Intergration of the Army – October 30, 1954

On October 30, 1954, Secretary of Defense Charles Erwin Wilson announced that the last segregated unit in the United States military had been integrated. The path to this point started in 1948 when President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981. President Truman’s order said,
“It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin. This policy shall be put into effect as rapidly as possible, having due regard to the time required to effectuate any necessary changes without impairing efficiency or morale.”
Despite President Truman’s Executive Order, it took 6 years to make it reality. The Defense Department’s definition of a segregated unit was any unit that was 50 percent African-American. Even though integration was considered accomplished in 1954, change did not occur in a uniform manner. The Old Guard integrated in 1953, but the first African-American soldiers were not assigned to Mortar Battery (Honor Guard) until 1960. The following year saw the first African-American serve as a Tomb Sentinel, when Specialist 4 Fred Moore walked the mat. A year later the first commissioned officer was assigned to the Regiment, when First Lieutenant James McCall was named Executive Officer of the Mortar Battery (Honor Guard).
The Army was not alone is disproportionate representation. The section below is from the book “Integration of the Armed Forces, 1940-1965” and details when President Kennedy noticed the make-up of the joint honor guard during an arrival ceremony.
“He [President Kennedy] was also upset to see “few, if any” black honor guardsmen in the units that greeted visiting Ghanian President Kwame Nkrumah on 13 March [1961], an observation not lost on Secretary McNamara. “Would it be possible,” the new defense chief asked his manpower assistant, “to introduce into these units a reasonable number of negro personnel?” An immediate survey revealed that Negroes accounted for 14 percent of the Air Force honor unit, 8 percent of the Army’s, and 2.2 percent of the Marines Corps’. The 100-man naval unit had no black members.
The book, “Integration and the Armed Forces, 1940-1965” can be found online at:
Read about Fred Moore’s experience as a Tomb Sentinel:

Staff Sergeant William R. Spates, Jr.

William R. Spates, Jr. was born on September 8, 1939. He attended Mackin High School in Washington, DC, and graduated in 1957. He entered the Army in June 1957 and completed basic training at Fort Gordon, Georgia. He then received airborne training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and was later assigned to Worms, Germany in August 1959. While serving in Germany, Sergeant Spates completed the non-commissioned officers course at the NCO Academy and was subsequently awarded the Good Conduct Medal for exemplary behavior, efficiency  and fidelity in active military service.
Upon his return to the United States in September 1963, he was assigned to 1st Battalion (Reinf), 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) as a Chief Radio Operator. In 1964, due to his outstanding conduct, he was transferred to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as a Relief Commander. His responsible and continuous service as a Relief Commander earned him Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Identification Badge and he was further awarded (for professionalism) his second Good Conduct Medal.
In May 1965 he was initially assigned to Pleiku, Republic of Vietnam and later served as an advisor to the 23rd Vietnamese Ranger Battalion. Staff Sergeant Spates was killed in action on October 25, 1965. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for valor and meritorious service to his country. He was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors by Honor Guard Company on November 2, 1965.