Ethnic minorities in the US armed forces during World War II

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The following passage from pages 187-190 of Selective Service and Victory: The 4th Report of the Director of Selective Service (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1948) represents the best statistical information available to the United States Army Center of Military History to answer questions about the participation of various minority groups in the armed forces of the United States during the Second World War. Note carefully which of these statistics cover those minorities drafted into the armed forces and which include personnel who voluntarily enlisted. Statistics are extremely difficult to compile since contemporary classifications and the Army's interest in data rarely match modern interests.

Minority Groups

Another special problem of great importance in Selective Service operations was the mobilization of Negro registrants and other minority groups of this nature. The main difficulty here was securing the induction of men who were found (1) to be available by the System and (2) to be qualified by the armed forces physical examination. There were, of course, other problems as evidenced by the following treatment of the matter for the period extending from July 1, 1944 through December 31, 1945.

One Million Negro Inductions

Negroes were an important source of manpower for the armed forces in World War II as is shown by the fact that a total of 1,056,841 Negro registrants were inducted into the armed forces through Selective Service as of December 31, 1945. Of these,

  1. 885,945 went into the Army,
  2. 153,224 into the Navy,
  3. 16,005 into the Marine Corps, and
  4. 1,667 into the Coast Guard.

These Negro inductees made up:

  1. 10.9 percent of all registrants inducted into the Army (8,108,531),
  2. 10.0 percent of all inductions into the Navy (1,526,250),
  3. 8.5 percent of all Marine Corps inductions (188,709) and
  4. 10.9 percent of all Coast Guard inductions (15,235).

Thus Negroes, who constituted approximately 11.0 percent of all registrants liable for service, furnished approximately this proportion of the inductees in all branches of the service except During the period July 1, 1944 – December 31, 1945, 141,294 Negroes were inducted, comprising 9.6 percent of all inductions (1,469,808) therein. Of this number:

  1. 103,360 went into the Army, which was 9.1 percent of all Army inductions (1,132,962).
  2. The Navy received 36,616 Negroes, or 11.6 percent of its inductees (316,215).
  3. The 1,309 Negroes going into the Marine Corps were 6.4 percent of Marine Corps inductions (20,563).
  4. Only 9 Negroes were inducted into the Coast Guard, but this was 13.2 percent of the inductees for this branch of service (68).

The somewhat lower proportion of Negro inductions during this period was principally due to the proportionately lower calls made upon Selective Service for Negro registrants. The Negro call for 18 months was only 135,600, or 8.3 percent of the total call (1,639,100).

Inductions of Other Minority Groups

Inductions into the Army of Selective Service registrants from other racial and nationality groups up to December 31, 1945, included:

  1. 13,311 Chinese,
  2. 20,080 Japanese,
  3. 1,320 Hawaiians,
  4. 19,567 American Indians,
  5. 11,506 Filipinos, and
  6. 51,438 Puerto Ricans.

Counting enlistments and those in the Enlisted Reserve Corps, a total of 24,085 Japanese Americans had either enlisted or been inducted into the Army by December 31, 1945. Similar statistics are not available for the naval services. Also by June 30, 1945, a total of 125,880 aliens of various nationalities had enlisted or been inducted into the Army and Navy. The increased proportion of inductions of Japanese-Americans during the two 6-months periods from July 1, 1944, to June 30, 1945 is indicated in the first table. Beginning January 14, 1944, registrants who were natural-born United States citizens of Japanese extraction or parentage were subject to induction in the Army after the War Department had determined in each case that the registrant was acceptable.

African American Enlistments

From December 1942 until VJ-day there were relatively few enlistments into the armed forces as restrictions against the direct recruiting of men in the age group acceptable for service (18-37) were in effect. There were, however, 483,605 other enlistments into the Army and Navy during the period July 1, 1944, to June 30, 1945, but only 1.3 percent were African Americans. Although African Americans constitute approximately 11 percent of the population, aged 18 through 37, only 0.8 percent of Army enlistees and 1.4 percent of Navy enlistees during the period July 1, 1944, to June 30, 1945, were of that race. The reasons why relatively few Negroes enlisted during World War II were numerous. The principal one, however, was the severe restrictions placed against African American enlistments by the armed forces, which, in some periods, amounted to complete prohibition."

Army inductions by race, July 1, 1944-December 31, 1945 United States and Territories

Accumulative to June 30, 1944	July–December 1944	January–June 1945	July–December 1945	Accumulative to December 31, 1945
All Races 	Number 	7,041,087 	393,392 	518,127 	272,747 	8,225,353
	        Percent 100 	        100 	        100 	        100      	100
White 	        Number 	6,139,589 	348,060 	457,460 	236,675 	7,181,784
	        Percent 87.2 	        88.5    	88.3    	86.7    	87.3
Negro 	        Number 	797,444 	30,882  	46,123 	        27,447  	901,896
	        Percent 11.3 	        7.8 	        8.9     	10.1    	11.0
Japanese 	Number 	11,260 	        3,483 	        2,933    	2,404   	20,080
	        Percent 0.2 	        0.9     	0.6     	0.9     	0.1
Puerto Rican 	Number 	32,344 	        8,109    	8,005   	2,980   	51,438
	        Percent 0.5 	        2.1     	1.5 	        1.1 	        0.6
Others 	        Number 	60,450 	        2,858    	3,606   	3,241   	70,155
	        Percent 0.8 	        0.7      	0.7     	1.2     	0.9

Enlistments by race and service, July 1, 1944 to June 30, 1945

Branch of Service
        Total           White           Negro
        Number  (%)     Number  (%)     Number  (%)
TOTAL 	483,605 100 	477,285 98.7 	6,320 	1.3
Army 	 90,707 100 	 89,952 99.2 	  755 	0.8
Navy    392,898 100 	387,333 98.6 	5,565 	1.4


PD-icon.svg  This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Army Center of Military History document "Selective Service and Victory: The 4th Report of the Director of Selective Service".

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