Saturday, September 5, 2015

The 1973 Fire, National Personnel Records Center - WWI


The 1973 Fire, National Personnel Records Center

The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) Fire: A Study in Disaster


On July 12, 1973, a disastrous fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) destroyed approximately 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF). The records affected:

BranchPersonnel and Period AffectedEstimated Loss
ArmyPersonnel discharged November 1, 1912 to January 1, 1960 80%
Air ForcePersonnel discharged September 25, 1947 to January 1, 1964
(with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James E.)

No duplicate copies of these records were ever maintained, nor were microfilm copies produced. Neither were any indexes created prior to the fire. In addition, millions of documents had been lent to the Department of Veterans Affairs before the fire occurred. Therefore, a complete listing of the records that were lost is not available. However, in the years following the fire, the NPRC collected numerous series of records (referred to as Auxiliary Records) that are used to reconstruct basic service information.

The Fire:

Shortly after midnight, on July 12, 1973, a fire was reported at the NPRC's military personnel records building at 9700 Page Boulevard in St. Louis, MO. Firefighters arrived on the scene only 4 minutes and 20 seconds after the first alarm sounded and entered the building. While they were able to reach the burning sixth floor, the heat and the smoke forced the firefighters to withdraw at 3:15am. In order to combat and contain the flames, firefighters were forced to pour great quantities of water onto the exterior of the building and inside through broken windows. The fire burned out of control for 22 hours; it took two days before firefighters were able to re-enter the building. The blaze was so intense that local Overland residents had to remain indoors, due to the heavy acrid smoke. It was not until July 16, nearly four and a half days after the first reports, that the local fire department called the fire officially out.

During the long ordeal, firefighters faced severe problems due to insufficient water pressure. Exacerbating the situation, one of the department's pumper trucks broke down after 40 hours of continuous operation. Numerous times, the fire threatened to spread down to the other floors; but firefighters were successful in halting its advance. In all, it took the participation of 42 fire districts to combat the disastrous blaze. Due to the extensive damages, investigators were never able to determine the source of the fire.

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The Aftermath:

The National Archives focused its immediate attention on salvaging as much as possible and quickly resuming operations at the Page facility. Even before the final flames were out, staff at the NPRC had begun work towards these efforts. All requests and records shipments from other government agencies were temporarily halted, and certain vital records were removed from the burning building for safekeeping. These included the NPRC's operating records, a computer index for a major portion of the NPRC's holdings, and more than 100,000 reels of morning reports for the Army (1912-1959) and Air Force (1947-1959). The latter proved especially important in the days following, as NPRC's officials determined that the fire damage had been worst among the Army and Air Force records for this same time period. As such, on July 23, 1973, the Government issued a Federal Property Management Regulations Bulletin (FPMR B-39) halting Federal agencies from disposing of records that might be useful in documenting military service. Such records have proved vital in efforts to reconstruct basic service information for requestors.

On July 23, the NPRC awarded a construction contract to clear and remove the remains from the ruined sixth floor. That same day, employees, previously on administrative leave, returned to work to assist in recovery efforts and resume reference services. The removal and salvage of water and fire damaged records from the building was the most important priority, and such efforts were overseen by a specially appointed project manager. Their work led to the recovery of approximately 6.5 million burned and water damaged records.

Following the fire, the most immediate concern in the center revolved around water. In order to combat the blaze, firefighters had been forced to pour millions of gallons of water into the building. To stop sporadic rekindling of fire, firefighters continued spraying water on the building until late July. In addition, broken water lines continued to flood the building until they could be capped. Water damage was heaviest on the 5th floor but was spread throughout the building. Standing water, combined with the high temperatures and humidity of a typical St. Louis summer, created a situation ripe for mold growth. As paper is highly susceptible to mold, officials sprayed thymol throughout the building to control any outbreak.

