I will show that despite the lip service paid to race, class, and gender by the field of military history, the stories of the tens of thousands of African-American Marines who served in World War II and Korea are still woefully undertold and misunderstood. In addition to detailing these Marines’ combat accomplishments, I also explore the Marine Corps’ institutional responses to racial integration, as well as the psychological effects of belonging to an organization that required a life of service but then refused to confer the rewards of dignity that such service merits. Besides reclaiming voices that should have long ago been a part of the Marine Corps’ story of itself, my project also explains the racial pressures inside the military that exploded into violence after the war on military bases and throughout society in the second half of the twentieth century. Ultimately, I argue that the Marine Corps suffered from a critical leadership failure during the Cold War by embracing distinct forms and practices of systemic racism that violated the Corps’ own ideals and the instructions of their Commander in Chief.
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