African Americans have served in the U.S. Armed Forces since the Revolutionary War and they have been breaking barriers in the military ever since. Meet five Black trailblazers from military history.
1945 - Phyllis Mae Dailey is the first African American woman sworn into the Navy Nurse Corps.
Dailey, a nurse and Columbia University student, was one of only four African American women to serve in the Navy during World War II.
1968 – James Anderson Jr. is the first African American Marine awarded the Medal of Honor.
Anderson was killed in February 1967 when he grabbed a live enemy grenade during an intense firefight in dense jungle and used his body to absorb the blast. His extraordinary valor saved his comrades from serious injury and possible death.
1975 – Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. becomes the first African American four-star general.
James, a Tuskegee University graduate who trained pilots of the all-Black 99th Pursuit Squadron during World War II, served in Korea and Vietnam before retiring from the Air Force in 1978.
1991 – World War I hero Freddie Stowers posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Stowers, who died fighting in France in 1918, is the first and only Black service member to receive the nation’s highest award for valor for actions during The Great War. Stowers led an assault on German trenches, continuing to lead and fight, even after being wounded twice. Seventy-three years later, his sisters Georgina and Mary received the award on his behalf at a White House ceremony.
2005 – Jeanine McIntosh becomes the first African American female aviator in the Coast Guard.
McIntosh, originally from Jamaica, joined the Coast Guard in 2003 after graduating college at Florida International University. She earned her wings at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas and piloted the HC-130 Hercules. McIntosh also flew rescue missions in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
-This story originally appeared on USO.org in 2017. It has been updated in 2021.
More Stories Like This
6 Moments of Bravery in African American Military History
In celebration of Black History Month and in honor of all the brave black men and women who have served our country with valor and distinction, the USO is taking a moment to shine a light on the astonishing bravery of six African American service members who went above and beyond the call of duty.
5 Black Service Members Shaping Contemporary Military History
Following in the courageous footsteps of those who came before them, here are five contemporary Black service members shaping today’s military landscape.
In World War I, African American 'Hellfighters from Harlem,' Fought Prejudice to Fight for Their Country
Before the Tuskegee Airmen, there were the Hellfighters from Harlem, a group of African American National Guard Soldiers of New York's 15th Infantry Regiment who fought for the right to serve in combat during World War I.
More from the USO
Apr 19, 2021
NFL Super Bowl Champion 'Gronk' Meets with Soldiers Deployed to Poland Virtually Through the USO MVP Champions Series
Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski talked to service members deployed to eastern Europe through a USO MVP Champions series event, boosting morale and offering troops the opportunity to speak one-on-one with an NFL Super Bowl Champion.