Controlling the spread of mold was one concern; but, so too, was the issue of how to dry the millions of water-soaked records. Initially, NPRC staffers shipped these water-damaged records in plastic milk crates to a temporary facility at the civilian records center on Winnebago, where hastily constructed drying racks had been assembled from spare shelving. When it was discovered that McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Corporation in St. Louis had vacuum-drying facilities, the NPRC diverted its water damaged records there for treatment. The vacuum-dry process took place in a chamber that had previously been utilized to simulate temperature and pressure conditions for the Mercury and Gemini space missions. The chamber was large enough to accommodate approximately 2,000 plastic milk cartons of water and fire damaged records. Once inside, McDonnell Douglas technicians lowered the air in the chamber to the freezing point and then filled the room with hot dry air, which squeezed out the water molecules. For each chamber load, they were able to extract approximately 8 pounds of water per container - the equivalent of nearly 8 total tons of water for each session. In addition to utilizing two more supplemental drying chambers at McDonnell Douglas, the NPRC also sent records to a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) facility in Ohio for drying.

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Towards Reconstruction:

As part of the reconstruction effort, the NPRC established a "B" registry file (or Burned File) to index the 6.5 million recovered records. So too, the NPRC established a separate temperature controlled "B" file area to protect and safeguard the damaged records. Later, in April 1974, the NPRC established the "R" registry file (or Reconstructed File) to further assist with reconstruction efforts. Since then, staffers have placed all newly reconstructed records into the "R" registry file and stored them in an area separate from the "B," or burned, files.

In the months following the fire, the NPRC initiated several new records recovery and reconstruction efforts, including the establishment of a new branch to deal with damaged records issues. As many military personnel records had been partially or completely destroyed by the fire, the new branch's central mission was to reconstruct records for those requesting service information from the NPRC. While some staffers sought to recover such information from documents and alternate sources outside of the NPRC, others searched through the center's organizational files for records to supplement the destroyed OMPFs.

These alternate sources have played a vital role in the NPRC's efforts to reconstruct service files. Some of the more important records used by the NPRC to supplement damage files include: Veterans Administration (VA) claims files, individual state records, Multiple Name Pay Vouchers (MPV) from the Adjutant General's Office, Selective Service System (SSS) registration records, pay records from the Government Accounting Office (GAO), as well as medical records from military hospitals, entrance and separation x-rays and organizational records. Many work hours were spent making these sources usable. Efforts included: the transfer of records to the NPRC, screening projects and securing access to VA computer records.

In terms of loss to the cultural heritage of our nation, the 1973 NPRC Fire was an unparalleled disaster. In the aftermath of the blaze, recovery and reconstruction effort took place at an unprecedented level. Thanks to such recovery efforts and the use of alternate sources to reconstruct files, today's NPRC is able to continue its primary mission of serving our country's military and civil servants.

Learn more about burned records and how the NPRC's Preservation Laboratory works to treat and make these damaged files accessible.

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The Nivelle Offensive and the Battle of the Aisne, 1917...

Pen and Sword, The Nivelle Offensive and the Battle of the Aisne, 1917

Title: The Nivelle Offensive and the Battle of the Aisne, 1917...
Author: Andrew Uffindell
Publisher: Pen and Sword Books
ISBN: 978-1-78303-034-7

...a Battlefield Guide to the Chemin des Dames

This is another of the excellent Battlefield Guides which are published by Pen and Sword, this time covering a WW1 battlefield that holds an important place in the story of the French Army in particular during WW1. It is an excellent mix of giving the historical context of what went on in this region. Located about 100Km aways from Paris, to the North East of the city, it was a stopping point for the initial German assault at the start of the war, and the line of the road, the Chemin des Dames, became part of the front line essentially for the rest of the war. It was in 1917, with a huge French offensive which failed to make significant advances yet at great loss of life that brought about mutiny among French soldiers, not because of the war or defending their homeland, but for the huge loss of life over a quite insignificant area of ground.

As well as giving the history, it is all mixed in with some suggested tours you can take of the battlefield. Some of it can be done by car, but a number of them need to be done on foot. With each route there are details of what happened at various points, as well as what remains there to be seen to this day. There are old forts, villages destroyed but never rebuilt, underground caves that were used for shelters, areas where tank attacks took place, bunkers, the remains of trench lines and many memorials erected around the battlefield. In some, there is on farm in particular, which was rebuilt and has two memorials on the walls now, one from the first battle and then another for WW2 when de Gaulle's armoured division fought there in 1940.

