A new motion picture brings to the screen the story of 160 young African Americans, who fought German U-boats in the Atlantic and racism at home during World War II, as members of the U.S. Navy's first all-black crew of the USS Mason (DE-529).
In the United States, no set of citizens has had to prove itself more—or more often—than African Americans. Beginning with the first to fall in the Boston Massacre, the African American-Native American harpooner Crispus Attucks, black Americans have waged a dual struggle with foreign enemies as well as with their own country. Sometimes they even have fought to fight. Sadly, when they sought recognition of their service afterward, they usually did not get it.
Between Attucks and President Harry Truman's 1948 fiat that ended segregation in the services, African Americans in the U.S. Navy were given few chances to prove themselves—the integrated Union Navy of the Civil War was a short-lived exception. Most often, they were set up to fail. If they somehow completed their mission, they were forced to do it far from the eyes of the nation.