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Harlem Hellfighters - 1st African American Regiment during WW1

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posted on Jun, 9 2010 @ 01:00 AM

Over the weekend my dad was talking to me about the first African American regiment to ever be deployed in WW1, The Harlem Hellfighters. aka The Black Rattlers.

They were known to be totally fearless in battle, while instilling fear in their German opponents. Literally they had guys crying all the way back to their mommas for some Lebkuchen. Unfortunately, since racism was still very prevalent back in the US then they ended up fighting a lot with the French units. After being detached and seconded to the French, they wore the Adrian helmet, while retaining the rest of their American uniform.

One Medal of Honor and many Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded to members of the regiment. Considering only 6,185 Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded at that time that is pretty amazing. Also from what I understand it of course took the veterans (mainly their families) a long time for them to even get recognition.

A noteworthy soldier was Pvt. Henry Lincoln Johnson, who earned the nickname "Black Death" for his actions in combat in France. In May 1918 Johnson and Pvt. Needham Roberts fought off a 24-man German patrol from their position. After they depleted their ammo, Roberts resorted to his rifle as a club and Johnson battled with a bolo knife! The French government awarded these two and their regiment the Croix de Guerre with silver star for the taking of Séchault. By the end of the war, 171 members of the 369th were awarded the Legion of Honor.

A little known fact is that one soldier from the 369th division, James Reese Europe became famous throughout Europe, being the first to introduce the until-then unknown music called jazz to British, French and other audiences, and starting a worldwide demand for it!

Pretty interesting tidbit of history to learn about, he was discussing this to me after watching the WW1 tanks specials on The History Channel, which is a must see as well!

Peace for the week all.

~Dr. E

posted on Jun, 9 2010 @ 02:14 AM
My Great Grandfather received the Croix de Guerre in WWI, I don't recall much except reading that he had crossed German machine gun fire to deliver an important message, they didn't have radios back then to relay commands and had to rely upon runners.

Also with the military being segregated my Great Grandfather, was with a Choctaw Indian regiment who were using their Native language to encode these messages preventing the Germans from being able to decipher them in the event they were intercepted.

This even predates the Navajo Code Talkers of WWII.

With the military being segregated much of the history of these regiments goes into the archives of history and is often times forgotten.

In fact during the most recent D-Day Anniversary celebration a French journalist who was creating a D-Day documentary noted how little footage of the Black infantrymen who partook in the D-Day invasion was documented or even filmed.

posted on Jun, 9 2010 @ 06:39 AM
Great thread Dr. Eyebrows. Too much history of colored and native american troops in american wars has been forgotten. What a great reminder of the sacrifices these men made for their country, even though "their country" often degraded them and even refused them their basic civil rights. but they fought just the same in the hope that their sacrifices would win their people back home the rights they deserved.

Black pilots had to join the french air force as the US didn;t allow them to be pilots or other important positions. Often they would be employed as truck drivers, cooks and litter bearers since the US war department didn't think them to be competent combat soldiers even after proving time and again during the US civil war that were the equal of their white counterparts any day.

God bless these men and their memories, may they get the recognition they truly deserve. The sad fact is that it was only through war that they got the opportunity to prove themselves equal to whites. Much could also be said about the improvement of race relations in the US due to the armed forces and white and black serving side by side. SOME good does come from war, even if unintentional.

My grandfather served in WWI in the US artillery, He was wounded by a german shell that killed the men on either side of him. It is only by a fluke that he survived and I am even here. It helps me to remember how dicey life is when I think about it.

The men of that generation didn't like to talk about their war experiences, it was a hell they would as soon forget as retell. My father was the one who told me about it, my grandpa never did. More than anything he loved the peace of fishing. After surviving gas attacks and german shells I can see why.

Great pictures too, star and flag

posted on Jun, 13 2010 @ 04:07 PM
Yes, excellent post Dr Eyebrows. I thought that I would check in to review the raving responses and flags from our fellow ATS members.

As an aviation buff and private pilot I have always been intrigued by the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, one of whom I had the pleasure of meeting.

He was part of the second phase of the Tuskegee Airmen project of Negro pilots, flying a B-25 Mitchell medium bomber in the pacific theatre.

My Mom who is from Columbus OH knew one of the original Tuskegee airmen who flew the P-51 Mustang in WWII Europe as a kid. He being an aviator flying fighter aircraft was a major hero back in Ohio also where North American Aircraft,the manufacturers of the P-51 were headquartered.

People don't realize it but these Black aviators devised an ingenious means of flying bomber cover and as a result were the fighter squadron in WWII most requested by bomber crews to fly fighter air cover due to their excellent track record.

The Tuskegee airmen even managed to shoot down 4 of the German Luftwaffe's advanced ME-262 Jet fighters, a formidable aviation achievement with a propeller based aircraft.

All from an experiment originally devised to prove that Negroes lacked the intelligence and ability to pilot an aircraft in combat !


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