Black Military History & First Blacks to Become Four-Star Generals

My family has a long military history. My Grandfather served & fought in World Wars for this country, my father & uncle served & fought in Vietnam for this country. My brother severed in The United States Air Force for this country.

African American soldiers served in many Wars for this country: 1812, Mexican War, U.S. Civil War, Indian Wars, Spanish American War, World War I, Second Italo-Abyssinian War, Spanish Civil War, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, The Gulf War & now the Iraq War & Secret missions & wars we know nothing about.

Gen. William E. Ward recently became the fifth Black in U.S. Army history to be promoted to the rank of four-star general, following a ceremony at a Washington-area military base. Gen. William E. Ward recently became the fifth Black in U.S. Army history to be promoted to the rank of four-star general, following a ceremony at a Washington-area military base.

Ward, 56, was appointed in May as deputy commander of all U.S. forces based in Europe and most of Africa, continuing a wide range of assignments that have included being a company commander in Korea and, more recently, advising the Palestinians on security.

Although Ward said he doesn't dwell on joining the short list of Army four-star generals, he says his father, who died in 1999, would have relished the opportunity to see his son promoted. "There were several gentlemen in the room who are of my father's generation, who look at me and see their toils, their labor being realized in a way," Ward said, adding that he learned important lessons from his father. "I think probably the greatest thing that my dad taught me was that every individual has value and worth. I just watched him treat people with dignity and respect." Ward, a former instructor at West Point, joins an elite group in U.S. Army history. Currently, he is the only Black U.S. Army general at the four-star level. But other Black officers have made that rank: Roscoe Robinson Jr., Larry R. Ellis, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Johnnie E. Wilson.
Gen. Colin Powell is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State (2001-2005), serving under President George W. Bush. He was the first African American appointed to that position. During his military career, Powell also served as National Security Advisor (1987–1989), as Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Army Forces Command (1989) and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993), holding the latter position during the Gulf War. He was the first, and so far the only, African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

I could put the General book here, but I rather you buy it.

African-Americans as slaves and free blacks, served on both sides during the war. Black soldiers served in northern militias from the outset, but this was forbidden in the South, where slave-owners feared arming slaves. Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia, issued an emancipation proclamation in November 1775, promising freedom to runaway slaves who fought for the British; Sir Henry Clinton issued a similar edict in New York in 1779. Over 100,000 slaves escaped to the British lines, although possibly as few as 1,000 served under arms. Many of the rest served as orderlies, mechanics, laborers, servants, scouts and guides, although more than half died in smallpox epidemics that swept the British forces, and many were driven out of the British lines when food ran low. Despite Dunmore's promises, the majority were not given their freedom. Many Black Loyalists' descendants now live in Canada. In response, and because of manpower shortages, Washington lifted the ban on black enlistment in the Continental Army in January 1776. All-black units were formed in Rhode Island and Massachusetts; many were slaves promised freedom for serving in lieu of their masters; another all-African-American unit came from Haiti with French forces. At least 5,000 African-American soldiers fought as Revolutionaries, and at least 20,000 served with the British. Peter Salem and Salem Poor are the most noted of the African American Patriots during this era, while Black Loyalist Colonel Tye became one of the most successful commanders of the war. Black volunteers also served with various of the South Carolina guerrilla units, including that of the "Swamp Fox", Francis Marion, half of whose force sometimes consisted of free Blacks. These Black troops made a critical difference in the fighting in the swamps, since they were immune to malaria through sickle-cell anemia, and kept Marion's guerrillas effective even when many of his White troops were down with malaria or yellow fever.

Gen. Daniel "Chappie" James, Jr. - America's First Black Four-Star General and Tuskegee Graduate. United States Air Force General. He was the first African-American Four Star General in the United States Armed forces. James, who at the apogee of his career was the commander in chief of North American Air Defense Command and Air Force Aerospace Defense Command

Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward, the active Army's only black four-star general, was tapped Tuesday to lead the Pentagon's new Africa Command.

Ward, 58, currently deputy commander of U.S. European Command, will take over a sprawling new command, which will work with African countries to strengthen governments and their militaries and make the nations less vulnerable to terrorist activities.

Initially the command will be run through the existing European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, but is expected to become an independent unit by the end of September 2008.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced in a press release that President Bush had nominated Ward for the new post.

"I am honored by President Bush's and Secretary Gates' confidence and look forward to the confirmation process," Ward said in a written statement. "In the meantime I remain focused on the important work of U.S. European Command."

Jan. 12, 1945:  Warplanes from the U.S. Navy’s carrier Task Force 38 under the command of Vice Adm. John Sidney McCain Sr. (father of Adm. John S. McCain Jr. and grandfather of Sen. John S. McCain III), attack enemy convoys and bases along the coast of Japanese-held French Indochina (Vietnam) in the Battle of the South China Sea.

Codenamed “Operation Gratitude,” the attacks are wildly successful. Despite rough seas and high winds from a dangerously close typhoon, Japanese bases at Saigon, Cape Saint Jacques (Vung Tau), Cam Ranh Bay, Qui Nhon, and Tourane Bay (Da Nang) are hit hard, resulting in the destruction of docks, barracks, weapons depots, hangars, and scores of Japanese seaplanes and other aircraft, as well as the sinking of more than 40 enemy ships.

Adm. McCain – who Adm. William “Bull” Halsey refers to as “"not much more than my right arm" – will die of a heart attack on Sept. 6, 1945, four days after witnessing the Japanese surrender ceremony aboard USS Missouri. He is posthumously awarded a fourth star.

