Veterans Day: A Salute to the Black Servicemen and Women Who Served in World War II

This Dec. 7 marks the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, marking America's entry into the war. According to military records, more than one million Black people joined the the armed forces to fight for an allied victory against Germany, Italy, and Japan. Below we celebrate some of the brave African American men and women who proudly wore uniforms and fought for their country, despite serving in a segregated military.


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Two African-American soldiers smile while posing with mortar shells scrawled with anti-Hitler chalk messages outdoors in 1943.

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Mary McLeod Bethune speaks with Vera Harrison and Mary Bordeaux, members of the women's Auxiliary Army Corps.

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Aboard a United States Coast Guard-manned transport somewhere in the Pacific, a group of African American Marines presents a cheerful front.

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Enlisted men aboard the USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) break out in music and song upon hearing the news of Japan's surrender, August 1945

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Soldiers of the 41st Corps of Engineers, an African-American army battalion, standing in formation and holding the American flag, Fort Bragg, N.C.

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1st African American Division in training in Arizona take aim from a slit trench, 1942.

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Bandleader and trumpeter Coxswain Thomas J. Lindsay plays a tune while accompanied by Specialist Edward A. Grant on the drums. England, December 1944.

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Wounded American soldiers are helped ashore by Black soldiers at a British port, after arriving from France. The soldiers had probably taken part of the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

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American jazz pianist Dorothy Donegan plays with the Camp Robert Smalls swing band at the Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Illinois, June 1943.

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These Black American soldiers are resting in their camp in Normandy, France, speaking to a correspondent from the Associated Negro Press (in black beret) which supplied content to Black news organizations in the U.S. and Africa from 1919 to 1964.

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Tuskegee Airmen at Tuskegee Army Flying School wearing headphones and speaking into a microphone, Tuskegee, Ala., 1942.

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Tuskegee Airmen talking over maneuvers at Tuskegee Army Air Field, Tuskegee, Ala., 1943.

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Group of African American members of the Women's Army Corps (WACs) posing for a group photo in uniform, 1940.

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Black recruits pass in review before Lt. Commander Daniel W. Armstrong, Commanding Officer of Camp Robert Smalls, home of the All-Black regiment at the U.S. training station, Great Lakes, Ill.

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Jane Freeman, 22, of Roxbury, Mass., takes the oath as a Navy WAVE (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), a women's naval reserve program at district headquarters in Boston. She is the first African American enlisted WAVE in the New England area to be inducted.

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Private Joe Louis Barrow is a different figure in his Army private's uniform from the shorts clad heavyweight champion Joe Louis. He joined the Army in 1942 and fought in exhibition matches while serving in the Special Services Division.

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Black members of an engineer battalion in Algeria in line for noon hour mess. Undated.

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Admiral Chester W. Nimitz pins the Navy Cross on Doris 'Dorie' Miller, the first African American to win the award. Miller is known for his heroics aboard the USS West Virginia during the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. He was killed in battle in 1943.

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Tuskegee Airmen in Italy. Undated.

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Group Portrait of First African American nurses Assigned to European Theater of Operations during World War II arrive in England, August 21, 1944.

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