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636427278902358443 WC1 Group shotGraduation of African-American U.S. Army officers trained at Fort Des Moines, IA in 1917. 

Fort Des Moines exhibit honors African-American men who served in WWI

By Keith King, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity
via the Des Moines Register newspaper (IA) web site

Over a century ago, the first African-American officers trained at Fort Des Moines. On May 4, local members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity unveiled a display honoring members who received their commissions there in 1917 and served during World War I.

8127967d 8265 4e6e b871 a99416726d93 SigmasMembers of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity pose with the new display unveiled at Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center. The display honors members of the fraternity who received their commissions at Fort Des Moines in 1917 and served in World War I. The Fort Des Moines training camp was first and only established for African-American officers and non-commissioned candidates.

What began as a question from Matt Harvey, president of the Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center committee — "Did Phi Beta Sigma have any members who were commissioned here" — turned into a three-year project that uncovered 20 men from the fraternity who served in WWI, including nine who received their commissions at Fort Des Moines.

The display highlights Howard Donovan Queen who achieved the rank of colonel and led the Harlem Hell Fighters; Milton T. Dean who achieved rank of major, the third highest ranking African-American at the time, who was known as a talented officer and leader in combat; and Thomas Montgomery Gregory, who was commissioned as a lieutenant and played an integral role in getting blacks admitted in the Army's Officer Candidate Schools and ensuring that they had black leadership.

There were over 25 guests in attendance to witness the unveiling, which included retired U.S. Navy Commander Zoe Dunning.

"This is where it all started, where first African-American officers were trained and fought for the rights to serve our country, and where they went forward to France to fight in their units," Dunning said. "Many people do not know this started all here in Iowa. It's an honor to come here to witness. I encourage more people to come here and discover more about the role the 92nd Regiment played in World War I, and the role Fort Des Moines played in it."

Read the entire article on the Des Moines Register web site here:

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