Services, Guard Unveil African-American Exhibits
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 1998 Lt. Gen. Russell Davis' adrenaline surged Aug. 17 as he hurried past Pentagon exhibits of famous military leaders, Medal of Honor recipients and other heroes.
He was headed to Corridor 2 on the third floor of the Pentagon to deliver the keynote address at the unveiling of new exhibits from each of the four services and the National Guard in the African Americans in Defense of Our Nation corridor. The exhibits commemorate President Harry S. Truman's July 26, 1948, Executive Order 9981 integrating the armed forces.
The exhibits are appropriate, the Air National Guard general told spectators, because "we must recognize the contributions of all Americans who have served, fought and died [for their country]. They should be recognized along with their fellow brothers and sisters who provided service, valor and commitment to our country.
"Today, we celebrate the specific achievements of men and women of African-American descent who made the sacrifices and honorably served their country," said Davis, first African-American chief of the National Guard Bureau.
"We continue the department's activities today in support of the president's initiative on race with the unveiling of National Guard, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force exhibits in this corridor," said Francis M. Rush Jr., acting assistant secretary of defense for force management policy. The first DoD event in the series was "Stars for America," a corridor exhibit of African-American general and flag officers. The second was the DoD worldwide equal opportunity conference in July in Birmingham, Ala.
Rush said the National Guard exhibit traces four centuries of the service of African Americans beginning in 1639 in the colonial militias to the today's National Guard. The exhibit traces African-American participation from segregated units to integrated units, through the nation's major wars to today's total force - active, National Guard and Reserve, he noted.
The Navy exhibit portrays the progress African Americans have made during four distinct periods: the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War and the modern era.
The Marine Corps exhibit begins its photo legacy with the training site for black Marines at Montford Point Camp, which opened in August 1942 at the Marine Corps Barracks in New River, N.C. The exhibit includes photos of African-American Marines who have ascended to general officer rank.
"Continuing through the corridor, you'll see the Air Force exhibit, which is anchored around the all-black training experience at Tuskegee Army Air Field, Ala.," Rush said. The product was the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II fame.
"The Army exhibit concludes your preview of the additions to this distinguished corridor," Rush said. "It pays tribute to the long, rich tradition of African-American service and patriotism from Colonial times to the present. It depicts Army units and great Americans whose feats and accomplishments have become inspirational and legendary."
Davis said the exhibits give people who tour the Pentagon a chance to see that everybody has participated and everybody has paid their dues.
"As I gaze upon the African-American Medal of Honor recipients, famous generals, Buffalo Soldiers, Harlem Hell Fighters, Tuskegee Airmen and the martyrs to the fight for freedom in this display, I am reminded of the price we have paid to ensure liberty," Davis said.
"African Americans are Americans first and share the ideals of our nation, but they are also doubly burdened by having to fight for the right to defend their country alongside their fellow citizens," he said.