Harlem Hellfighters 369th Regiment Arrives Home
The Harlem Hellfighters: African-American New Yorkers were some of WWI’s most decorated soldiers
By Lucie Levine
via the 6sqft.com (NY) web site
By the end of World War II, the Croix de Guerre, France’s highest military honor, would be awarded to the 369th Infantry Regiment. Better known as the Harlem Hellfighters, the regiment was an all-black American unit serving under French command in World War I, and they spent a stunning 191 days at the Front, more than any other American unit. In that time, they never lost a trench to the enemy or a man to capture. Instead, they earned the respect of both allies and enemies, helped introduce Jazz to France, and returned home to a grateful city where hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers turned out to welcome home 3,000 Hellfighter heroes in a victory parade that stretched from 23rd Street and 5th Avenue to 145th Street and Lenox.
The deluge of celebration and weeping that greeted the returning Hellfighters when the parade made its way to Harlem was particularly impassioned since 70 percent of the regiment called Harlem home. But just as moving was the fact that the parade was the first such event following World Word II, for black or white soldiers, and the whole city was jubilant.
In a three-page spread covering the parade, the New York Tribune wrote, “Never have white Americans accorded so heartfelt and hearty a reception to a contingent of their black countrymen.” The paper observed, “In every line, proud chests expanded beneath the metals valor had won. The impassioned cheering of the crowds massed along the way drowned the blaring cadence of their former jazz band. The old 15th was on parade, and New York turned out to tender its dark-skinned heroes a New York welcome.”
But that welcome stood in stark contrast to the Hellfighters’ experience in the City’s 1917 Farewell Parade. At the time, the unit was known as the 15th New York (Colored) Regiment of the state’s National Guard. It was part of the US Army’s “Rainbow Division,” a cadre of 27,000 troops from around the nation mustered in when the United States entered the war. Most of the Rainbow Division shipped off to Europe in August 1917. The Hellfighters wouldn’t arrive in France until late December of year. They had not been allowed to march off to war with the rest of the Rainbow Division, or to participate in the city’s farewell parade, because, they were told, “black is not a color of the rainbow.”
Read more: The Harlem Hellfighters: African-American New Yorkers were some of WWI’s most decorated soldiers
In this Sept. 13, 1918 file photo, U.S. troops of the 107th Regiment Infantry, 27th Division, advance on a path through a barbed wire entanglement near Beauqueanes, France.
Armistice Day: WWI was meant to be the war that ended all wars. It wasn't.
By Orlando Crowcroft
via the euronews.com web site
It was the British author, H.G. Wells, that coined the expression: "The war that will end war" to describe World War One, which had broken out in Europe in September 1914. Wells believed the conflict would create a new world order that would make future conflict impossible.
It would do so, Wells believed, by crushing the militarism of Germany under the Kaiser and its allies, the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. The Allies - Great Britain, France, and Russia - were, Wells wrote, not only soldiers in a war but “crusaders against war”.
“There shall be no more Kaisers [...]. We are resolved. That foolery shall end! It is the last war.”
Wells’ belief was that the militarisation of Europe at the beginning of the 20th century, and particularly the manufacture of heavy armaments and modern weapons, had been pioneered by Germany and had spread outwards, forcing Europe as a whole down the same path.
He was making the argument at a time when many in Britain did not believe that the country should join France and Russia in fighting Germany and Austria-Hungary in the war, sparked by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo by a Bosnian Serb nationalist.
'The opportunity for revenge'
Wells first wrote the phrase in August 1914 and within weeks it had become a mantra. But while in 1914 its sentiment was optimistic - positive, even - by 1918 it was desperate. Europe was in ruins, millions were dead. It had to be the last war because Europe could not have another.
World War One was the end of a number of things: It led to the collapse of no less than four empires. The Weimar Republic replaced the German Kaiser, the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires fell, and in 1917 the Bolsheviks overthrew Tsar Nicholas II.
But the Europe that came next was certainly not the new social order that Wells had hoped to see - and it was not the end of war. Just 15 years later, Adolf Hitler became Germany’s chancellor and Europe was again on the path to a brutal and epoch-defining conflict.
Even in 1914, there were those who did not approve of Wells’ prediction. Philosopher Bertrand Russell argued, in an open letter to Wells published in a British journal, that even if Germany was defeated: “Why should Germany not wait [...] for the opportunity of revenge?”
Russell said that the only way to make WW1 the “war to end war” would be a new era of leaders that were quite different from those that had taken Europe into war, and - crucially, as things would turn out - the avoidance of “intolerable humiliation for the vanquished”.
Read more: Armistice Day: WWI was meant to be the war that ended all wars. It wasn't.