The first African American Naval officers begin training

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“The Golden Thirteen,” a name given to the first group of African American U.S. Naval commissioned and warrant officers, began training on this day in 1944. From the formation of the United States through World War I, the Navy had accepted African American men to general service. However, after the Great War they were banned from serving. After 1932, they were allowed to join the messman’s branch, which segregated African Americans from the rest of the Navy and did not allow them to become commissioned officers. President Roosevelt, in June of 1941, signed an executive order prohibiting racial discrimination by any government agency. Following this act, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy Adlai Stevenson pressured the Navy to begin training African Americans for the officer corps. By the end of training at Camp Robert Smalls, Recruit Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois there were 16 candidates. Twelve of them were commissioned as Ensigns and one became a Warrant Officer in March, 1944. President Truman officially desegregated all branches of the U.S. military in 1948. In 1987 the building where recruits first arrive for basic training at the center they were trained at was dedicated to them and is now named “The Golden Thirteen” in their honor.

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