Limited Response to Discrimination

The good feelings brought on by the integration of the armed forces lasted less than a decade. By the early 1960's the Department of Defense and the civil rights advocates had begun once more to draw apart, the source of contention centering on their differing interpretations of the scope of the Truman order. The Defense Department professed itself unable to interfere with community laws and customs even when those laws and customs discriminated against men in uniform. The civil rights leaders, however, rejected the federal government's acceptance of the status quo. Reacting especially to the widespread and blatant discrimination encountered by servicemen both in communities adjacent to bases at home and abroad and in the reserve components of the services in many parts of the country, they stepped up demands for remedial action against a situation that they believed continued at the sufferance of the armed forces.

Nor were their demands limited to the problem of discrimination in the local community. Civil rights spokesmen backed the complaints of those black servicemen who had begun to question their treatment in the military community itself. Lacking what many of them considered an effective procedure for dealing with racial complaints, black servicemen usually passed on their grievances to congressmen and various civil rights organizations, and these, in turn, took the problems to the Defense Department. The number of complaints over inequalities in promotion, assignment, and racial representation never matched the volume of those on discrimination in the community, nor did their appearance attest to a new set of problems or any particular increase in discrimination. It seemed rather that the black serviceman, after the first flush of victory over segregation, was beginning to perceive from the vantage of his Improved position that other and perhaps more subtle barriers stood in his way. Whatever the reason, complaints of discrimination within the services themselves, rarely heard in the Pentagon in the late 1950's, suddenly reappeared.. l Actually, the complaints about discrimination both in the local civilian community and on the military reservation called for a basic alteration in the way the services interpreted their policies of equal treatment and opportunity. In the end it would prove easier for the services to attack the gaudier but ultimately less complicated problems outside their gates.

It would be a mistake to equate the notice given the persistent but subtle problem of on-base discrimination with the sometimes brutal injustice visited on black servicemen off-base in the early 1960's. Black servicemen often found the short bus ride from post to town a trip into the past, where once again they were forced to endure the old patterns of segregation. Defense Department officials were aware, for example, that decent housing open to black servicemen was scarce. With limited income, under military orders, and often forced by circumstances to reside in the civilian community, black servicemen were, in the words of Robert S. McNamara, President Kennedy's Secretary of Defense, "singularly defenseless against this bigotry."2 While the services had always denied responsibility for combating this particular form of discrimination, many in the black community were anxious to remind them of John F. Kennedy's claim in the presidential campaign of 1960 that discrimination in housing could be alleviated with a stroke of the Chief Executive's pen.

But housing was only part of a larger pattern of segregation that included restrictions on black servicemen's use of many places of public accommodation such as restaurants, theaters, and saloons, some literally on the doorstep of military reservations. James Evans listed some twenty-seven military installations in the United States where in 1961 segregation in transportation and places of public accommodation was established in adjacent communities by law or custom.3 Moreover, instances of blatant Jim Crow tactics were rapidly multiplying near bases in Japan, Germany, the Philippines, and elsewhere as host communities began to adopt the prejudices of their visitors.4 The United States Commission on Civil Rights charged that black servicemen were often reluctant to complain to their superiors or the Inspector General because of the repeated failure of local commands to show concern for the problem and suspicion that complainers would be subjected to reprisals.5

Civil rights leaders were particularly distressed by this form of discrimination, which, considering the armed forces' persistent declaration of impotence in the matter, seemed destined to remain a permanent condition of service life. "These problems involve factors which are not directly under the control of the Department of Defense," Assistant Secretary for Manpower Carlisle P. Runge noted in a typical response.6 Similar sentiments were often expressed by local commanders, although some tried to soften their refusal to act with the hope that the military example might change local community attitudes in the long run.7 Congressman Charles C. Diggs, Jr., did not share this hope. Citing numerous examples for the President of discrimination against black servicemen, he charged that, far from influencing local communities to change, commanders actually cooperated in discrimination by punishing or otherwise identifying protesting servicemen as troublemakers.8

CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS AT THE WHITE HOUSE. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy poses with (from left) Martin Luther King, Jr., Roy Wilkins, Whitney M. Young, Jr., and A. Philip Randolph. [Photograph not included.]

Especially galling to civil rights leaders was the conviction that the armed forces had set up artificial and self-imposed barriers to a needed social reform. In the end this conviction seemed to spur them on. The American Veterans Committee, for example, demanded that when a community "mistreats American troops, such as in Montgomery, Alabama, or flaunts its Ku Klux Klan membership, as does Selma, Alabama, the entire area should be placed 'off limits' to purchases by Defense installations and by Servicemen."9 Others were convinced that the federal government was in effect supporting segregation through its widespread economic assistance programs to state and local governments and to private institutions in the fields of employment, housing, education, health service, military affairs, and agriculture. In August 1961 a group of fifty civil rights leaders petitioned the President to end such federal support.10 On a more modest scale, the Congress of Racial Equality asked the Army in August 1962 to declare segregated restaurants in Aberdeen, Maryland, off limits to all military personnel. The activist group justified its demand by stating that "the Army declares dangerous or immoral establishments off limits to soldiers and what is more dangerous or immoral in a democracy than racial intolerance?'' 11 In this they failed to distinguish between the commander's proper response to what was illegal, for example prostitution, and what was still legal, for example, segregated housing.

The Kennedy Administration and Civil Rights

The strong connection between black morale and military efficiency made it likely that the new Secretary of Defense would be intimately concerned with problems of discrimination. Highly trained in modern managerial techniques Robert S. McNamara came to the Pentagon with the idea of instituting a series of fundamental changes in the management of the armed forces through manpower reorganization and what was becoming known as systems analysis. Whatever his attitude toward racial justice, his initial interest in the Defense Department's black employees, military and civilian, was closely linked to his concern for military efficiency. Less than a week on the job, he called for information on the status of Negroes in the department. He had heard that some services were better integrated than others, and he wanted his Assistant Secretary for Manpower to investigate. He wanted to know if there was a "fair" proportion of Negroes in the higher civilian grades. If not, he asked, "what do you recommend be done about it?''l2 These questions, and indeed all action on civil rights matters originating in his office in the months to come, indicated that McNamara, like his predecessors, would limit his reforms to discrimination within the services themselves. But as time passed, McNamara, like President Kennedy, would warm to the civil rights cause and eventually both would become firmly committed.

The Kennedy administration has been closely identified with civil rights, yet the President's major biographers and several of his assistants agree that his commitment to civil rights reform did not emerge full-blown on inauguration day. It was only in the last months of his administration that Kennedy, subjected to civil rights demands and sharing the interests and experiences of his brother Robert, the Attorney General, threw himself wholeheartedly into the civil rights fray.l3 As senator and later as President, Kennedy was sympathetic to the aspirations of the black minority, appreciated its support in his campaign, but regarded civil rights as one, and not the most pressing, problem facing the Chief Executive. Even his administration's use of federal marshals during the freedom rides in 1961 and its use of both marshals and troops at Oxford, Mississippi, in 1962 and troops again in Alabama in 1963 were justified in the name of enforcement of federal judicial processes. Well into 1963 he studiously downplayed the civil rights issues involved.

Kennedy was convinced that the only answer to the injustices suffered by Negroes was a series of strong laws, but he was also certain that such legislation was impossible to achieve in 1961. To urge it on an unwilling Congress would only jeopardize his legislative program, increase the black minority's feeling of frustration, and divide the nation in a period of national crisis. Discussing the Civil Rights Commission's "non-negotiable" demands concerning the organized reserves, for example, commission member Father Theodore Hesburgh remembered the President saying: Look, l have a serious problem in West Berlin, and I do not think this is the proper time to start monkeying around with the Army.... I have no problem with the principle of this, and we'll certainly be doing it, but at this precise moment I have to keep uppermost in mind that I may need these units . . . and I can't have them in the midst of a social revolution while I'm trying to do this. 14

Kennedy temporized. He would promptly and positively endorse the principle of equal rights and enforce the civil rights decisions of the Supreme Court through negotiation, moral suasion, executive order, and, when necessary, through the use of federal marshals.15 The Justice Department meanwhile would pursue a vigorous course of litigation to insure the franchise for Negroes from which, he believed, all civil blessings flowed.

