In honor of Black History Month, we put together a list to recognize just a few of the countless barrier breakers who have served throughout the history of our nation.
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 2020.
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