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Minorities playing Major roles in the government: Diversity in Bushs Cabinet

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An American Victory

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory President Franklin Delano Roosevelt December 8, 1941

FDR delivered this statement in his speech to congress after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, plunging the United States of America into World War II. He called on the American people to unite in this armed struggle against tyranny and oppression. And as he predicted, America came out victorious, proving the countrys courage, determination and military might to the whole world.

While World War II was erupting in Europe, America was maintaining an isolationist attitude, reserving a large-scale involvement with other nations conflicts. This was reflected through the ill-preparedness of the U.S. Army in 1941, where it only had one combat ready division while Germany and Japan had 208 and 100, respectively.

The Army also had inadequate tanks and aircraft. In a great display of patriotism, millions of American citizens volunteered to become soldiers. From an armed force of only 175,000 in 1941, the U.S. Army grew to more than 8,000,000. Along with the increase in manpower was the industrial mobilization of weapons and military equipment- after the war, the U.S. had created over 250,000 aircrafts, and other war machines like tanks had the same booming growth rate. 1

They fought the war in two fronts: Hitlers Third Reich and the Japanese Imperial Army. In the end, the American flag, with its glorious stars and stripes, was waving proudly. World War II was a defining moment in American history.

Army soldiers, rangers, marines, paratroopers, sailors, pilots, nurses, industrial workers, and all civilians who contributed to the war effort- they comprise the American people that FDR was referring to, made up not only by white male Americans, but also of Women, African-Americans, American- Indians, Asian-Americans, and Hispanics.

Nowadays, when people hear the phrase American soldiers of World War II, they are likely to conceive images and scenes that they have seen in media. Their ideas could emanate from movies such as Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers HBO mini-series and World War II documentaries in cable. Indeed, these are very accurate depictions of what American soldiers went through during those tumultuous years, and they remind us how we owe them our freedom.

Yet if one would delve into history, he would notice certain parts of the equation to victory in the Second World War that also deserve equal recognition. These are the unsung heroes who fought the same war, sacrificed as much, and died with their comrades in battle. These are the soldiers who belonged to the minority groups.

Minorities in World War II

During World War II, the U.S. Army armed forces grew to 8,225,353. There were 7,181, 784 white Americans (87%), 901, 896 African-Americans (11%), and 141,673 Japanese, Hispanics, and other minority groups (2%) (Data from selective Service and Victory: The 4th Report of the Director of Selective Service) Though tensions of discrimination existed, American citizens with foreign ancestry were allowed to enlist and fight for the United States.2

Women's Army Auxiliary Corps

The Second World War was not only fought in the European and Pacific battlefields. It was also being waged in the home front, where the war industry needed additional labor and resources to support the military campaigns.

In an era where inequality between sexes was still prevalent, women were not readily accepted into the Army. Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers proposed a bill to then Armys chief of staff General George Marshall that would launch the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC).

Marshall believed that women can perform delicate jobs better than men. Women are inherently suited to certain critical communications jobs which, while repetitious, demanded high levels of manual dexterity

When FDR signed the bill into a law, there was an influx of women volunteers, and by the end of the war, 150,000 American women were serving in the WAAC. Women proved to very versatile. Some worked as clerks, typists, researchers, engineers, mechanics, and electricians. Some worked in the Quartermaster Corps, the Chemical Warfare Service, the Signal Corps, and the Army Medical Department. They served as the backbone of the military, and the Army would have been crippled without their service. 3

African-Americans- "Double V"

Of all the minority groups, the African-Americans contributed the most manpower. More than 900,000 enlisted in the armed forces (equivalent to 11% of the total U.S. military population in 1945)

The 1940 Selective Service Act allowed African-Americans to be enlisted in the Army, where they joined different military branches- Army, Navy, Marine Corps and the Coast Guard. FDR also gave them the permission to join the Air Corps, and to attend officer training schools.