Civil rights was not mentioned in Kennedy's first State of the Union message. With the exception of a measure to outlaw literacy and poll tax requirements for voting, no civil rights bills were sent to the Eighty-seventh Congress. Yet at one of his first press conferences, the President told newsmen that a plan to withhold federal funds in certain segregation cases would be included in a general study "of where the Federal Government might usefully place its power and influence to expand civil rights."16 On 6 March 1961 he signed Executive Order 10925, which combined the committees on government contracts and employment policy into a single Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity chaired by the Vice President.17 His order, he believed, specified sanctions "sweeping enough to ensure compliance."18 Finally, in November 1962, after numerous and increasingly pointed reminders from civil rights advocates, the President issued Executive Order 11063, directing executive agencies to take action against discrimination in the sale or lease of federal housing or any housing bought with loans from or insured by the federal government. 19

Besides executive orders, the White House had other ways, less formal but perhaps more efficient, of getting the federal bureaucracy to move on civil rights. Upon the recommendation of Special Assistant Frederick G. Dutton, the President created the Civil Rights Subcabinet Group in March 1961 to coordinate the administration's civil rights actions. Under Dutton's chairmanship, this group included the assistant secretaries responsible for racial matters in their respective agencies, with White House Special Civil Rights Assistant Harris Wofford serving as executive secretary.20 The group regularly scrutinized the racial programs of the various departments, demanding reports and investigations of racial matters and insuring that the interests and criticisms of the administration were quickly disseminated at the operations level of the federal agencies affected.21

There is evidence that the Subcabinet group was responsible for considerable cross-fertilization of civil rights programs among the departments. For example, it appears to have used the experience of black servicemen in interstate travel to move the Department of Justice and, with the assistance of Attorney General Kennedy, the Interstate Commerce Commission toward eliminating such discrimination.22 And it was through the Subcabinet group that the Attorney General's interest in minority voting rights was translated into a voting registration campaign among servicemen.23

The existence of this group, with its surveys, questions, and investigations, put constant pressure on the armed services. They were not singled out for special treatment, but they obviously attracted the attention of both the White House and the civil rights organizations because their commitment to equal treatment and opportunity affected so many people and their past successes and remaining problems were having a decided impact on American society. In the words of presidential assistant Wofford, the Defense Department was "a world within itself," a world which by its magnitude could make a "significant contribution by its example" to the solution of the nation's racial problems.24

The size of the department's racial program alluded to by Wofford also invited the attention of a federal agency outside White House control. The United States Commission on Civil Rights was continually investigating the services, probing allegations of discrimination against black servicemen and evaluating the role of the department in community race relations.25 Of particular interest to an understanding of racial policy in the 1960's is the commission's comprehensive survey, titled "The Services and Their Relations with the Community," which concluded that the continued existence of community discrimination against servicemen and their dependents had a detrimental effect on the morale and efficiency of significant numbers of them. The commission cataloged the traditional alibis of military commanders: "it is not the mission of the services to concern themselves with the practices of the local community"; the commander's responsibility "stops at the gate"; harmonious relations with the community must be maintained; and, finally, in order to achieve harmony, servicemen must comply with local laws and customs. Yet when it came to other areas of community relations, particularly where the general health, welfare, and morale of the servicemen were involved, the commission found that commanders did not hesitate to ally themselves with servicemen, local community controversy and opposition notwithstanding. The commission wanted the services to take a similar stand against racial discrimination in the community. Although its specific recommendations differed little from those of civil rights leaders, its position as an independent federal agency and its access to the news media added a constant and special pressure on the services.26

Another pressure on the armed forces in the early sixties was exerted by the civil rights bureaucracy in the White House itself. Various presidential assistants subjected the services' reports on progress in the equal opportunity field to unprecedented scrutiny, asking questions that forced the Defense Department to explain or justify its racial policies and practices.27 In March 1961, civil rights assistants on the President's staff inquired about the number of Negroes on the Defense Department's military and civilian screening boards.28Later, Special Assistant Frank D. Reeves inquired about the employees working in the executive area of the department and suggested that the front offices do something about hiring more black office workers.29 And again as a result of a number of questions raised about the Navy's race policy, presidential assistant Wofford sponsored a White House meeting on 18 September 1961 for several civil rights representatives and Adam Yarmolinsky, Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, with the Chief of Naval Personnel, Vice Adm. William R. Smedberg. Beginning with Yarmolinsky's probing questions concerning the perennial problem of racial composition of the Steward's Branch, the meeting evolved into a general review of the Navy's recent problems and achievements in race relations.30

At times this White House scrutiny could be aggressively critical. There was, for example, small comfort for Defense Department officials in Dutton's review of department comments on the recommendations of the Civil Rights Leadership Conference submitted to the White House in August 1961.31 Dutton wanted to know more about the department's inquiry into possible racial discrimination in the sentences meted out by military courts. He was concerned with the allegation, categorically denied by the Defense Department, that black servicemen with school-aged dependents were being moved off bases to avoid integrating base schools. He wanted a prompt investigation. Dutton was impatient with the Navy's explanation for the continuing predominance of Negroes in the Steward's Branch, and he was especially critical of the racial situation in the National Guard. He wanted a progress report on these points. Finally, he was unhappy with the lack of Negroes in officer training, an executive area, he claimed, in which civilian agencies were forging ahead. He wanted something done about that also.32

The disquietude White House staff members produced among Defense Department officials was nothing compared to the trauma induced by the President's personal attention. John Kennedy rarely intervened but he did so on occasion quickly and decisively and in a way illustrative of his administration's civil rights style. He acted promptly, for example, when he noticed an all-white unit from the Coast Guard Academy marching in his inaugural parade. His call to the Secretary of the Treasury Douglas Dillon on inauguration night led to the admission of the first black students to the Coast Guard Academy. He elaborated on the incident during his first cabinet meeting, asking each department head to analyze the minority employment situation in his own department. He was also upset to see "few, if any" black honor guardsmen in the units that greeted visiting Ghanian President Kwame Nkrumah on 13 March, an observation not lost on Secretary McNamara. "Would it be possible," the new defense chief asked his manpower assistant, "to introduce into these units a reasonable number of negro personnel?"33 An immediate survey revealed that Negroes accounted for 14 percent of the Air Force honor unit, 8 percent of the Army's, and 2.2 percent of the Marines Corps'. The 100-man naval unit had no black members.34

PRESIDENT KENNEDY AND PRESIDENT ALLESSANDRI OF CHILE review an all-white honor guard unit, White House, 1962. [Photograph not included.]

These were minor incidents, yet Kennedy's interest was bound to make a difference. As Evans wryly put it in regard to the survey of blacks in the honor guard: "Pending any further instructions it is submitted that the alert which has been given in person and by telephone in connection with the securing of the above data may be adequate for accomplishing the objectives contemplated in the [McNamara] memorandum."35 If not conducive to substantive change in the lot of the black serviceman, the President's intervention signaled in a way clearly understood by Washington bureaucrats that a new style in executive politics was at hand and a new awareness of the racial implications of their actions was expected of them.36

The Department of Defense, 1961-1963

The White House approach to civil rights matters was faithfully adopted in McNamara's department. Despite a reputation for foot-dragging in some quarters—Deputy Secretary Roswell L. Gilpatric admitted that neither he nor McNamara was especially interested in personnel matters and that some of their early appointments in the personnel field were inappropriate—37 the secretary and his assistants issued a spate of directives and policy memorandums and inaugurated a whole series of surveys and investigations. Yarmolinsky was later able to recall eleven major papers produced by the secretary's office during the first thirty months of McNamara's incumbency. Evans's more comprehensive list of actions taken by the office of the secretary's manpower assistant with regard to equal opportunity contained some forty items.38 These totals did not include 1,717 racial complaints the Defense Department investigated and adjudicated before September 1963 nor the scores of contract compliance reviews conducted under the equal opportunity clauses in defense contracts.39

The number of Department of Defense rulings that pertained directly to black servicemen was matched by the comprehensiveness of their subject matter. Many concerned the recruitment of Negroes and the increase in their proportion of the military establishment. Others pertained to off-base matters, ranging from prohibitions against the use of segregated facilities during field exercises to the use of military units in ceremonies and shows involving segregated audiences. Continued segregation in the reserves, the racial policies of the United Services Organization, and even the racial rule of morticians who dealt with the services came in for attention.

Yet if these investigations and directives bespoke a quickened tempo in the fight for equal treatment and opportunity in the armed forces, they did not herald a substantive reinterpretation of policy. The Defense Department continued to limit its actions to matters obviously and directly within its purview. The same self-imposed restriction that kept McNamara's immediate predecessors from dealing with the most pressing demands for reforms by black servicemen and the civil rights leaders continued to be observed. This fact was especially clear in the case of the Defense Department's four major policy pronouncements involving the complex problem of discrimination visited upon servicemen and their dependents outside the gates of the military reservation.

Discrimination Off the Military Reservation

In the first of these directives, which was derived from President Kennedy's executive order on equal employment opportunity,40 Secretary McNamara laid down that no departmental facility could be used by employee recreational organizations that practiced racial or religious discrimination. Included were facilities financed from nonappropriated funds as well as all organizations to which civilian as well as military personnel belonged.41 A straightforward enough commitment to a necessary racial reform, the secretary's order could by logical extension also be viewed as carrying the department's fight against racial discrimination into the civilian community. Yet precisely because of these implications, the directive was subjected to later clarification. Official interpretation revealed that secretarial rhetoric aside, the Department of Defense was not yet ready to involve civilians in its equality crusade.

