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Letter - Hartle to Eisenhower, Aug 1942

Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information



19 August 1942.

Lieutenant General Dwight D. Eisenhower,
U.S.A., Headquarters, E.T.O.U.S.A.

My dear Ike:

In my efforts to preclude the more or less normal differences between white and black soldiers and the frequent violences resulting therefrom, I have been experimenting with a method generally explained by the enclosed papers.

Upon the arrival of the 28th QM Regiment (Tk)(Colored) (less 1 Bn) in Northern Ireland, I had its Commanding Officer select three of his most substantial non-commissioned officers as the colored component of what has been designated as a Good-Conduct Committee. The white soldier component of said committee is likewise of the substantial representative type. Upon designating this committee, I had it assemble in my office and went over the history of the relationship of the two races in the States and of the desirability of only displaying the nice features of same, particularly on foreign soil; explaining that the movement in that direction would be most effective if non-commissioned officers appreciated their responsibilities, and the impetus of the movement sprang automatically from them; and giving them the attached agenda to consider and frankly discuss.

As a result of its meetings, the Good-Conduct Committee under the supervision of Colonel Maurice J. Meyer, Special Services Officer, and the Commanding Officers of the units concerned, have arranged appointment of committees of non-commissioned officers in each company, battery, or detachment in which it can be anticipated that there will be contact between troops of different race. These subordinate committees, supervised by the unit officers and one or more members of the Good-Conduct Committee, have carefully explained the rules of good conduct to their respective companies, batteries, and detachments. They have stimulated impassionate discussion of the problem and solicited questions pertaining to inter-racial relationships. They have made every effort to lead enlisted personnel in making a reasonable approach to the problem. That it has been successful, is born out by the fact that no instances of disorder or trouble have occurred involving white and colored personnel.

In all instances, officers and enlisted men have been extremely cooperative and understanding. It should be pointed out that a commendable effort is apparent on the part of both white and colored to prevent future difficulty. I hope it continues, and in connection therewith I find myself occasionally knocking on wood.

Best of everything to you,

Sincerely yours,

R. P. Hartle
Major General, U. S. A.


Russell Hartle

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.


Collection Location:
Western Maryland Room, Washington County Free Library

United States. Army, Biography; World War, 1939-1945, United States; Hartle, Russell P.

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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