Each tour is well detailed, and you are given the extra guidance of which maps it would be useful to have with you and throughout the book it is well illustrated by photos from the period as well as many modern day comparisons. It really is just the sort of guide to keep in your car with you and take a trip over the Channel to see these battlefields, which are actually well within reach of the UK. The widespread devastation has of course now been reclaimed by nature and you don't get to see the horrors of mud, the squalor of the trenches and the smell of corpses and the sweat from tens of thousands of troop and animals. Written by a historian who knows the are well thanks to his own studies, that knowledge is shared with the rest of us in this handy new battlefield guide. Ideal to pop in your car and take with you if you hop over the channel and visit the battlefields today.


Friday, September 4, 2015

State sues feds over safety of Hanford nuclear waste tanks - Cold War

State sues feds over safety of Hanford nuclear waste tanks

SEATTLE (AP) - Washington state is suing the federal government again over cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation - this time over the danger posed to workers by vapor releases from underground waste-storage tanks.

In a federal lawsuit filed in Spokane on Wednesday, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the U.S. Department of Energy has known about vapors sickening workers at the site since at least the late 1980s, but hasn't fixed it - even though agencies have issued 19 reports on the problem. Hanford, on the Columbia River in eastern Washington, produced plutonium for nuclear weapons from 1943 to 1987.

There were more than 50 reports of workers being exposed to vapors between January 2014 and April 2015, Ferguson said, and hundreds over the past few decades, with victims suffering from symptoms that include nosebleeds, brain damage and permanent loss of lung capacity. One longtime worker, Gary Sall, died from brain swelling linked to chemical vapors in 2011.

"Neither the Department of Energy nor its contractors have followed through to finally fix the problem and keep our workers safe," Ferguson told a news conference. "If you visited Hanford today, you'd find some workers at the tank farms still exposed to vapors seeping out of these tanks."

The lawsuit also names the Energy Department's contractor at Hanford, Washington River Protection Solutions, as a defendant. An advocacy group for Hanford workers, Hanford Challenge, and a union representing some of them, United Association of Steamfitters and Plumbers Local 598, filed a companion lawsuit.

In statements Wednesday, the department and its contractor said steps have already been taken to improve worker safety at the site, such as by increasing the use of self-contained breathing devices in areas of potential vapor exposure.

"The Department's top priority is the protection of our workforce, the public and the environment," Energy spokeswoman Carrie Meyer said in an email.

Washington River Protection Solutions said that since it took over as the contractor for tank operations in 2008, it has increased and improved sampling methods for detecting vapors and created wider vapor control zones for workers, and it's working on a multiyear plan to improve monitoring for vapors, among other things.

Washington sued the Energy Department in 2008 over the glacial pace of cleanup at Hanford, and the federal government agreed to a timeline for cleanup in a 2010 settlement. It's lagging in meeting those goals.

The Energy Department already asked for a one-year extension of its deadline for emptying nine leak-prone tanks, saying that having more employees wear respirators was slowing down the work.

Some 56 million gallons of toxic waste - much of it radioactive - is stored in 177 underground tanks on the 586-square-mile reservation. Most of the tanks are single-shelled and considered inadequate, and workers have been transferring the waste inside them to double-shelled tanks. The tanks are vented to keep dangerous gases from building up inside and causing explosions. While the vents do have filters that capture toxic particulates, the filters don't capture chemical vapors.

Current and former Hanford workers who attended Ferguson's news conference described a patchwork of safety practices that lead to some people carrying full breathing apparatus - like the air tanks firefighters carry into a burning building - while others nearby have no protection.

Pete Nicacio, business manager for Local 598, scoffed at Hanford's use of a rope delineating where workers need to wear breathing gear and where they don't, saying workers call it "the magic rope." He said his union members insist on breathing gear, and as a result, bosses have sometimes taken work away from them.

Tom Carpenter, executive director of Hanford Challenge, said a major problem is that Hanford doesn't have monitoring systems sophisticated enough to know what gases workers have been exposed to - some of which are dangerous enough to cause health problems at infinitesimally low concentrations. More than 1,500 chemical gases have been found in the tanks, and doctors are often forced to try to figure out which ones workers might have been exposed to based only on their symptoms.

Diana Gegg, 64, was working as a heavy equipment operator at Hanford one day in 2007 when she smelled something like chlorine or ammonia. She became dizzy and developed "flu-like symptoms which never went away and still haven't," as well as a bad stutter and memory problems.