The problem emerged when the commander of Maxwell Air Force Base, in keeping with his reading of the McNamara order, prohibited the use of Maxwell's dining halls for a segregated luncheon of the American Legion's Boys' State and its playing fields for the segregated Maxwell Little League teams. Assistant Secretary Runge quickly reassured Senator Lister Hill of Alabama that the 28 April order was limited to employee organizations and so informed the Under Secretary of the Air Force.42 But a further clarification and, in effect, a further restriction of the department's policy in discrimination cases was issued when the Civil Rights Commission became interested in the case. "If these activities are not covered by the April 28 directive," the commission's staff director-designate wanted to know, "what is the position of the Department of Defense on them?"43 Runge's response, cleared through Special Assistant Yarmolinsky, was hardly reassuring to the commission. The department did not inquire into the racial rules of private organizations that used departmental facilities, Runge explained, nor did it object when its departmentally sponsored teams and groups played or performed with segregated private recreational groups.44

With the effect of a stone dropped into water, the implications of the antidiscrimination memorandum continued to ripple outward. The commander of Brookley Air Force Base, Alabama, canceled the sale of subsidized tickets to the Mobile Bears baseball games by the base's civilian welfare council on the grounds that the ball park's segregated seating of Air Force personnel violated the secretary's order. Inquiries from Capitol Hill set off another round of clarifications.45 While the secretary's manpower advisers were inclined to support the base commander's action, some of the department's legal advisers had reservations. Canceling the sale of tickets, a lawyer in the general counsel's office noted, was consistent with one construction of the secretary's memorandum but was not the "inevitable interpretation" since it was the ball club and not the Air Force recreational organization that discriminated.46 Another departmental lawyer warned that if the commander's interpretation was sustained the department would next have to prohibit welfare groups from selling unsubsidized tickets to events where the seating or even perhaps the performers themselves were segregated.47

Yarmolinsky ignored such speculations, and on 4 August 1961 informed special presidential assistant Dutton that the secretary's office approved the base commander's action. Although the sale of tickets did not technically violate Executive Order 10925, the department's sponsorship and subsidy of segregated events, he said, "is, in our opinion, not consonant with the clear intent of the President's memorandum."48 Yarmolinsky suggested the White House might want to consider proposing to the ball club that the air base would resume the sale of tickets if it could sell a block of unsegregated seats. The White House reply was postponed until after the passage of the foreign aid bill, but the Air Force eventually received notice to proceed along these lines.49

On 19 June 1961 Deputy Secretary Gilpatric issued a second major policy statement. This one ostensibly dealt with the availability of integrated community facilities for servicemen, but was in fact far wider in scope, and brought the department nearer the uncharted shoals of community race relations. A testament to the extraordinary political sensitivity of the subject was the long time the document spent in the drafting stage. Its wording incorporated the suggestions of representatives of the three service secretaries and was carefully reviewed by the President's civil rights advisers, who wanted the draft shown to the President "because of his particular interest in Civil Rights matters."50 With their request in mind, and because of what he considered "the tense situation now existent in the South," Runge urged the secretary to send the President the memorandum. Before doing so McNamara asked his general counsel, Cyrus R. Vance, to discuss the draft with the under secretaries of the services and Assistant Attorney General Nicholas B. Katzenbach and Burke Marshall. At the suggestion of the justice officials, the draft was slightly revised; then it was sent once again to the services for review. Finally on 19 June 1961, and only after Yarmolinsky had rejected certain minor alterations suggested by the services, was the memorandum issued under Gilpatric's signature and its provisions passed down to the local commanders by the service secretaries.51

The policy that emerged from all this careful labor committed the services to very little change. In the first place the title, The Availability of Facilities to Military Personnel, was vague, a legacy of the department's fear of congressional retaliation for any substantive move in the politically sensitive area of race relations. Actually the secretary's office was primarily concerned with discrimination in places of public accommodation such as swimming pools, recreational facilities, meeting halls, and the like while the explosive subject of off-base housing was ignored. Although the order's ambiguity did not preclude initiatives in the housing field by some zealous commanders, neither did it oblige any commander to take any specific action, thus providing a convenient excuse for no action at all.52 Commanders, for example, were ordered to provide integrated facilities off post for servicemen "to the extent possible," a significant qualification in areas where such facilities were not available in the community. Commanders were also "expected to make every effort" to obtain integrated facilities off base through the good offices of their command-community relations committees. In effect the department was asking its commanders to achieve through tact what the courts and the Justice Department were failing to achieve through legal process.

Where the order was specific, it carefully limited the extent of reforms. It barred the use of military police in the enforcement of local segregation laws, a positive step but a limited reform since only in very rare instances had military police ever been so employed. The order also provided "as circumstances warranted" for legal assistance to servicemen to insure that they were afforded due  process of law in cases growing out of the enforcement of local segregation ordinances. Again what seemed a broad commitment and extensive interference with local matters was in practice very carefully circumscribed, as demonstrated by the Air Force policy statement issued in the wake of the secretary's order.

The Air Force announced that in the case of discrimination in the community, the local Air Force commander and his staff judge advocate would interview the aggrieved serviceman to ascertain the facts and advise him of his legal recourses, "but will neither encourage nor discourage the filing of a criminal complaint." The purpose of the policy, the Air Force Chief of Staff explained, was to assist servicemen and at the same time avoid disrupting good community relations. The commander should remain interested, but he should leave the work to his judge advocate so that the commander would not personally be "caught in the middle" to the detriment of his community relations program. If local authorities refused to cooperate, the matter should be referred to higher authority who might pursue it with local government officials. Such procedures might keep the commander from becoming embroiled in locally sensitive issues.53 In short, discrimination was to be fought through voluntary action at the local command level, but nothing was to be done that might compromise the commander's standing with the local authorities.

McNamara's office displayed the same good intentions and crippling inhibitions when it considered policy on the participation of servicemen in civil rights demonstrations. The secretary had inherited a policy from his predecessor who, in the wake of a series of sit-in demonstrations involving black airmen in the spring of 1960, had approved a plan devised by the judge advocate generals of the services and other Defense Department officials. Declaring such activity "inappropriate" in light of the services' mission, these officials banned the participation of servicemen in civil rights demonstrations and gave local commanders broad discretionary powers to prevent such participation, including the right to declare the place of demonstration off. limits or to restrict servicemen to the base. Although all the services adopted the new policy, only the Air Force published detailed instructions.54

This prohibition did not deter all black servicemen, and some commanders, in their zeal to enforce departmental policy, went beyond the methods McNamara's predecessor had recommended. Such was the case during a series of sit-ins at Killeen, Texas, near the Army's Fort Hood, where, as reported in the national press and subsequently investigated by the United States Commission on Civil Rights, the commander used military police to break up two demonstrations.55 The secretary's office reacted quickly to the incidents. A prohibition against the use of military police to quell civil rights demonstrations was quickly included in the secretary's policy statement, The Availability of Facilities to Military Personnel, then being formulated. "This memorandum," Assistant Secretary Runge assured McNamara, "should preclude any further such incidents."56 In specific reference to the situation in the Fort Hood area the Deputy Under Secretary of the Army reported that as a result of a new policy and the emphasis placed on personal contact by commanders with local community representatives, "a cordial relationship now exists between Fort Hood and the surrounding communities."57

But to ban the use of military police and to urge commanders to deal with local business leaders to end segregation actually begged the question. Significantly, the much-heralded memorandum on the availability of integrated facilities failed to review the rules governing participation in demonstrations, a subject of pressing interest to an increasing number of Negroes as the civil rights struggle moved into a more active phase. Bothered by this failure, Air Force representatives on the policy drafting team had wanted to provide local commanders with guidance before civil rights incidents occurred. The justice officials who reviewed the memorandum at McNamara's invitation, however, were reluctant to see specific reference to such incidents incorporated, and the matter was ignored.58

In fact, justice officials were not the only ones reluctant to see the issue raised. It was a common belief in the Defense Department that military service placed some limitations on a man's basic liberties. Because servicemen were assigned to their duty station, subject to immediate transfers and on duty twenty-four hours a day, they were allowed no opportunity for participating in demonstrations.59 The department's general counsel was even more specific, saying that a prohibition against picketing would not conflict with the department's antidiscrimination policies and could be lawfully imposed by the services. "Indeed," he believed, "the role of the military establishment in our society required the imposition of such a limitation on the off-duty activities of service personnel."60 Blessed by such authority, the 1960 prohibition against participation in civil rights demonstrations remained in effect for more than three years.61

  Such restrictions could not last much longer. Given the civil rights temper of the times—1963 witnessed the mammoth march on Washington, the introduction of President Kennedy's civil rights bill, and the landmark directive of the Secretary of Defense on equal opportunity in the armed forces—a total prohibition on servicemen's participation in demonstrations appeared more and more incongruous. Finally, on 16 July 1963, McNamara relaxed the department's policy. Still declaring such participation inappropriate and unnecessary for servicemen in view of their "special obligations of citizenship," he nevertheless lifted the ban on military participation in demonstrations, provided that the uniform was not worn; such activity took place during off-duty hours, off the military reservation, and did not constitute a breach of law and order; and no violence was reasonably likely to result. 62

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE MCNAMARA [Photograph not included.]

