Let’s Remember Them All

Seattle Draftee, World War I

Let’s remember them all, today. All the soldiers, all those who have supported the soldiers. All the people of all backgrounds and ethnicities who have fought and died to keep us free.

Most people know that Crispus Attucks, who led the charge at the Boston Massacre was of African and Native American heritage. Black patriots were also prominent at the battle of Bunker Hill. Black Minutemen Lemuel Haynes, Peter Salem and Pomp Blackman were among the African Americans who fought at Lexington and Concord. Black soldiers fought, in fact, in virtually every important battle of the war. Many were free men. Others were slaves who fought so that their white owners could stay at home with their families.

Sephardic Jew Aaron Lopez owned more than one hundred ships at the beginning of the American Revolution and gave them all to the service of America. He was one of thousands of Hispanics–and Jews–who helped win the Revolutionary War. Spain fought on the side of the colonists, and the Spanish governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Galvez, formed an army of Creoles, Native Americans and African Americans and defeated British troops at Baton Rouge, Natchez, Mobile, and Pensacola. Galveston, Texas, was named in his honor.

About 7,000 prisoners of war died on English prison ships in New York Harbor after being captured. Out of the 7,000, about 4,000 were Spanish soldiers fighting for American independence. The American Revolution was financed in part by funds collected from people living in the present states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California–then a part of Mexico. An important percentage of financial support originated in New Spain, now called Mexico.

Other contributions to the Revolution by the ancestors of current Hispanic Americans, African American, Jewish Americans, and others are too numerous to mention.

.In every U. S. war, from the War of 1812 to Desert Storm, thousands and tens of thousands of people from different cultures and with different languages have fought. In World War II, for example, besides the 1,154,720 Black Americans and the almost half a million Hispanic men and women who served in the armed services, there were the 18,000 Nisei–second- generation Japanese Americans–who fought in the all-Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion during World War II. After almost two years of fighting, the 100th/442nd emerged from the war the most highly decorated unit in U.S. military history. These Japanese American soldiers earned more than 18,000 individual citations and eight Presidential Unit Citations. Known also as the “`Purple Heart Battalion,”‘ with more than 700 men killed and 9,500 Purple Hearts, they suffered the highest casualty rate in U.S. Army history. And they did all this while their friends and families were interned in camps for no reason other than their country of origin. Japanese American babies were even taken out of orphanages to be shipped off to Manzanar. And most of these men got their draft notices while they, themselves, were behind barbed wire in internment camps, having lost their homes, businesses, and jobs.

They weren’t the only “multicultural” heroes in the war. More than 550,000 Jewish American men and women served in the Armed Forces of the United States during World War II. About 11,000 were killed and more than 40,000 were wounded. Among the thousands of Arab Americans who served were Major General Fred Safay, who fought alongside General George Patton, and Brigadier General Elias Stevens, who served on General Eisenhower’s staff. Abe Jamail was the most decorated WWII hero to come out of Houston, Texas.

There are, of course, the women, from Molly Pitcher in the American Revolution to the nurses in the brutal, bloody Civil War to the 13,000 nurses who served in World War I–and countless black women who were not allowed to serve–and even 300 Signal Corps women who were denied recognition as veterans. In World War II, 350,000 women served in the military, including the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, who did not get fully recognized until 2010. And black women fought to serve, but were limited by quotas. The WAACS refused to allow black women to form more than ten percent of their ranks.

And by the way, atheists and agnostics have fought for this country, too. In fact, the “Great Agnostic” himself, Robert G. Ingersoll, raised and commanded the Eleventh Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Cavalry, which served at the battle of Shiloh in the Civil War. And it is estimated that about 12 percent of the U.S. population is nonreligious–atheist, agnostic or secular humanist. There’s no reason to believe that percentage is any lower for soldiers.

There are also devout Christians, ministers, who fought in the South Pacific and then came back to stand tall in supporting the Supreme Court ruling against prayer in school because they believed in religious freedom. I know. My father was one of them.

This is a very brief and sketchy statement that I’m trying to get out for Memorial Day. I’ll try to fill it in a little by next Memorial Day. Thanks for reading.


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12 Responses to Let’s Remember Them All

  1. P and I says:

    Thank you most of this had info I didn’t know.

  2. FormerComposer says:

    Thank you, Kathleen. An excellent summary of why E pluribus unum is the true American motto.

  3. Phyllis Chambers-Emmons says:

    I wanted to write something about Memorial Day on Facebook, and am so proud to post what you have written, Kathleen. Thank you. I was reading about Japanese internment camps and much to my surprise, discovered our government had used them during other wars before WWII.

  4. susandl says:

    Kathleen, thank you for showing that people from many different ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientation have fought to gain or defend the freedoms we enjoy in the United States and to extend these freedoms within the world; the struggle continues, both at home and abroad.
    You might like to see “Enola,” at side project theatre, 1439 W. Jarvis, Chicago, through June 15, looking at the physical, moral, scientific, and military impact of the Manhattan Project through the eyes of the daughter of the pilot who dropped the first atom bomb over Hiroshima. This is one of a three-play series the side project has undertaken this season exploring war’s impact on vets and especially on women. The other two plays are “The Promise” (siege of Leningrad) and “Joan’s Laughter”
    (Joan of Arc).

  5. Mac says:

    As always, so impressive and important

  6. Jan says:

    Extremely interesting! I’m not surprised that you knew all this; I AM surprised that I knew so little of it. Well,,not i do and am grateful for the lesson.

  7. Molly Thompson says:

    Thank you Kathleen for taking the time to put this information to print (details seldom seen in history books) It is so important that peoples efforts be recognized (will facebook share)

  8. shallhenry says:

    Dear Kathleen, I finally had the time to sit down, read and absorb. Beautifully written; thank you for taking the time and energy to help us connect the dots. Can’t wait to share with Bruce.

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