port of harlem snippets

May 21 - June 3, 2004


Largest Black-American War Memorial Opens in Des Moines This Summer

Plans are under way to open the United States' largest Black war memorial.& The Fort Des Moines Memorial Park and Education Center will open during its dedication weekend, Friday, July 23 to Sunday, July 25.  The five-acre park and museum are in Des Moines at Fort  Des Moines –the site of the U.S. Army's first Black officer candidate class in 1917 and first Women's Army Auxiliary Corp (WAAC) in 1942. "The successful graduation of these two candidate classes demonstrates how the military has led the march toward racial and gender equality in American society," said Stephen J. Kirke, chairman of the board of directors of the Fort Des Moines Memorial Park & Education Center.

The First World War presented the initial opportunity for Black soldiers as a group to become commissioned officers in the United States Army. Although three Black officers had previously graduated from West Point and served bravely, skeptics toward the first Black officer candidate class, including President Woodrow Wilson, argued that Blacks lacked the intelligence and courage to lead troops in combat .During the Second World War, Fort Des Moines hosted the formation of the first Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), later renamed the Women's Army Corps (WAC), training 72,000 troops and commissioning the first female officers for non-combat duty between 1942-1945. Among the 436 initial WAAC officers were 39 Black women who graduated as 3rd Officers (2nd Lieutenants) on 29 August 1942.

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