Jan 13, 1865:  U.S. soldiers, sailors, and Marines under the joint command of Maj. Gen. Alfred Howe Terry and Rear Adm. David Dixon Porter begin landing operations – in what will prove to be the largest American amphibious operation until World War II – aimed at seizing Fort Fisher, N.C., a Confederate stronghold near the port city of Wilmington.

The fort -- commanded by Confederate Col. William Lamb (the fort’s ultimate responsibility was that of Gen. Braxton Bragg, and yes, Fort Bragg, N.C. is named in his honor) – will fall to Union forces within two days.

Jan. 14, 1784:  The U.S. Congress, temporarily meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, ratifies the Treaty of Paris, officially ending America’s War of Independence.

Jan. 16, 1781:  Three years prior to the ratification, Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan -- commanding Continental infantry, cavalry, dragoons (horse-mounted infantry), and militia -- strolls his encamped forces in a sprawling pastureland known as Hannah’s Cowpens in the South Carolina upcountry.

There, throughout the night, Morgan urges his men to take heart in the coming fight against a better-equipped, more-experienced force of British Army regulars and Loyalists under the command of Lt. Col. Banastre “Bloody Ban” Tarleton.  

In specific instructions to his militia, Morgan directs them to fire two volleys at the attacking redcoats (and green-coated dragoons), then fall back on the veteran Continental regulars.    

The forthcoming battle of Cowpens (Jan. 17) will end with a decisive victory for Morgan – who will defeat Tarleton in a classic double-envelopment – and a near-irrevocable loss of men, equipment, and reputation for the infamous Tarleton and his “British Legion.”

Tarleton’s boss, Gen. Sir Charles Cornwallis, will abandon South Carolina and in less than two months chalk up a pyrrhic victory at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse (N.C.). Meanwhile, word of Morgan’s victory will spread like wildfire throughout the Carolinas and up into Virginia where – at Yorktown – Cornwallis’ entire army (including Tarleton and his feared green-jacketed horsemen) will surrender to the combined American-French forces of Generals George Washington and Comte de Rochambeau on October 19, almost nine months to the day after Cowpens.

The Army's Five-Star Generals:
General George C. Marshall
General Douglas MacArthur
General Dwight D. Eisenhower
General Omar N. Bradley

The Navy's Five-Star Fleet Admirals:
Admiral William D. Leahy
Admiral Ernest J. King
Admiral Chester Nimitz
Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey

The Air Force Five-Star General:
General Henry "Hap" Arnold --Note: General Arnold actually was awarded this rank twice. In 1944, he received his fifth star while the air force was still part of the Army. It was then known as the U.S. Army Air Forces (AAF). After the AAF separated from the Army in 1947 and was renamed the United States Air Force, Arnold became the new service's only five-star General of the Air Force

The rank of Five Star General was created as a sort of brevet or provisional rank by Congress in 1944. It is officially designated as the "General of the Army". It became a permanent rank in 1946. This new designation came about as an honor bestowed on World War II Generals who distinguished themselves as leaders in their particular service during the war.

George Marshall
George Catlett Marshall, Jr. was the first to be named Five Star General on December 16. 1944. Marshall was born December 31, 1880 in Uniontown, PA. His family was not well to do but had a rich history including family ties to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall from the early 19th Century. He graduated with honors form the Virginia Military Institute and in World War I he worked closely under General John Pershing and eventually became his Aide-de-Camp. In 1939 on the day Germany invaded Poland to begin World War II he was promoted to Major General. He became such an integral part of Franklin Roosevelt’s team as Chief of Staff that the President felt he was too valuable to give up to the frontline in World War II. However, Marshall is credited by most historians with having been Roosevelt’s surrogate in running the war from the White House.

Douglas MacArthur
MacArthur was promoted to Five Star General on December 18, 1944. He was born in Little Rock, AR on January 26, 1880. He was an Army child from the beginning as he was born in the Little Rock Arsenal where his parents were stationed. In World War I, MacArthur earned a Distinguished Service Medal, two Purple Hearts, two Distinguished Service Crosses, and seven Silver Stars. In 1919 he was appointed the Superintendent at West Point. He was promoted to Major General in 1925. MacArthur also spent time as Chief of Staff in the early 1930s and is best remembered for his promise to the Philippine people after the Japanese overran the Island nation, "I shall return!"

Dwight Eisenhower
Five Star General Dwight David Eisenhower was commissioned on December 20, 1944. He was born on October 14, 1890 in Denison, TX. The Army was second on his list of career choices; his childhood dream was to be a professional baseball player. He appointed to the class of 1915 at West Point where he played football. During World War I, he spent his time training tank crews in Pennsylvania. Eisenhower served in a succession of staff duties, spending 16 years as a Major before being promoted to Lt. Colonel in 1936. Five years later, as Assistant Chief of Staff to George Marshall he became a Brigadier. In 1945 he was named Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War II and he was also elected President of the United States from 1953-1960.

Henry "Hap"Arnold
Henry Arnold was born on June 25, 1886, in Gladwyne, PA. He was commissioned as a Five Star General on December 21, 1944. He came from a military family where his father - who was also a physician - served in the Pennsylvania National Guard. At the age of 17, he was appointed to the class of 1907 at West Point. He was quite the prankster in school and it cost him a coveted position in the Cavalry. By 1909 1st Lt. Arnold had secured a slot in the U.S. Signal Corps as a pilot and was shipped to an aviation school in Simms Station OH where he learned to fly from the Wright brothers themselves. Political ups and downs kept him on the clerical side of the Army Air Corp but he steadily rose in rank and responsibility during and after World War I. By 1941, General Henry Arnold was made Chief of the United States Army Air Forces where he served through World War II. In 1949, he was named as the first "General of the Air Force", the only man to serve as a Five Star general in two branches of the Armed Forces.

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Yours truly,
Anthony Smith

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