After the news conference, she handed a reporter a typed statement because of her difficulty speaking.

Another worker, electrician Steve Lewis, said he has experienced inflamed skin and continual congestion in his throat. But, he added, "I've watched other people deal with things that were way worse than that."

70th Anniversary of WWII's End Commemorated Aboard Battleship Missouri

70th Anniversary of WWII's End Commemorated Aboard Battleship Missouri

Story Number: NNS150903-02Release Date: 9/3/2015 7:51:00 AM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tamara Vaughn, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs
PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- More than 400 service members, veterans, government employees, foreign leaders, and civilians attended the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II held aboard the Battleship Missouri Memorial on historic Ford Island, Sept. 2.

The surrender took place on the wooden decks of the battleship USS Missouri (BB 63) also known as the "Mighty Mo" on Sept. 2, 1945. Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and other world leaders signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender marking the end of the war.

Adm. Scott H. Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, served as a distinguished guest speaker during today's ceremony and offered remarks to those in attendance.

"Spin the calendar ahead 70 years and we gather here only a ship's length away from the USS Arizona, perhaps the most famous icon representing the beginning of the War in the Pacific for so many Americans," said Swift. "Many Arizona Sailors remain entombed within the ship they served, a reminder to all of us who serve our nation do so without regard for reward or destiny."

Noting the transition from war to peace, Swift stressed the importance of commitment to U.S. allies, partners and friends and the importance of cooperation between all nations and strengthening these relationships.

"Like all who lost their lives during World War II, they guard an enduring peace that has allowed former enemies to become friends," said Swift. "It was the actions of those like . . . who were so fortunate to survive the war that enabled so many nations to ride a rising post-war tide of security, stability and prosperity that continues in their wake for us to enjoy today."

Swift also expressed his gratitude to the veterans for their sacrifices, their strength and for the future they secured for the new generations.

"We remain indebted to these veterans whose service demonstrated the selfless actions of the 'greatest generation'," said Swift. "May those who lost their lives to bring us peace be honored here today and into the future."

During the keynote address, Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii commended the collaboration between the United States and Japan in their efforts to rebuild the world around them and improve mutual understanding and respect after the war.

"Despite the exhaustion from years of war America recognized it could not simply retreat from the world. So instead of turning our backs on the world, we turned our enemies into the allies that they are today," said Schatz.

More than 2,000 Sailors and Marines attended the original surrender ceremony, which lasted less than 30 minutes. Among them was Radioman Second Seaman Donald Fosburg. A former crew member of the Missouri, Fosburg celebrated his 89th birthday and was honored with the national ensign during the ceremony. He recalled what he felt returning to the ship more than seven decades later.

"It was a day you would never forget, we squeezed in every nook and cranny," Fosburg said. "I stood here on the deck of this great ship and witnessed the signing of the formal surrender of the Japanese empire to the allied forces. What a great day that was."

The ceremony concluded with a U.S. Navy ceremonial gun salute, Amazing Grace performed by Celtic Pipes and Drummers of Hawaii and echo taps played by the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band.

For more news from U.S. Pacific Fleet, visit

Top North East military historian ensures First World War voices are heard

The unveiling of Washington war memorial in the 1920s
The unveiling of Washington war memorial in the 1920s

A top military historian will be calling at a pub on a First World War memorial poppy walk. TONY HENDERSON explains why.
It's not what you would call your average pub entertainment. But appearing at the Black Bush at Washington Village on Friday night will be leading military historian Peter Hart.
Peter, author of a dozen books on the First World War, will give a free public talk at 7.30pm on the theme of two of his works – the way the conflict took to the skies.
The pub will be an apt venue. For a century ago it was the home of William Mason, whose father Robert was the publican.
Also living there was William’s cousin, Edward Thompson.
Both enlisted, and neither came back.
Fixed to the pub is a bronze resin poppy – one of 100 attached to the surviving homes and other buildings in the Washington area with links to those who served and died.
The poppies project is one of several commemorative ventures carried out by the local Wessington U3A War Memorials group.

