Letter - Eisenhower to Hartle, Aug 1942
25 August, 1942.
I was indeed delighted to have your letter describing the methods you have developed for establishing harmonious relations between colored and white troops. I have passed, on the document to other commanders in the belief that your scheme may have a general application, to the benefit of the whole command.
By keeping everlastingly after all these problems, we can lick them. The attached letter deals with a slightly different phase of the subject. I am sure that our real job is to get every officer thoroughly imbued with the importance of the matter and doing his best to produce the desired results. Once we have gotten the officer corps in this frame of mind, the problem will disappear.
Major General Russell P. Hartle,
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Washington County Free Library
A Good Conduct Committee was established by Major General Hartle in August 1942 to deal with the interracial problems within the American troops in Northern Ireland and to govern relations with the more liberal United Kingdom. The committee was supervised by Col. Maurice J. Meyer, Special Services Officer. Lt. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a personal letter to General Hartle dated August 25, 1942, commended Hartle on his plans for dealing with the interracial problems among the American troops in Northern Ireland. Eisenhower stated that he sent Hartle’s document to other commanders for possible adoption as general practice. According to Graham Smith’s When Jim Crow Met John Bull, it became the custom for black and white U. S. soldiers to meet to discuss racial issues.
The British welcomed the black servicemen which angered white servicemen who were accustomed to ‘Jim Crow’ practices towards the black race in the United States. Although the British sided with the blacks over racial issues and were generally against the U. S. policies governing race, British officials requested their soldiers acquiesce to U. S. racial policy to maintain cordial relations with their allies.
Guidance on how to handle race relations was almost exclusively for military personnel and not civilians [Smith, 118]. Special Order No. 54 from Headquarters V Army Corps (REINF), August 3, 1942 outlines the rules. These rules stressed observing separation of the races whenever possible. At private military affairs separation was to be observed. At public affairs the military would not segregate but would yield to local custom and arrangements.
Some U. S. military officials supported complete segregation to the point of large distances between camps so the races would not mix. Others supported, unsuccessfully, keeping the blacks in camp with various diversions [Smith, 104]. Gen. Eisenhower in July 1942 advocated a ‘separate but equal’ policy in Great Britain [Smith, 102]. Commanders were encouraged to minimized friction between the races by announcing dances by 'organization' as a discrete way of segregating entertainment [Smith, 104]. Whenever possible white and black troops were sent to different areas or towns for military leave. When not possible, leave weas given for different days (i.e. ‘Black Tuesday and White Wednesday’) [Smith, 107]. This resulted, according to Smith, in discrimination against whites as well as blacks in unequal access to quality historical sites and recreational facilities for both races. (Smith 114-115).
For a comprehensive history of this subject refer to Graham Smith, When Jim Crow Met John Bull: Black American Soldiers in World War II Britain, New York and London: St. Martin’s Press, Inc., 1987.
Western Maryland Room, Washington County Free Library
United States. Army, Biography; World War, 1939-1945, United States; Hartle, Russell P.