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Jul-23-2008 23:46printcomments

Desegregation of the U.S. Military to Celebrate 60th Anniversary‏

Desegregation of the military had its roots in the historic formation in 1942 of minority military units, such as the 442nd Infantry Regiment and the Tuskegee Airmen.


African-American and white soldiers at a base in Italy during World War II. Source: United States Army

(SALEM, Ore.) - The Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs and the Oregon Military Department will honor minority military veterans during a celebration ceremony, on July 26, to recall the 60th anniversary of the Desegregation of the United States armed forces.

The ceremonial event will be held Saturday, at 10 a.m., at the Oregon National Guard's Anderson Readiness Center in Salem.

Among the minority military veterans who will be present at the ceremony are original members of both the World War II U.S. Army's Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Army Air Corps' 332nd Fighter Group, later known as the Tuskegee Airmen. The keynote speaker will be the Oregon National Guard's first African-American general officer, U.S. Air Force Deputy Inspector General, Brig. Gen. Garry Dean.

In Executive Order 9981, President Harry S. Truman ordered the integration of the armed forces – a major advance in civil rights. Signed on July 26, 1948, the Order states, "It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin."

Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Jim Willis sees this celebration as a way to recognize where we have been and where we are going as a nation.

"The military was the first institution in America to understand that we cannot tolerate a divided society," Willis said. "While there is still work to be one, our country has come a long way since 1948 in part due to desegregating the military."

Desegregation of the military had its roots in the historic formation in 1942 of minority military units, such as the 442nd Infantry Regiment and the Tuskegee Airmen. At the time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt noted, "No loyal citizen of the United States should be denied the democratic right to exercise the responsibilities of his citizenship, regardless of his ancestry. Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry."

The Anderson Readiness Center is located at 3225 State St., N.E., near the corner of State Street and Hawthorne Avenue.




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