Again an apparent liberalization of departmental racial policy actually promised very little change. First, the continuing prohibitions on participation in demonstrations were so broad and so vague that they could be interpreted to cover almost any civil rights activity. Then, too, the secretary left the interpretation of his order to the judgment of local commanders, a dubious blessing in the eyes of the civil libertarians and concerned servicemen in light of the narrow constructions commanders had given recent Defense Department memorandums. Finally, the relaxation of the ban was applicable only to the continental United States. In response to a request for guidance from the European commander, the Joint Chiefs of Staff informed all overseas commanders that as guests of Allied nations, U.S. servicemen had no right to picket, demonstrate, or otherwise participate in any act designed to "alter the policies, practices, or activities of the local inhabitants who are operating within the framework of their own laws."63

The fourth major memorandum on racial matters outlined the department's application of Executive Order 11063 on housing. Racial discrimination in off-base housing had become perhaps the chief complaint of black servicemen who  were further incensed by many local commanders who maintained lists of segregated houses in their base housing offices. In some cases commanders referred their black servicemen to the Urban League or similar organizations for help in finding suitable housing.64 Demands that the services do something about the situation were rebuffed. As the Assistant Secretary of Defense explained to a White House official, the Department of Defense had "virtually no direct involvement" in off-base housing, the segregation of which was "not readily susceptible to change by actions that are within the control of the military departments. " 65

Several of McNamara's assistants disagreed. They drafted a housing order for the secretary but not without opposition at first from some of their colleagues. An Army representative, for example, suggested a counterproposal that commanders be ordered to work through the federal agencies established in various geographical areas of the country by Executive Order 11063. An Air Force spokesman recommended the creation of special regional and local community committees, chaired by representatives of the Housing and Home Finance Agency and including members from all major federal agencies. For his part Stephen S. Jackson, a special assistant in the manpower office, thought these service proposals had merit, and he wanted to postpone action until they had been discussed with other interested federal agencies 66

McNamara, however, "readily agreed" with his housing experts that a letter on nondiscrimination in family housing was necessary. On 8 March 1963 he informed the service secretaries that effective immediately all military leases for family housing, that is, contracts for private housing rented by the services for servicemen, would contain a nondiscrimination clause in accordance with the President's executive order. He also ordered military bases to maintain listings only on nonsegregated private housing.67 Again an attempt to bring about a needed change was severely limited in effectiveness by the department's concern for the scope of the commander's authority in the local community. The application of the President's order would end segregation in leased housing, but only a small percentage of black servicemen lived in such housing. The majority of service families lived off base in private housing, which the new order, except for banning the listing of segregated properties by base housing offices, ignored. Barring the use of segregated private housing to all servicemen, a more direct method of changing the racial pattern surrounding military installations, would have to wait for a substantive change in departmental thinking.

Reserves and Regulars: A Comparison

While the interest of both civil rights advocates and defense officials was focused on off-base concerns during the early 1960's, discrimination continued  to linger in the armed forces. A particularly sensitive issue to the services, which in the public mind had complete jurisdiction over all men in uniform, was the position of the Negro in the reserve components. To generalize on the racial policies of the fifty-four National Guard organizations is difficult, but whereas some state guards had been a progressive force in the integration of the services in the early postwar period, others had become symbols of racism by 1961. Some fourteen years after the Truman order, ten states with large black populations and understaffed guard units still had no Negroes in the guard. The Kennedy administration was not the first to wrestle with the problem of applying a single racial policy to both the regulars and the guard. It was aware that too much tampering with the politically influential and volatile guard could produce an explosion. At the same time any appearance of timidity courted antagonism from another quarter.

From the beginning the new administration found itself criticized by civil rights organizations, including the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, for not moving quickly against segregated National Guard units.68 A delegation from the NAACP's 1961 convention visited Assistant Secretary Runge in July and criticized—to the exclusion of all other subjects—discrimination in the National Guard. This group wanted the federal government to withhold funds from states that continued to bar black participation. Repeating the old claim that special federal-state relationships precluded direct action by the Secretary of Defense, Runge nevertheless promised the delegates a renewed effort to provide equal opportunity. He also made a somewhat irrelevant reference to the recent experience of a black citizen in Oklahoma who had secured admission to the state guard by a direct appeal to the governor.69 How futile such appeals would be in some states was demonstrated a week later when the Adjutant General of Florida declared that since the guard was a volunteer organization and his state had always drawn its members from among white citizens, Florida was under no obligation to enlist black men.70

That the new administration had quietly adopted different policies toward the guard and the regular forces was confirmed when Runge responded to a report prepared by the American Veterans Committee on the lack of racial progress in the guard. The veterans group called on the administration to use the threat of withdrawal of federal recognition to alter guard practices.71 The administration refused. A policy of force might be acceptable for the active armed forces, but voluntary persuasion seemed more appropriate for the National Guard. Enunciating what would become the Defense Department's position on the National Guard through 1963, Runge declared that the federal government had no legal authority to force integration on the guard when it was not serving in a federal status. Furthermore, withdrawal of federal recognition or withholding federal funds as a means of bringing about integration, though legally sound, would cause some states to reject federal support and inactivate their units, thereby stripping the country of a portion of its military reserve and damaging national security. Citing the progress being made by persuasion, Runge predicted that some recalcitrant states might in time voluntarily move toward integration.72 Noting instances of recent progress and citing legal restrictions against forcing state compliance, McNamara endorsed the policy of encouraging voluntary compliance.73

Although unauthorized, similar patterns of discrimination persisted in parts of the organized reserves. Reserve units had links with both the regular forces and the guard. Like the regulars, the reserve was legally a creature of the federal government and subject to policies established by the Secretary of Defense Moreover, the reserve drew much of its manpower from the pool of soldiers separating from active duty with a reserve obligation still to fulfill, and within some limits the Defense Department could assign such men to units in a manner that could influence the reserve's racial composition. But like the guard, the reserve also had a distinct local flavor, serving almost as a social club in some parts of the country. This characteristic was often an important factor in maintaining a unit at satisfactory strength. Since segregation sometimes went hand in hand with the clublike atmosphere, the services feared that a strong stand on integration might cause a severe decline in the strength of some units.74 When the Army staff reviewed the situation in 1956, therefore, it had not pressed for integration of all units, settling instead for merely "encouraging" commanders to open their units to Negroes.75

The move toward complete integration of the reserves was slow. In 1956, for example, more than 75 percent of the Army's reserve units in southern states were still segregated. The other services followed a similar pattern; in 1962 more than 40 percent of all reserve units in the country were white; the Army retained six all-black reserve units as well. Racial exclusion persisted in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps also, although here the fault was probably not so much a matter of reserve policy as the lingering segregation pattern in some state school systems. At the same time, the reserves had more blacks in nondrill status than in drill status. In other words, more blacks were in reserve pools where unassigned to specific units, they did not participate in active duty training. In 1962, some 75 percent of the black reservists in the Army and Air Force, 85 percent in the Navy, and 38 percent in the Marine Corps were assigned to such pools. For many reservists, paid drill status was desirable; apart from the money received for such active duty, they had the opportunity to gain credit toward retirement and pensions.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Gilpatric reminded the services in April 1962 that the Truman order applied to the reserves and called on the under secretaries to integrate the all-black and all-white units "as rapidly as is consistent with military effectiveness."76 He also wanted a review of black assignments for the purpose of removing the disproportionate number of Negroes in pools "consistent with the military requirements and the skills of the personnel involved."

A defense manpower team surveyed the reserves in November 1962. It tried to soften the obvious implication of its racial statistics by pointing out that the all-black units were limited to two Army areas, and action had already been taken by the Third Army and Fourth Army commanders to integrate the six units as soon as possible. The team also announced initiation of a series of administrative safeguards against discrimination in the enlistment and assignment of men to drilling units. As for the all-white units, the reviewers cautioned that discrimination was not necessarily involved since Negroes constituted a relatively small proportion of the strength of the reserves—4.8 percent of the Army, 4.4 percent of the Air Force, and an estimated 3.2 percent of the Navy. Furthermore; the data neither proved nor disproved allegations of discrimination since the degree to which individuals volunteered, the skills and aptitudes they possessed, and the needs of the services were all factors in the assignment and use of the men involved.77

Pleas of an absence of legal authority in regard to the National Guard and generalized promises of racial reform in the reserves were not going to still the complaints of the civil rights organizations nor discourage the interest of their allies in the administration. Clearly, the Department of Defense would be hearing more about race in the reserve components in the months to come.

The sudden reemergence in the early 1960's of complaints of discrimination in the regular forces centered around a familiar litany: the number of Negroes in some of the services still fell significantly short of the black percentage of the national population; and separate standards, favorable to whites, prevailed in the promotion and assignment systems of all the services. There had to be some discrimination involved, Congressman Diggs pointed out to the Secretary of the Air Force in July 1960. With extensive help from the services, Diggs had been investigating servicemen's complaints for some time. While his major concern remained the discrimination suffered by black servicemen off base, he nevertheless concluded that the service regulations developed in consultation with the Fahy Committee more than a decade earlier had not been fully implemented and discriminatory practices existed "in varying degrees" at military installations around the world. Diggs admitted that a black serviceman might well charge discrimination to mask his failure to compete successfully for a job or grade, but to accept such failures as a universal explanation for the disproportionate number of Negroes in the lower ranks and undesirable occupations was to accept as true the canard that Negroes as a group were deficient. Diggs's conclusion, which he pressed upon the department with some notice in the press, was that some black servicemen were being subtly but deliberately and arbitrarily restricted to inferior positions because their military superiors exercised judgments based on racial considerations. These judgments, he charged, were inconsistent with the spirit of the Truman order.78

At first glance the 1963 study of racial discrimination by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights seemed to contradict Diggs's charges. The commission concluded that taken as a whole the status of black servicemen had improved considerably since the Truman order. It noted that black representation had remained relatively constant since the early days of integration, 8.2 percent of the total, 9.2 percent of the enlisted strength, and approached national population averages. The percentage of black officers, 1.6 percent of all officers, while admittedly low, had been rising steadily and compared favorably with the number of black executives in the civilian economy. The occupational status of the black enlisted man had also undergone steady improvement since the early days of integration, especially when one compared the number and variety of military occupation specialties held by black servicemen with opportunities in the rest of the civil service and the business community.

