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November 12, 2009

This Veterans Day

"This Veterans Day reminds me when I was growing up in then-South Central L.A., I’d occasionally hear from my dad Dikes about his experiences in World War II. I knew he’d seen combat in an all-black squad at Guadalcanal and encountered racism both there and when he was in basic training in the Jim Crow Army at Fort Huachuca in southeast Arizona. My uncle, his older brother Norman, had seen mop-up action at D-Day and was among those black expatriates who’d remained in France after the war. Their younger brother, Sam, had been stationed in India, and my uncle on my mother’s side, Oscar Hutton Jr., I never knew. Oscar had been a Tuskegee airman and was killed in plane combat over Memmingen, Germany, in July of 1944. I have the Purple Heart awarded him posthumously.

But the experiences of the black soldier was missing from movies like “The Battle of the Bulge,” “The Longest Day” and “Patton,” a film with only a small part for one black actor, James Edwards (who had strong roles as a soldier in “Home of the Brave,” Sam Fuller’s “Steel Helmet” and “The Manchurian Candidate”), as the general’s valet. But where was the story about the 761st all-black tank battalion under Patton’s command? Where was the story of Patton writing of that outfit, “… I have no faith in the inherent fighting ability of the race.” (See “Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII’s Forgotten Heroes” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anthony Walton.) And what about the amazing story of Medal of Honor winner Sgt. Eddie Carter, half black and half East Indian, who fought bravely with the anti-fascist Abraham Lincoln Brigade, in the U.S. Army in WWII, and with Chiang Kai-shek’s army? (My source here is “Honoring Sergeant Carter: Redeeming a Black World War II Hero’s Legacy” by Allene Carter and Robert L. Allen.)"

Click here to read the rest of Gary Phillips' introduction, and an excerpt from FREEDOM'S FIGHT. Phillips also shares the story behind the book over at The Rap Sheet.

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