One of the poppies on Washington Old Hall
One of the poppies on Washington Old Hall

The group set out to find out about the 383 men and one woman named on the village war memorials at Washington, Fatfield and Usworth.
The group’s efforts have also resulted in a database of details about the individuals on the memorials, a book, and two films.
The group’s co-ordinator, Peter Welsh and his wife Margaret, met Peter Hart while on one of his tours of the Gallipoli battlefield – the subject of another two of the historian’s books.
Peter Hart is one of the speakers at a First World War centenary conference and exhibition on Saturday at Cornerstones Methodist Church and conference centre in Chester-le-Street.
It has been organised by the Durham branch of the Western Front Association, of which Peter Welsh is a committee member, and Peter Hart was happy to contribute the extra engagement at the Black Bush Inn.
Research by the Wessington U3A group has shown that William Mason, who served in the Durham Light Infantry, was one of 16 children of Robert and Mary Mason.
Also living with them was Edward Thompson, who also joined the DLI.
William and Edward are listed on the memorial to the men of F Pit in Washington, which was unveiled in 1921.

The Black Bush Pub in Washington
The Black Bush Pub in Washington

The Newcastle Weekly Chronicle reported: “At the Miners Hall, Washington, on Saturday night, a large audience assembled at the unveiling of a memorial tablet in memory of the men of the F Pit Lodge Durham Miners’ Association who died in the war.
“At the outbreak of the war there were 1,084 men and boys employed at the colliery, of whom 436 joined the colours, and out of this number 64 gave their lives.”
Edward had made a will in which he left all property and effects to his Aunt Mary – Mrs M Mason of Black Bush Inn, Washington Village.
At the Saturday conference, which marks events in 1915, Peter Hart will be give his talk on Gallipoli.
Also speaking at the conference, which will be chaired by Newcastle University’s Prof John Derry, are Dr Borislav Chernev, on Russia and the Eastern Front, Dr Matthias Strohn on Germany’s defensive strategy and Dr Scott Lindgren on the war at sea.
Peter Hart, whose parents came from the Bishop Auckland area, grew up in Stanhope in Weardale, with the family later moving to the Midlands.
“Stanhope is a great place and I still visit it. I have always thought of myself as a boy from County Durham,” says Peter.
Now 60 and based in London, he has worked as an oral historian with the Imperial War Museum since 1981.
He interviewed 183 veterans of the First World War before moving on to those who served in the Second World War, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan, and also covered the topic of National Service.
He has also written a book on the experiences of the men of the 16th DLI as they fought their way up Italy in 1943-45.
Peter remembers that one of his most outstanding First World War interviewees was Joe Murray, a miner from Burnopfield in County Durham.

Peter Welch, left, and manager David Leask, with the information on the 1st World War at the Black Bush pub in Washington
Peter Welch, left, and manager David Leask, with the information on the 1st World War at the Black Bush pub in Washington

“He had the most amazing memory,” says Peter, whose latest book, Voices From the Front which is based on the First World War interviews, is out this month.
He says: “I had been interested in the war since my teens, so it was a great honour to be able to actually meet these wonderful old men who had witnessed the cataclysmic events that I had only ever read about.
“When I listened to the tapes again in writing the book the memories of the interviews came flooding back to me- all the front doors, halls, kitchens and living rooms I visited. A kaleidoscope of tea and coffee made in every imaginable manner, best China or chipped old mugs, plain biscuits and fancy cakes – all part of the process of getting to know one other before the interview actually started.
“Once we started recording, I watched their faces, their body language, as they told their stories.
“I think that oral history brings the past into sharp focus – revealing and explaining all the nitty-gritty fundamentals that define the spirit of the age, the little wrinkles that allow you to feel what people were going through.
“It is very apparent from the interviews that once men became aware of the horrors of war, few of them had much enthusiasm for fighting and many were just plain terrified.
“This makes their courage in going over the top all the more remarkable, even if it rather undercuts the official sanctioned view that the lads were ‘dying to have another bash at the Hun’.
“Terrible tragedies are often exposed in heart-rending memories. It is very rare that men referred to the mundane horrors of war in any great detail in their letters and diaries written at the time – the lice, the stench, and above all the deep personal humiliations inflicted upon them by diseases like dysentery.
“In oral history these realities of war are fully exposed. Finally, I think that oral history gives us much a needed variety. I met all sorts as I carried out the interviews. Quiet bespectacled types, rough diamonds, stolid Bible-readers, intellectuals, eccentrics, a few who still ‘liked a drink’.
“Few had ever written anything down or preserved their contemporary letters, so without these oral history interviews their experiences would have been lost forever.
“The things that happened to them, the horrors they endured, are beyond the imagination of people like myself that were lucky enough to have lived their lives without direct experience of war. I want their voices to be heard.”
The Black Bush Inn is one of 28 points on a Poppy Walk which has been put together by the Wessington U3A group.
With financial help from Sunderland City Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund, the group has printed 2,500 walk leaflets which give people information on the men commemorated by the bronze resin poppies.
The poppies were designed and made by local sculptor Allan Scott and the leaflet is the work of young graphic designer Matthew Maddison.
There are six poppies in South View in Washington, four in Glebe Crescent, and four in Musgrave Terrace.
At Westwood Club in Washington, which has a poppy, there is a memorial to the 36 club members who were killed, and also to all who served.
The walk also takes in the Miners Memorial in Victoria Road, Concord. Of the Washington and Harraton men who enlisted, 71% were miners and in Usworth the figure was 80%.
Peter Hart says: “I am greatly impressed by what the group has been doing. It is real remembrance, making a real connection, and it is bringing the community together.”
Details on the group’s work are on
Tickets for the Chester-le-Street conference are £25, to include lunch. Contact 07594964930 or email

