammunition truck driver, a jeep driver for officers, combat soldiers, a paratrooper, an artillerist, and POWs. The interviews of the black veterans were conducted in 2000.
The 'Korean War Black Veterans Oral History Collection' is part of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program is an affiliated program of the University of Florida's Department of History. Its collections include approximately 4,000 interviews and more than 85,000 pages of transcribed material, making it the largest oral history archive in the South and one of the major collections in the country. The transcribed interviews are available for use by research scholars, students, journalists, genealogists, and other interested groups. Researchers have used our oral history material for theses, dissertations, articles, and books.
Digitization of the collection has been funded in part by the generous donation of Caleb and Michele Grimes.