African Americans in World War II
Courtesy of the National Archives; Joe McCary, Photo Response Studio.
Pressure from civil rights activists, the NAACP, the black press, and Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Black Cabinet," combined with the military's changing needs to create opportunities for black women to serve their country. Perhaps the most important development was the creation of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in May 1942, later incorporated into the regular U.S. Army and renamed Women's Army Corps (WAC) in 1943. The WAC performed support roles ranging from manufacturing work to delivering supplies to the front lines. Charity Adams, shown here reviewing a contingent of WACs in 1945, was the first black women in U.S. history to be commissioned as an officer. Attaining the rank of major, she was the highest-ranking black woman in the military throughout World War II. Adams eventually led the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the first black female unit to deploy overseas, which delivered mail to approximately 7 million American troops stationed throughout Europe.