Yanks Under Fire : K Company

Yanks Under Fire : K Company

The article ‘Yanks Under Fire : K Company’ by John Kennedy Ohl is that of trials and tribulations the African Americans soldiers went through during the second World War. During that period, there was still racial discrimination and segregation in the U.S and the white supremacists thought the blacks as an inferior race that could not bring any significant advantage in wars even though they had participated in America’s wars before then. The colored minority as they were called insisted in participating in the war fronts so as to prove themselves they were not different from their comrades the white soldiers.

In the early 1940s when the war was still going on, African-American leaders demanded equal selection in the army for people of all color. This was a move to improve their living condition back at home and spearhead their campaign on racial equality. The demand was granted and there was an increase in the number of African-Americans in the army having been selected through segregation but only a few of them served in combat while the rest served in the menial posts. The unit that served in combat was the 92ndnd 93rd Infantry Division, the 2ndCavarly Division, 24th Infantry Regiment, tank and tank destroyer battalions, and combat engineer battalions (Ohl, 2005)

Ohl describes vividly the hardships which the two divisions; the 92nd nd 93rd,went through. “Many of the 92nd Division problems could be attributed to incompetence training, shortages of equipment, poor cohesion growing out of the resentment of many white officers at being assigned to an African-American unit and low morale sparked by the blatant racism the men had been subjected to while training in the United States (Ohl, 2005)”.

The discrimination was further escalated when it came to assigning leadership roles as white officers could not accept to be led by African-Americans whose education was limited hindering the performance in the Army General Qualification Tests. This led to majority of African-Americans in the junior positions with limited chances of advancing even if they are talented. As Ohm narrates “The leadership problem weakened the morale of the 93rd division (Ohl, 2005).

The article further states how segregation was as bad in the training camps as any other place in the United States since the African-Americans had their own hospitals and churches different and of low quality than the whites. The blacks were also not properly trained for war hence did were not allowed to go in the battle fields as combat unit rather they went as service men. Soon after training, there was intervention by the government to allow the 93rd Division to go to Bouganville in the northern Solomons to fight the Japanese. After their arrival, Ohl further narrates that the blacks received negative remarks regarding their service in battle as they did not have any experience in the battle fronts and the area was not easy to navigate having dense thickets and swampy but with time they adjusted with the conditions and improved their performance.

The 93rd Infantry Division came acrossan ambush from the Japanese as they were following a trail, the men became disoriented and lost their formation leading to some retreating from the enemy and some were confused as they did not know where the enemy fire was coming from. Curran, the platoon’s commander tried to calm his men and the stopped firing aimlessly. The Infantry endured loss of men as 10 men were deceased and 20 others wounded also losing their firearms in the battlefield. The news about the incident got out and it was not taken lightly but Walter White, a representative of the colored people and a reporter campaigned against the rumors that the 93rd Division had failed and demanded that the African-Americans be allowed to fight abroad so as to prove they can fight.

The article concludes that there was enough evidence to prove that the African-Americans performed well in war and finally President Truman gave out executive orders for the desegregation of Armed Services and there was an increase in African-Americans in the white infantry company. The integration of the platoons did not ultimately change the views of some of the white army leaders such as General Marshall who wrongfully described 93rd Division as a unit whose men on Bougainville “wouldn’t fight-couldn’t get them out of the caves to fight.” (Ohl, 2005)




  1. John Kennedy Ohl (January, 2005). Yanks Under Fire: K Company at Bougainville. WW II HISTORY ,4 , 1, 46.

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