Despite these anti-racist policies, discrimination still occurred in the Army. African-Americans had to contend with two battles: their personal psychological conflict due to racism, and their military confrontations. Because of this, Black activists demanded a Double V sign to represent two victories. Nevertheless, World War II demonstrated the value and heroism of each Negro soldier.4

Dorie Miller was a 3rd class cook in the Navy, and he was stationed at Pearl Harbor when the American naval base was bombed on December 7, 1941. He did not falter amidst the presence of hundreds of enemy planes hitting them from all directions. Until that day, Miller had never fired an anti-aircraft weapon, but he did not hesitate to use it against the adversary when opportunity presented itself.

For his heroic acts, Dorie Miller became the first African- American to be awarded the Navy Cross. In the movie Pearl Harbor released in 2001, Dorie Miller was played by actor Cuba Gooding Jr. Miller characterizes the African-American soldier of World War II, inhibited but determined to fight for his country.

American-Indians The Navajo Code Talkers

Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima, commended Major Howard Connor of the 5th Marines Division. The Navajo code talkers accompanied the island hopping military campaign of the Marines in the Pacific.

This idea of using an unbreakable code to assure secure transmission during combat operations was proposed by World War I veteran Philip Johnston. He suggested the use of the Navajo language, which is an unwritten language of extreme complexity. Then Amphibious Corps commanding general Major General Clayton B. Vogel, after seeing the skill and accuracy of Navajo code talkers as regards radio transmission, approved the assimilation of Navajo radiomen into the Marine Corps.

The Navajo code was never deciphered by Japanese Intelligence. These code talkers were able to coordinate American naval gunfire and air support to Japanese positions, and the enemy never saw them coming. A total of 540 Navajos served with the Marines during World War II. The movie Windtalkers starring Nicolas Cage, retells the gripping tale of the Navajo soldiers. 5


Hispanics have always participated in every war America has fought, and World War II saw thousands of Hispanics taking arms in this conflict. Records show around 53,000 Puerto Ricans serving in the Army. The New Mexico National Guard based in the Philippines was the largest American unit in that archipelago. Hispanics in this unit suffered with their comrades in the infamous Bataan Death March

The 141st Infantry Regiment from Texas is famed not only for the large number of Hispanics in their unit, but also for 361 straight days of hard fighting during the war. The Regiment had thousands of individual citations. 6

Japanese American- The 442nd regiment

When Pearl Harbor was bombed, resentment grew towards Americans with Japanese ancestry. They were accused of being spies, and were considered a major threat to the nation's security. 120, 000 Japanese Americans (or Niseis) were placed in interment camps, and they were forced to sell their livelihood at very low prices.

Fortunately, in early 1943, the government gave the Japanese Americans the chance to enlist in the Army. Thus, the 442nd regiment was born, composed of Nisei volunteers from Hawaii and the mainland. More than 33,000 Niseis joined the Army and fought many European campaigns. 7

For their performance, the 442nd has been recognized as the most decorated unit in United States history After 8 major campaigns in Europe, the 442nd received a total of 18,000 awards- among these are 7 presidential unit citations, 9,500 Purple Hearts, and 52 Distinguished Service Crosses. In the process, they earned the respect of their fellow soldiers. 8

United We Stand

The Second World War is known as the greatest human conflict the world has ever known. Many nations paid tremendous sacrifices. In this tragic event, diverse communities were able to unite in order to achieve a common goal.

During that time when the American nation desperately needed human resources, minority groups stepped up to meet the countrys needs. President Roosevelt believed in the capabilities of the American citizens, regardless of racial ancestry. Evidently, the unity of diverse people made America stronger.

1. Ambrose, Stephen. Americans at War. New York. The Berkley Publishing Group: 1998
2. Minority Groups in World War II. http://www.army.mil/cmh/documents/WWII/minst.htm
3. The Womens Army Corps. http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/brochures/wac/wac.htm
4. The Negro Soldier. http://history.sandiego.edu/gen/filmnotes/negrosoldier.html
5. Cryptology: Navajo Code talkers in World War II. http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq61-2.htm
6. Latino Patriotism. http://www.lasculturas.com/aa/aa070400b.php
7. Merrills Marauders The Nisei Story- http://www.marauder.org/nisei02.htm
8. The 442nd regimental combat team. http://www.scu.edu/SCU/Programs/Diversity/442nd.html

Image- Iwo Jima Memorial - http://www.iwojima.com/

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