Foreign Policy Aspects of Integration of the U.S. Armed Forces by David Langbart

Foreign Policy Aspects of Integration of the U.S. Armed Forces

by on September 3, 2015

By Executive Order 9981 (NAID 300009), dated July 26, 1948, President Harry S Truman ordered the integration of the armed forces of the United States. Given the stationing of large numbers of American forces overseas after World War II, that move potentially had ramifications for U.S. relations with host countries. With that in mind, on September 14, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson wrote to Secretary of State Dean Acheson.
Johnson noted that Department of Defense (DOD) policy called for “equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the Armed Services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.” He explained that in order to implement the policy in some areas, his Department needed “a formal expression of [Department of State] views” on segregation polices for troops stationed in a number of countries. Specifically, the Department of Defense needed to know if the Department of State saw “political objections to the stationing of individual Negroes or non-segregated units in”:
  • Azores
  • Bermuda
  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • France and French-controlled territories
  • Greece
  • Greenland
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Italy
  • Labrador
  • Latin American Republics
  • Libya (Tripolitania)
  • Newfoundland
  • Pakistan
  • Panama
  • Republic of the Philippines
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Turkey
  • United Kingdom and British-controlled territories, including the British Zone of Germany
The Department of State responded with the following letter:
Letter from Under Secretary of State James Webb to Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson, 10/17/1949
The Department of State’s suggestion for inter-governmental consultation before sending individual African Americans or integrated units to Iceland, Greenland, Canada, Newfoundland, Bermuda, and British territories in the Caribbean raised concerns in the Department of Defense and the military services. In order to clarify the situation, Maj. Gen. James Burns, Secretary Johnson’s assistant for foreign military affairs wrote to Deputy Under Secretary of State Dean Rusk on February 13, 1950. Rusk was known to be in favor of assignment without regard to race. Burns’s letter noted that “Negro personnel have in fact [already] been stationed in some of those areas [noted in the Department of State’s earlier letter].” Furthermore, the Department of Defense wanted to follow its normal practice and continue transferring military personnel to the excepted areas “without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.”
Rusk, on behalf of the Department of State, responded as follows:
Letter from Deputy Under Secretary of State Dean Rusk to Maj. Gen. J. H. Burns, 3/1/1950

Subsequently, Secretary of Defense Johnson issued a policy statement to the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. He explained that the Department of State “endorses the policy of freely assigning Negro personnel or Negro or non-segregated units to any part of the world to which U.S. forces are sent” and was prepared to support DOD. It went on to state that since some governments had indicated an unwillingness to accept African American servicemen, before sending such personnel to countries “where no U.S. Negro personnel are now in fact stationed” Johnson directed the services to inform him before beforehand so that the host country could be consulted through the Department of State.

  • Letter from Secretary of Defense to Secretary of State, September 14, 1949, and Letter from Under Secretary of State James Webb to Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson, October 17, 1949, file 811.22/9-1449, 1945-49 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59

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