Finally, and perhaps most important, the commission found that in their daily operations, military installations were "generally free from the taint of racial discrimination."79 It confirmed the general assessments of the AntiDefamation League of B'nai B'rith and the American Veterans Committee among others, pointing out that black and white servicemen not only worked side by side, but also mingled in off-duty hours.80 In sum, the study demonstrated general satisfaction with the racial situation on military bases. Its major concern, and indeed the major concern of Diggs and most black servicemen, remained the widespread discrimination prevailing against black servicemen in the local community.

These important generalizations aside, the commission nevertheless offered impressive statistical support for some of Diggs's charges when it investigated the diverse and conflicting enlistment and assignment patterns of the different services. The Navy and Marine Corps came in for special criticism. Even when the complexities of mental aptitude requirements and use of draftees versus enlistees were discounted, the commission found that these two services consistently employed a significantly smaller percentage of Negroes than the Army and Air Force. A similar disparity existed in assignment procedures. The commission found that both services failed to match the record of the civilian economy in the use of Negroes in technical, mechanical, administrative, clerical, and craft fields. It suspected that the services' recruiting and testing methods intensified these differences and wondered whether they might not operate to exclude Negroes in some instances.

Despite general approval of conditions on the bases, the commission found what it called "vestiges of discrimination on some bases." It reported some segregated noncommissioned officer clubs, some segregated transportation of servicemen to the local community, and some discriminatory employment patterns in the hiring of civilians for post jobs. Partly the legacy of the old segregated services, this discrimination, the commission concluded, was to a greater extent the result of the intrusion of local civilian attitudes. The commission's attention to outside influences on attitudes at the base suggested that it found the villain of the Diggs investigation, the prejudiced military official, far too simplistic an explanation for what was in reality institutional racism, a complex mixture of sociological forces and military traditions acting on the services. The Department of Defense's manpower experts dwelt on these forces and traditions when they analyzed recruitment, promotion, and assignment trends for McNamara in 1963.81

They found a general increase in black strength ratios between 1949 and 1962 (Table 13). They blamed the "selective" recruiting practices in vogue before the Truman order for the low enlistment ratios in 1949, just as they attributed the modest increases since that time to the effects of the services' equal treatment and opportunity programs. In the judgment of these analysts, racial differences in representation since the Truman order, and indeed most of the other discrepancies between black and white servicemen, could usually be explained by the sometimes sharp difference in aptitude test results (Table 14). A heritage of the Negro's limited, often segregated and inferior education and his


(In Percentage)
Year Army Navy Marine Corps Air Force
Enlisted Men


Enlisted Men


Enlisted Men


Enlisted Men


(Based on Preinduction Examination, 1959-1962)

Group White Nonwhite
I 11.8 0.3
II 31.3 2.6
III 31.9 15.0
IV 19.0 40.1
V 6.0 42.0
economic and related environmental handicaps, low aptitude scores certainly explained the contrast in disqualification rates (Tables 15 and 16). By 1962 fully half of all Negroes—as compared to 8 percent of all whites—failed to qualify for service under minimum mental test standards. In some southern states, the draftee rejection rate for Negroes exceeded 80 percent.

This problem became critical for black enlistments in the mid-1950's when the services, with less need for new servicemen, raised the mental standards for enlistees, denying Group IV men the right to enlist. (An exception to this pattern was the Navy's decision to accept Group IV enlistments in 1956 and 1957 to replace post-Korean enlistment losses.) In terms of total black representation, however, the new mental standards made a lesser difference (Table 17). Denying Group IV men enlistment during the 1950's only increased their number in the draft pool, and when the Army stepped up draft inductions in the early 1960's the number of Group IV men in uniform, including Negroes, rapidly increased.

While the Army's dependence on the draft, and thus Group IV men, explained part of the continuing high percentage of Negroes in that service, the Defense Department manpower group was at a loss to explain the notable variation in black enlistments among the services. All employed similar enlistment standards, yet during the period 1958—1960, for example, black enlistment in the Army and Air Force averaged 7 percent, the Marine Corps 6 percent, and the Navy 2.7 percent. Nor could the analysts isolate the factors contributing to the low officer ratios in all four services. Almost all military officers during the period under analysis were college graduates, Negroes comprised about 4 percent of all male college graduates, yet only the Army maintained a black officer ratio approaching that figure. (See Table 13. )

The inability of many black servicemen to score highly in the tests might also explain why training in some technical occupations continued more restricted


(In Percentage)
Cause White Nonwhite
Medical and other 21.8 10.1
Mental test failure 8.4 50.6
Total 30.2 60.7
for them (Tables 18 and 19). In contrast to ground combat and service occupations, which required little formal school training, some occupation groups—electronics, for example—had high selection standards. The Defense Department group admitted that occupations for blacks in the armed forces had also been influenced by historical patterns of segregated assignments to food service and other support occupations. Among men with twenty or more years in


Area Number Examined Failed Mental Test
Number Percent
Grand total, Continental United States 286,152 64,536 22.6
Total, white 235,678 36,204 15.4
Total, black 50,474 28,332 56.1
Area Number Examined Failed Mental Test
Number Percent
First Army: Connecticut, Maine,  Massachusetts, New Hampshire,  New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont: White 49,171 12,989 26.4
First Army: Connecticut, Maine,  Massachusetts, New Hampshire,  New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont: Black 7,937 3,976 50.1
Area Number Examined Failed Mental Test
Number Percent
Second Army: Delaware, Washington,  D.C., Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio,  Pennsylvania, Virginia,  West Virginia: White 48,641 5,888 12.1
Second Army: Delaware, Washington,  D.C., Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio,  Pennsylvania, Virginia,  West Virginia: Black 9,563 4,255 44.5
Area Number Examined Failed Mental Test
Number Percent
Third Army: Alabama, Florida, Georgia,  Mississippi, North Carolina,  South Carolina, Tennessee: White 30,242 5,786 19.1
Third Army: Alabama, Florida, Georgia,  Mississippi, North Carolina,  South Carolina, Tennessee: Black 20,343 13,772 67.7
Area Number Examined Failed Mental Test
Number Percent
Fourth Army: Arkansas, Louisiana,  New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas: White 15,048 2,039 13.5
Fourth Army: Arkansas, Louisiana,  New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas: Black 4,796 2,988 62.3
Area Number Examined Failed Mental Test
Number Percent
Fifth Army: Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Wyoming:  White 51,117 4,495 8.9
Fifth Army: Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Wyoming:  Black 5,723 2,684 46.9
Area Number Examined Failed Mental Test
Number Percent
Sixth Army: Arizona, California, Idaho,Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington : White 41,459 5,007 12.1
Sixth Army: Arizona, California, Idaho,Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington : Black 2,112 657 31.1


uniform, 40 percent of the blacks and 12 percent of the whites were assigned to service occupations. But this pattern was changing, the analysts pointed out. The reduction in the differential between whites and blacks in service occupations among more recent recruits clearly reflected the impact of policies de-



Fiscal Year Total Accessions
Percent Nonwhite
DOD Army Navy Marine Corps Air Force
Inductees 2 Enlistees
1953 886.1 12.8 14.7 13.4 4.3 8.0 11.1
1954 576.3 10.0 9.9 13.0 4.0 7.8 11.9
1955 622.6 10.6 8.8 12.7 9.0 5.4 13.5
1956 481.9 11.2 10.3 15.1 9.5 10.6 12.2
1957 456.7 9.1 10.8 9.3 3.6 9.5 9.7
1958 367.1 7.9 13.2 6.4 2.8 5.1 7.1
1959 392.0 7.1 10.4 8.1 2.4 5.0 6.5
1960 389.4 8.1 12.3 8.4 3.0 7.9 8.4
1961 394.7 8.2 14.4 8.2 2.9 5.9 9.5
1962 518.6 9.7 15.3 9.0 4.1 6.5 8.6
Total 5,085.4 9.9 12.3 10.3 4.9 7.4 10.4

1Includes inductions and male "non-prior service" enlistments into the Regular components.
2The Army was the only service drafting men during this decade.



Occupation Percentage Distribution by AFQT Groups
Electronics 60.3 31.4 8.3
Other technical 57.9 30.7 11.4
Admin & clerical 51.5 37.4 11.1
Mechanics & repairmen 37.6 43.8 18.6
Crafts 30.0 44.1 25.9
Services 21.5 43.3 35.2
Ground Combat 24.5 37.1 38.4



Occupational Group Percentage Distribution Negroes Percentage Distribution White Total Percent of Negroes in Each Group
Ground Combat 23.7 15.0 14.3
Electronics 7.0 14.9 4.7
Other technical 6.8 7.7 8.5
Admin & clerical 21.5 19.2 10.6
Mechanics & repairmen 15.1 26.0 5.8
Crafts 5.6 6.6 8.4
Services 20.3 10.7 16.6
Total 100.0 100.0 9.2
signed to equalize opportunities (Table 20). These policies had brought about an increasing proportion of Negroes in white collar skills as well as in ground combat skills.

