Minority Groups in World War II

The following passage from pages 187-190 of Selective Service and Victory: The 4th Report of the Director of Selective Service (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1948) represents the best statistical information available to the US Army Center of Military History to answer questions about the participation of various minority groups in the armed forces of the United States during the Second World War. Note carefully which of these statistics cover those minorities drafted into the armed forces and which include personnel who voluntarily enlisted. Statistics are extremely difficult to compile since contemporary classifications and the Army's interest in data rarely match modern interests.

[page 187]

Minority Groups

Another special problem of great importance in Selective Service operations was the mobilization of Negro registrants and other minority groups of this nature. The main difficulty here was securing the induction of men who were found (1) to be available by the System and (2) to be qualified by the armed forces physical examination. There were, of course, other problems as evidenced by the following treatment of the matter for the period extending from July 1, 1944 through December 31, 1945.

One Million Negro Inductions

Negroes were an important source of manpower for the armed forces in World War II as is shown by the fact that a total of 1,056,841 Negro registrants were inducted into the armed forces through Selective Service as od December 31, 1945. Of these, 885,945 went into the Army, 153,224 into the Navy, 16,005 into the Marine Corps, and 1,667 into the Coast Guard. These Negro inductees made up 10.9 percent of all registrants inducted into the Army (8,108,531), 10.0 percent of all inductions into the Navy (1,526,250), 8.5 percent of all Marine Corps inductions (188,709) and 10.9 percent of all Coast Guard inductions (15,235). Thus Negroes, who constituted approximately 11.0 percent of all registrants liable for service, furnished approximately this proportion of the inductees in all branches of the service except the Marine Corps.

Negro Inductions After July 1, 1944

During the period July 1, 1944-December 31, 1945, 141,294 Negroes were inducted, comprising 9.6 percent of all inductions (1,469,808) therein. Of this number 103,360 went into the Army, which was 9.1 percent of all Army inductions (1,132,962). The Navy received 36,616 Negroes, or 11.6 percent of its inductees (316,215). The 1,309 Negroes going into the Marine Corps were 6.4 percent of Marine Corps inductions (20,563). Only 9 Negroes were inducted into the Coast Guard, but this was 13.2 percent of the inductees for this branch of service (68).

The somewhat lower proportion of Negro inductions during this period was principally due to the proportionately lower calls made upon Selective Service for Negro registrants. The Negro

[page 188]

call for 18 months was only 135,600, or 8.3 percent of the total call (1,639,100).

[page 189]

Inductions of Other Minority Groups

Inductions into the Army of Selective Service registrants from other racial and nationality groups up to December 31, 1945, included 13,311 Chinese, 20,080 Japanese, 1,320 Hawaiians, 19,567 American Indians, 11,506 Filipinos, and 51,438 Puerto Ricans. Counting enlistments and those in the Enlisted Reserve Corps, a total of 24,085 Japanese-Americans had either enlisted or been inducted into the Army by December 31, 1945. Similar statistics are not available for the naval services. Also by June 30, 1945, a total of 125,880 aliens of various nationalities had enlisted or been inducted into the Army and Navy. The increased proportion of inductions of Japanese-Americans during the two 6-months periods from July 1, 1944, to June 30, 1945, is indicated in Table 35. Beginning January 14, 1944, registrants who were natural-born United States citizens of Japanese extraction or parentage were subject to induction in the Army after the War Department had determined in each case that the registrant was acceptable.

Negro Enlistments

From December 1942 until VJ-day there were relatively few enlistments into the armed forces as restrictions against the direct recruiting of men in the age group acceptable for service (18-37) were in effect. There were, however, 483,605 other enlistments into the Army and Navy during the period July 1, 1944, to June 30, 1945, but only 1.3 percent were Negroes (Table 36). Although Negroes constitute approximately 11 percent of the population, aged 18 through 37, only 0.8 percent of Army enlistees and 1.4 percent

[page 190]

of Navy enlistees during the period July 1, 1944, to June 30, 1945, were of that race. The reasons why relatively few Negroes enlisted during World war II were numerous. The principal one, however, was the severe restrictions placed against Negro enlistments by the armed forces, which, in some periods, amounted to complete prohibition."

TABLE 35 [page 189]

Army inductions by race, July 1, 1944-December 31, 1945 United States and Territories

Accumulative to June 30, 1944 July-Dec. 1944 Jan.-June 1945 July-Dec. 1945 Accumulative to Dec. 31, 1945
All Races Number 7,041,087 393,392 518,127 272,747 8,225,353
Percent 100 100 100 100 100
White Number 6,139,589 348,060 457,460 236,675 7,181,784
Percent 87.2 88.5 88.3 86.7 87.3
Negro Number 797,444 30,882 46,123 27,447 901,896
Percent 11.3 7.8 8.9 10.1 11.0
Japanese Number 11,260 3,483 2,933 2,404 20,080
Percent 0.2 0.9 0.6 0.9 0.1
Puerto Rican Number 32,344 8,109 8,005 2,980 51,438
Percent 0.5 2.1 1.5 1.1 0.6
Others Number 60,450 2,858 3,606 3,241 70,155
Percent 0.8 0.7 0.7 1.2 0.9

TABLE 36 [page 190]

Enlistments by race and service, July 1, 1944 to June 30, 1945

Branch of Service Total White Negro
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
TOTAL 483,605 100 477,285 98.7 6,320 1.3
Army 90,707 100 89,952 99.2 755 0.8
Navy 392,898 100 387,333 98.6 5,565 1.4