75TH ANNIVERSARY OF RACIAL DESEGREGATION IN THE U.S. ARMED FORCES EXECUTIVE ORDER 9981:
R 301350Z JUN 23 MID120000269247U
FM CNO WASHINGTON DC
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SUBJ/75TH ANNIVERSARY OF RACIAL DESEGREGATION IN THE U.S. ARMED FORCES
EXECUTIVE ORDER 9981//
RMK/1. 26 July 2023 marks the 75th anniversary of racial desegregation in
the U.S. armed forces. On this date, President Harry S. Truman signed
Executive Order 9981 banning racial segregation, declaring equal treatment
"without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin." The order
required DoD civilian branch secretaries to implement this policy "as rapidly
as possible" and "effectuate any necessary change without impairing
efficiency or morale."
2. Executive Order 9981 also established the President's Committee on
Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, demonstrating
the Truman administration's commitment to integrating African Americans into
the previously segregated military. Chaired by lawyer Charles Fahy, the
committee proposed recommendations and revisions to military regulations that
would promote integration, publishing its eighty-two-page report on 22 May
1950 entitled, Freedom to Serve: Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the
3. Over two million African American men registered for the draft during
World War II, and more than one million received induction orders. Billets
available to Black men in the U.S. Navy, however, limited positions in
construction and ordnance battalions or as mess attendants and cooks. The
segregated military, the Committee reasoned, limited the assignments
available to African American men to shore installations with the Bureau of
Yards and Docks, in supply depots, ordnance stations, and harbor
craft. Thousands of Black women, too, responded to the call to service. In
December 1944, Harriet Pickens and Frances Wills became the first African
American Women Accepted for Volunteer Service (WAVES) officers.
4. Navy leadership supported racial desegregation. The Committee cited Navy
Circular Letter 48-46, which opened general service assignments as of 27
February 1946: "Effective immediately, all restrictions governing the types
of assignments for which Negro naval personnel are eligible are hereby
lifted. Henceforth, they shall be eligible for all types of assignments in
all ratings in all activities and all ships of the naval service. In the
utilization of housing, messing, and other facilities, no special or unusual
provisions will be made for the accommodations of Negroes." By 1949, for
example, Wesley A. Brown became the first African American to graduate from
the Naval Academy and Jesse L. Brown became the first Black naval aviator to
serve at sea.
5. While Truman's executive order integrated recruits based on race,
religion, and national origin, the policy did not reference women. The
Women's Armed Services Integration Act (WASIA) went into effect a month
before, which permanently institutionalized the integration of women in the
services by establishing for them a limited number of career opportunities in
the regular and reserve forces. The omission of women in Executive Order
9981 meant that Black women had the additional burden of restricted billets
based on both sex and race.
6. Executive Order 9981 marked an effort toward full participation and
advancement for African Americans in the Military Services. Although it
would take time for full integration to occur, the policy showed the
government's interest in expanding the opportunities available to African
Americans. As we mark the 75th anniversary of the executive order, we
acknowledge the contributions of all African Americans who have served and
continue to serve in the U.S. Navy.
7. Mission. Recognize the impact desegregation had on opportunities for
people of color in the Navy and the progress the Navy has made since this
policy change in 1948.
8. Commander's Intent
a. Purpose. Commemorate the 75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9981.
b. Method. Command-centric execution of a coordinated Navy-wide
(1) Use available Navy outreach assets to maximum extent possible.
(2) Be guided by, and supportive of, the Navy's strategic messaging.
c. End State: The commemoration of racial desegregation becomes a standard
community outreach and Navy pride event for all Sailors, past and present.
a. Suggested online resources for this commemoration:
(1) Executive Order 9981 (Harry S. Truman Library and Museum)
(2) Freedom to Serve: Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the
Armed Services (Harry S. Truman Library and Museum)
(3) Morris L. MacGregor, Jr., Integration of the Armed Forces,
1940-1965 (Washington, DC: Center for Military History, 2001).
(4) Executive Order 9981: Desegregation of the Armed Forces (1948)
(National Archives and Records Administration)
(5) Executive Order 9981, Desegregating the Military
(National Park Service)
(6) The African American Experience in the U.S. Navy (NHHC)
(7) "We Made it, Friend": The First African American Female
Officers in the U.S. Navy (The National WWII Museum)
(8) Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. Navy (NHHC)
(9) Hispanic Americans in the U.S. Navy (NHHC)
(10) Contributions of Indigenous Americans to the U.S. Navy:
Serving the Nation Since Its Birth (NHHC)
b. Public Affairs Guidance: This is an active public affairs posture event.
10. Point of contact. NHHC POC is James Slater, email@example.com;
NHHC main number: (202) 433-1426.
11. Released by Mr. Andrew S. Haeuptle, Director, Navy Staff.