This change was dramatically highlighted by the occupational distribution of naval personnel in 1962 (Table 21). Among General Qualification Test Groups I and II, the percentage of Negroes assigned to service occupations,


Occupational Group 0-4 Years 4-8 Years 8-12 Years 12-20 Years Over 20 Years
White Black White Black White Black White Black White Black
Ground combat 20.3 32.7 9.8 17.7 9.6 17.8 9.8 14.5 8.4 12.5
Electronics 14.1 5.6 19.7 10.3 15.6 8.1 14.2 6.7 10.5 3.6
Other technical 7.5 7.1 7.3 7.0 7.8 6.8 8.6 6.1 7.3 5.0
Admin & clerical 18.3 22.3 17.5 22.6 19.6 22.0 22.0 18.5 24.5 18.7
Mechanics 23.9 12.8 29.6 20.5 28.9 16.2 24.2 15.1 29.1 13.6
Crafts 5.3 4.0 6.9 7.4 7.7 6.8 8.8 7.2 8.6 6.1
Services 10.6 15.5 9.2 15.1 10.8 22.3 12.3 31.9 11.7 40.4



AFQT Group and Occupational Area 1 0-12 Years 12 Years & Over
White Negro White Negro
Groups I and II: Electronics 35.7 29.5 25.6 21.1
Groups I and II: Other technical 11.4 25.9 10.4 10.5
Groups I and II: Admin & clerical 8.5 10.9 14.6 14.0
Groups I and II: Mechanics & repairmen 37.5 26.1 33.1 22.5
Groups I and II: Crafts 6.4 5.4 12.9 10.3
Groups I and II: Services .6 2.2 3.5 21.6
Groups I and II: Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Group III: Electronics   10.3   9.1   8.8   4.2
Group III: Other technical 7.1 12.3 6.2 3.0
Group III: Admin & clerical 9.7 12.9 12.4 8.2
Group III: Mechanics & repairmen 56.7 42.2 36.7 16.5
Group III: Crafts 13.2 11.1 25.2 16.9
Group III: Services 3.0 12.4 10.8 51.2
Group III: Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Group IV: Electronics   5.3   1.4   2.9   .5
Group IV: Other technical 3.7 1.7 2.9 .4
Group IV: Admin & clerical 6.9 8.1 7.0 2.5
Group IV: Mechanics & repairmen 60.8 44.2 35.8 7.3
Group IV: Crafts 16.4 13.5 32.5 9.5
Group IV: Services 6.9 31.1 19.4 79.7
Group IV: Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
 a Excludes personnel not classified by occupation, such as recruits and general duty seamen.

mainly stewards, commissarymen, and the like, declined from 22 percent of those with more than twelve years' service to 2 percent of those with less than twelve years' service, with sharp increases in the "other technical" group, mainly medical and dental specialists, and smaller increases in other technical skills. A similar trend also appeared in the lower mental categories. One persisting occupational difference was the tendency to assign a relatively large percentage of Negroes with high aptitudes to "other technical" skills and those of low aptitude to service occupations. The group admitted that these differences required further analysis.

Reporting on promotions, the Defense Department group found that the relatively limited advancement of black officers was caused chiefly by their disadvantage in point of time in service and grade, branch of service, and educational background (Table 22). Although the difference in grade distribution among black and white enlisted men was much smaller, it too seemed related to disadvantages in education and service occupation. Again, for Negroes entering the services since 1950, the grade distribution had become similar to that of whites. The Navy's experience illustrated this point. In the case of those entering the Navy since the Korean War, the grade distribution of whites and nonwhites within the first three mental categories was nearly identical (Table 23). The divergences were much wider among the more senior men in the service groups, but this was probably due at least in part to the concentration of senior black servicemen in relatively overmanned specialties, such as food service, where promotional opportunities were limited. With this exception little evidence exists that whites enjoyed an advantage over blacks in the matter of promotions in the enlisted ranks.

All these figures could be conjured up when the services had to answer complaints of discrimination, but more often than not the services contented themselves with a vague defense of the status quo.82 Such answers were clearly


Grade Black White
Officers  O-1 to O-2   35.9 34.5
O-3 47.7 30.2
O-4 12.1 18.0
O-5 4.0 12.0
O-6 to O-10 .3 5.3
Total 100.0 100.0
Enlisted Men  E-1 to E-3   45.5 46.9
E-4 23.1 19.6
E-5 20.1 16.1
E-6 8.2 10.0
E-7 to E-9 3.0 7.5
Total 100.0 100.0

Pay Grade 0-12 Years 12 Years & Over
White Negro White Negro
AFQT Groups I & II: E-1 to E-3 50.0 50.4 0.1 0.5
AFQT Groups I & II: E-4 22.5 21.8 1.0 5.3
AFQT Groups I & II: E-5 17.8 18.6 6.6 16.8
AFQT Groups I & II: E-6 8.3 8.5 30.8 33.9
AFQT Groups I & II: E-7 to E-9 1.4 .7 61.5 43.6
AFQT Groups I & II: Total 100.0 100/0 100.0 100.0
AFQT Group III: E-1 to E-3 60.6 60.5 0.5 3.5
AFQT Group III: E-4 20.7 20.4 4.4 14.7
AFQT Group III: E-5 13.1 14.2 19.3 28.8
AFQT Group III: E-6 5.1 4.6 40.1 33.7
AFQT Group III: E-7 to E-9 .5 .3 35.7 19.3
AFQT Group III: Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
AFQT Group IV: E-1 to E-3 77.1 61.2 2.2 12.2
AFQT Group IV: E-4 13.0 23.3 14.9 32.6
AFQT Group IV: E-5 7.9 13.0 34.0 29.9
AFQT Group IV: E-6 1.9 2.4 32.4 19.3
AFQT Group IV: E-7 to E-9 .1 a 16.5 6.0
AFQT Group IV: Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
a Less than .05 percent.

unacceptable to civil rights leaders and their allies in the administration, and it is not surprising that the complaints persisted. To the argument that higher enlistment standards were a matter of military economy during a period of partial mobilizations, those concerned about civil rights responded that, since marginal manpower was a necessary ingredient of full mobilization, the services should learn to deal in peacetime with what would be a wartime problem.83 To pleas of helplessness against off-base discrimination, the activists argued that these practices had demonstrably adverse effects on the morale of more than 9 percent of the armed forces and were, therefore, a clear threat to the accomplishment of the services' military mission.84

Integration of black servicemen and general political and economic gains of the black population had combined in the last decade to create a ground swell for reform that resulted in ever more frequent and pressing attacks on the community policies of the Department of Defense. Some members of the administration rode with the reform movement. Although he was speaking particularly of increased black enrollment at the military academies, Special White House Assistant Wofford betrayed the reformer's attitude toward the whole problem of equal opportunity when he told James Evans "I am sure that much work has been done, but there is, of course, still a long way to go."85 But by 1962 the services had just about exhausted the traditional reform methods available to them. To go further, as Wofford and the civil rights advocates demanded, meant a fundamental change in the department's commitment to equal treatment and opportunity. The decision to make such a change was clearly up to Secretary McNamara and the Kennedy administration.

1For discussion of charges of discrimination within the services, see Ltrs, ASD (M) to Congressman Charles C. Diggs, Jr., 15 Mar and 5 Sep 61; and the following Memos: Under SecNav for ASD (M), 16 Mar 62, sub: Discrimination in U.S. Military Services; Dep SecAF for Manpower, Personnel, and Organization for ASD (M), 29 Mar 62, sub: Alleged Racial Discrimination With the Air Force, Dep Under SA (M) For ASD (M), 30 Mar 62, sub: Servicemen's Complaints of Discrimination in the U.S. Military. All in ASD (M) 291.2.

2Robert S. McNamara, The Essence of Security (New York: Harper & Row, 1972), p. 124.

3James C. Evans, OASD (M), "Suggested List of Military Installations," 9 Jun 61, copy in CMH. Evans's list was based on incomplete data. A great number of military installations were located in Jim Crow areas in 1961. See also Memo, Dep ASD (Military Personnel Policy) for ASD (M), 19 Oct 62, sub: Forthcoming Conference With Representatives From CORE, ASD (M) 291.2.

4Memo, Lee Nichols (UPI reporter) for SecDef, Attn: Adam Yarmolinsky, 13 May 63, sub: Racial Integration in the U.S. Armed Forces, copy in CMH. Nichols had recently toured military bases under Defense Department sponsorship. See also Puner, "Integration in the Army"; news articles in Overseas Weekly (Frankfurt), November 18 and 25, 1962, and Stars and Stripes, November 15, 1962.

5U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Civil Rights '63 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1963), p. 206.

6Memo, ASD (M) for Asst Legal Counsel to President, 7 Nov 61, sub: Racial Discrimination in the Armed Services, ASD (M) 291.2.

7See transcribed taped interviews conducted by Nichols of the UPI with military and civilian personnel in the Charleston, S.C., area in March 1963, copies in the James C. Evans Collection, AMHRC.

8Ltr, Diggs to President, 27 Jun 62, copy in Gesell Collection, John F. Kennedy Library.

9American Veterans Committee, "Audit of Negro Veterans and Servicemen," 1960, p. 16, copy in CMH.

10Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, "Proposals for Executive Action to End Federally Supported Segregation and Other Forms of Racial Discrimination," August 1961, copy in SD 291.2. See also U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Freedom to the Free: A Century of Emancipation (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1963), pp. 158ff.

11Baltimore Sun, Aughst 8, 1962. On the particular problem in the Aberdeen area see Telg, President Kennedy to John Field, President's Cmte on Equal Employment Opportunity, 22 Sep 61, copy in CMH.

12Memo, SecDef for ASD (MP&R) Designate, 27 Jan 61, ASD (M) 291.2.

13This discussion of Kennedy's civil rights position is based on Arthur M. Schlesinger, A Thousand Days (Boston Houghton Mifflin, 1965); Theodore c. Sorensen, Kennedy (New York Harper and Row,1965); and the following oral history interviews in the J. F. Kennedy Library serf Bernhard with Harris Wofford, 29 Nov 65, Roy Wilkins, 13 Aug 64, and Thurgood Marshall, 7 Apt 64; Joseph O' Conner with Theodore Hesburgh, 27 Mar 66. Also consulted were Sorensen s The Kennedy Legacy (New York New American Library, 1970); Victor S. Navasky, Kennedy Justice (New York Atheneum, 1971); William G. Carlton, "Kennedy in History," in Perspectives on 20th Century America: Readings and Commentary, ed. Otis L. Graham, Jr. (New York Dodd, Mead, 1973); Edwin Guthman, We Band of Brothers: A Memoir of Robert F. Kennedy (New York Harper and Row,1971); Burke Marshall, Federation and Civil Rights (New York Columbia University Press, 1974).

14Quoted from O’ Conner s oral history interview with Hesburgh, 27 Mar 66.

15For a critical interpretation of the Kennedy approach to enforcing the Court's decisions, see Navasky’s Kennedy Justice, pp.97-98, and Howard Zinn Postwar America, 1945-1971 (Indianapolis Bobbs-Merrill, 1973), ch. iv.

16Press Conference, 1 Mar 61, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1961, p. 137.

1726 Federal Register 1977.

18Presidential statement, 7 Mar 61, Public Papers of the Presidents: Kennedy, 1961, p. 150. See also "President's Remarks on Meeting of Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity," New York Times, April 12, 1961; Memo, President for Heads of All Executive Departments and Agencies, 18 Apr 61, Copy in CMH.

19Executive Order 11063, 20 Nov G2, 27 Federal Register 11527.

20Memo, Frederick G. Dutton, Spec Asst to President, for Secy of State et al., 31 Mar 61, and Memo, ASD (M) for Dutton (ca. 10 Apr 61), both in ASD (M) 291.2; Memo, Nicholas D. Katzenbach for Vice President Elect, 23 Nov 64, Burke Marshall Papers, and Intent, Bernhard with Wofford, both in J. F. Kennedy Libraq. According to Wofford there was some discussion over just who would represent the Department of Defense in the group. The department's initial choice seems to have been Evans, but Wofford rejected this selection on the grounds that Evans's position did not place him in the department's power structure. He preferred to have Yarmolinsky or Assistant Secretary Carlisle P. Runge. Yarmolinsky insisted that Runge be included so that it would not appear that racial reform in the Department of Defense was a duty only for the administration's men.

21See Memo, ASD (M) for Under SA et al., 7 Nov 61, sub: Minority Representation in Officer Procurement and Training, ASD (M) 291.2. See also Memos, Wofford for Civil Rights Subcabinet Group, 15 Sep. 20 Oct and 10 Nov 61, copies in CMH.

22Memo for Red, James C. Evans, 21 Jul 61, sub: Meeting, Subcabinet Group on Civil Rights, Friday, July 21, 1961 (Judge Jackson represented Mr. Runge); Ltr, SecDef to Atty Gen, 23 Jun 61; both in ASD (M) 291.2.

23Civil Rights Subcabinet Group, Notes on Meeting of 16 Jun 61; Ltr, Spec Asst to Postmaster Gen to James C. Evans, 26 Jan G2; Memo, Evans for Spec Asst to ASD (M), James W. Platt, 20 Mar G2; Memo, Harris Wofford for Subcabinet Group, 30 Jan G2. Copies of all in CMH.

24Memo for Rcd, James C. Evans, 21 Jul 61, sub: Meeting, Subcabinet Group on Civil Rights, Friday, July 21, 1961 (Judge Jackson represented Mr. Runge), ASD (M&P) 291.2.

25See, for example, Ltr, Chmn, Commission on Civil Rights, to SecDef, 26 Mar 62; Memo, ASD (M) for Under SA et al., 7 May 62, sub: Survey, United States Commission on Civil Rights, Memo, Under SecNav for ASD (M), 25 May 62, sub: United States Commission on Civil Rights Survey of the Department of Defense; Ltr, Yatmolinsky to Berl 1. Bernhard, Staft Dir, U.S. Comm on Civil Rights, 14 Nov 62; Memo, ASD (M) for Under SA et al., 31 May 61; Ltr, Bernhard to Runge, 6 Jul 61; Ltr Runge to Bernhard, 17 Jul 61. Copies of all in CMH. 

26U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, "The Services and Their Relations With the Community, " 17 Jun 63.

27For examples of DOD reports submitted to the White House on this subject, see Memo, ASD (M) for Harris Wofford, 15 Nov 61, and idem for Frank D. Reeves, Spec Asst to President, 29 Jun 61. For examples of  White House interest in these reports, see James C. Evans, OASD (M), Notes on Civil Rights Subcabinet Group Meeting, 2 Feb and 2 Mar 62. All in ASD (M) 291.2.

28Memo, Yarmolinsky for Runge, 13 May 61; Memo, ASD (M) for SA et al., 16 Mar 61. sub. Personnel Screening Boards; both in ASI) (M) 291.2.

29Memo, Frank D. Reeves, Spec Asst to President, for SecDef, Attn: Adam Yarmolinsky, 19 Apr 61, copy

30Ltr, Harris Wofford to ASD (M), 18 Sep 61; Memo for Red, James C. Evans, 25 Sep 61, sub: Negro Naval Personnel; Informal Memo, Evans for Runge, 22 Sep 61, same sub. All in ASD (M) 291.2.

31Composed of representatives of some fifty civil rights groups under the chairmanship of Roy Wilkins of the NAACP! the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights presented to President Kennedy a list of proposals for executive action to end federally supported segregation. See U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Freestone to the Free, p. 129.

32Memo, Dutton for Yarmolinsky, 26 Oct 61, copy in ASD (M) 291.2 (22 May 61).

33Memo, SecDef for ASD (M), 13 Mat 61, ASD (M) 291.2.

34Memo, ASD (M) for SecDef, 14 Mar 61, sub: Ceremonial Units and Honor Guard Details, ASD (M) 291.2.

35lnformal Memo, Evans for Judge Jackson, 14 Mar 61, sub: Ceremonial Units and Honor Guard Details. Remark repeated by ASD (M) in his Memo for SecDef, 14 Mar 61, same sub. Both in ASD (M) files.

36The Coast Guard incident in particular seems to have impressed Washington. It was cited by Mitchell, Wilkins, and Hesburgh during their oral history interviews at the J. F. Kennedy Library, and it continued to be discussed for some time after the inauguration in official channels. See, for example, Memos, Frederick Dutton for Secy of Treas, 21 Mar 61, sub: Coast Guard Academy, and Theodore Eliot (Spec Asst to Secy of Treas) for Richard N. Goodwin (Asst Spec Counsel to President), 25 Jun 61, sub: Negro in the Coast Guard, with attached note, Dick [Goodwin] to President; Ltr, Asst Secy of Treas to Tim Reardon, 31 Jan 62. All in White House Gen files, J. F. Kennedy Library. The Coast Guard, it should be recalled, was not part of the Department of Defense in 1961.

371nterv, Dennis O'Brien with Roswell L. Gilpatric, 5 May 70, in J. F. Kennedy Libraty; see also Interv, Bernhard with Wofford.

38Memo, Spec Asst to SecDef for Paul Southwick, White House, 22 Oct 63; James C. Evans, "Equality of Opportunity in the Armed Forces, A Summary Report on Actions and Contributions of the ASD (M), January 1961-July 1962"; copies of both in CMH.

39Although it did not directly affect black servicemen, the contract compliance program deserves mention as a field in which the Department of Defense pioneered for the federal government. During the Kennedy administration the department hired hundreds of contract compliance officers to scrutinize its vast purchasing program, insuring compliance with Executive Order 10925. See Ltr, Adam Yarmolinsky to author, 22 Nov 74, CMH files.

40The Office of the Secretary of Defense also issued several other statements implementing sections of Executive Order 10925; see DOD Dir 1125.4, 2 Jan 62, and OSD Admin Instr No. 31, 13 July 62, both in SD files.

41Memo, SecDef for,Secys of Military Departments et al., 28 Apr 61, sub: Military and Civilian Employee Recreational Organizations, copy in ASD (M) 291.2.

42Ltr, Runge to Hill, 14 Jun 61; Memo, Runge for Under SecAF, 28 Jan 61, sub: Military and Civilian Employee Recreational Organizations both in ASD (M) 291.2.

43Ltr, Bernhard to Runge, G Jul 61, ASD (M) 291 2

44Ltr, Runge to Bernhard, 17 Jul 61, with attached Handwritten Note, signed SSJ [Stephen Jacksonl, 13 Jul 61, ASD (M) 291.2.

45Ltr, Hill to Runge, 26 Jul 61; Memo, ASD (M) for SecAF, 25 sep 61, sub Purchase and Sale Of Baseball Tickets at Brookley AFs; both in ASD (M) 353.8.

46Memo, R.C. Gilliat for wartime, 31 Jul 61, attached to Draft Ltr, Runge to Hill, ASD (M) 353.8.

47Memo, RTA [Robert T. Andrews] for FAB [Frank A. Bartimo], 1 Aug 61, ASD (M) 353.8.

48Memo, Yarmolinsky for Dutton, 4 Aug 61, sub Presidentts Memorandum Of 18 April 1961, ASD (M) 291.2 (22 May 61).

49Note, signed, "MB", 16 Aug 61, sub: Call From Virginia McGuire, attached to Draft Ltr, ASD (M) to sent Hill; Memo, ASD (M) for SecAF, 25 Sep 61, sub: Purchase and Sale of Baseball Tickets at Brookley AFB; both in ASD (M) 291.2 (22 May 61).

50Memo, ASD (M) for SecDef, 22 May 61, sub: Availability of Facilities to Military Personnel, ASD (M)

51Memo, Dep SecDef for Service Secys, 19 Jun 61, sub: Availability of Facilities to Military Personnel, SD 291.2. For various comments on the draft memo, see the following Memos: Vance and Runge for SecDef, 5 Jun 61; ASD (M) for Dep SecDef, 16 Jun 51, sub: Availability of Facilities to Military Personnel; Dep SecDef for Service Secys, 5 Jun 61, same sub; SecAF for Dep SecDef, 13 Jun 61, same sub. All in ASD (M) 291.2 (22 May 61).

52 Interv, author with James C. Evans, 15 Nov 72, CMH files.

53Memo, Maj Gen Albert M. Kuhfeld, USAFJAG (for CofSAF), for ALMAJCOM (SJA), 2 Feb 62, sub Air Force Policy Statement concerning Violations of Anti-Discrimination Law, and attached Memo, Dep CofS, Pets, for ALMAJCOM, 30 Jan 62, same sub, SecAF files.

54Memo for Red, ASD (P), 23 Mar 60; Memo, Dep Chief, NavPers, for Asst SecNav (Pers and Reserve Forces), 23 Mar 60, sub considerations Relative to Department Of Defense Policy concerning Disputes Over Local Laws or Customs; copies Of both in ASD (M) 291.2. For the Air Force instructions, see Memo, AF Dep CofS (P) for All Major Cmdrs, 30 Mar 60, sub Air Force Policy Statement Concerning Involvement of Air Force Personnel in Local Civil Disturbances, SecAF files.

55Memo, ASD (M) for SecDef, 18 Jul 61, sub: use of Military Police to Halt Sit-lns as Reported by Drew Pearson's Column of July 19 in the Washington Post; Ltr, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Staff Dir Designate to ASD (M), 26 Ju161; both in ASD (M) 291.2. The President's office received considerable mail on the subject; see White House Cen files, J. F. Kennedy Library.

56Memo, ASD (M) for SecDef, 18 Jul 61, sub use Of Military Police . . ., ASD (M) 291.2.

57Memo, Dep Under SA for Counselor, OASD (M), 12 Jan 62, sub: Off-Base Racial Discrimination in the Fort Hood Area, ASD (M) 291.2.

58Memo, Vance and Runge for SecDef, 5 Jun 61, ASD (M) 291.2.

59Ltr, ASD (M) to John de J. Pemberton, Jr., Exec Dir, American Civil Liberties union, 31 Jul 63; Memos for Red, OSD Counselor, 26 Apt 61 and 9 Jul 63. All in ASD (M) 291.2 (16 Jul 63).

60Memo, General Counsel for ASD (M), 15 Jun 62, sub: Picketing by Members of the Armed Forces, Copy in CMH.

61See Memo, James P. Goode, Office of SecAF, for Stephen Jackson and Carlisle Runge, attached to Memo, AF Dep Cots (P) for All Major Cmdrs, 30 Mar 60, sub Air Force Policy statement concerning Involvement of Air Force Personnel in Local Civil Disturbances. SecAF files; Ltr, Under SecNav to Jesse H. Turner, 6 Oct 61, copy in CMH. See also Ltr, Adam Yarmolinsky to Adam C. Powell, 30 Oat 63, SD 291.2 (146,lUl 63)

62Memo, SecDef for Secys of Mil Depts et al., 16Jul 63, SD files; see also New York Times, July 16, 17, 20, 22, 28, and 30, 1963.

63Msg, USCINCEUR toJCS, 201256Z Aug 63; Msg,JCS 2190 to CINSCO et al. (info copies to Service Chiefs of Staff, CINCAL, ASD [M], and ASD [PA]), 221630Z Aug 63.

64Omaha World Herald, August 17, 1962; see also Memo, Adam [Yarmolinsky] for L. White, 7 Sep 62, Lee White Collection, J. F. Kennedy Library.

65Memo, ASD (M) for Asst Legal Counsel to President, 7 Nov 61, sub: Racial Discrimination in the Armed Services, ASD (M) 291.2.

66Memo, Jackson for Dep ASD, Family Housing-OASD (I&L), 8 Feb 63, sub: Implementation of EX 11063, Equal Opportunity~in Housing, copy m CMH.

67Memo, SecDef for SA et al., 8 Mar 63, sub: Non-Discrimination in Family Housing, Memo, ASD (I&L) for Dep ASD (Family Housing), 8 Mar 63; copies of both in ASD (M) 291.2. The quote is from the latter document.

68See petitions signed by thousands of Negroes to the President demanding redress of grievances against the discriminatory practices of the National Guard, in White House Cen files, 1962, J. F. Kennedy Library.

69Memo for Rcd, James C. Evans, OASD (M), 17 Jul 61, sub: Mr. Runge Receives NAACP Delegation, ASD (M) 291.2.

70Washington Post, July 28, 1961.

71Ltr, Murray Gross, Chmn of the AVC, to SecDef, 22 Jun 61, SD 291.2. The report on the integration of the National Guard was inclosed.

72Ltrs, Runge to Murray Gross, 19 Jul and 29 Nov 61, ASD (M) 29 1.2, and n.d. (ca. Nov 61), Copy in Wofford Collection, J. F. Kennedy Library.

73Ltr, SecDef to Rep. Carl vinson Of Georgia, Chmn. House Armed services Cmte, 5 Aug 61, reprinted in Appendix to Congressional Record,87th Gong., 1st Sess., vol. 107, p. A6589.

74ACofS (Reserve Components) Summary Sheet, 11 Feb 57, sub Race Issue in Armory Debate, Copy in DCSPER 291.2.

75DCSPER summary Sheet, 6 Apr 56, sub Policy for Reserve Training Assignments of Obligated Noncaucasian Personnel of the Ready Reserve Who Reside in Segregated Areas, DCSPER 291.2.

76Memo, Dep SecDef for Under Secys, 3 Apt 62, sub: Compliance With E.O. 9981 in the Army, Navy Air Force, and Marine Corps Reserves, in SD files. The secrerary's memo was distributed to the commands see, for example, Memo, TAG for CINCARPAC et al., 15 May 62 (TAG 291.2/15 May 62).

770ffice of the ASD (M), Review of Compliance With E.O. 9981 in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps Reserves, 7 Nov 62, copy in CMH.

78Ltr, Diggs to SecAF, 7 Jul 60; see also Memo, Dir, AF Legis Liaison, for Spec Asst for Manpower, Person" net, and Reserve Forces, USAF, 14 Jul 60, with attached Summary of Findings and Highlights of the Diggs Report Concerning Alleged Discriminatory Practices in the Armed Forces; both in SecAF files.

79U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Civil Rights '63, pp. 173-85. The quotation is from page 185.

80See, for example, Morton Puner, "The Armed Forces: An Integration Success Story," Anti-Defamation League Bulletin, Nov 62, pp. 3, 7; and American Veterans Committee, "Audit of Negro Veterans and Servicemen," 1960.

81Memo, DepASD (Special Studies and Requirements) for ASD (M), 16 Jul 63, with attachment, Utilization of Negroes in the Armed Forces, July 1963, copy in CMH. All the tables accompanying this discussion are from the preceding source, with the exception of Table 16, which is from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Policy Planning and Research, The Negro Family: The Case f or National Action, Mar 64, p. 75, where it is reproduced from DOD sources.

82See, for example, the following Memos: Dep Under SA (Manpower) for ASD (M), 30 Mar 62, sub: Servicemen's Complaints of Discrimination in the U.S. Military; AF Dep for Manpower, Pers, and Organization for ASD (M), 29 Mar 62, sub: Alleged Racial Discrimination Within the Air Force; Under SecNav for ASD (M), 16 Mar 62, sub: Discrimination in the U.S. Military Services. All in ASD (M) 291.2 (12 Feb 62).

83Ginzberg, The Negro Potential, p. 90.

84U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Civil Rights '63, pp. 210- 11.

85Memo, Wofford for Evans, 2 Feb 62, Wofford Collection, J. F. Kennedy Library.

Page updated 1 May 2001