Good Conduct Committee, 1942
Rules of conduct for Military personnel in all cases where because of location or station, troops of more than one race are involved, as proposed by the Good Conduct Committee appointed by Special Order No. 54 Headquarters V Army Corps (Reinf), August 3, 1942.
1. In cafes, restaurants and bars where members of more than one race are present, the rights of all must be respected. It is believed that the races should avoid intermingling such as sitting at same tables, etc.
2. Red Cross activities and services are available for both races. First come, first served. The Red Cross will show no partiality.
3. In hostels and dormitories, where beds are available, whites and negroes should ask to be given accommodations with their own race. In lavatories and wash-rooms, where facilities are jointly used, each race must respect the rights of the others. This committee believes that it might be well to have separate washrooms and separate sleeping rooms, if possible. Where dormitories are used, the committee believes that it would be wise to use one section of the dormitory for whites and one for colored,
4. In private parties, where the girls invite soldiers, situations may arise where both races are invited. In such cases the soldier should emphatically inform the girls that mixing of races at parties is not advisible and all soldiers should discourage invitations which lead to mixed parties. One race must not attend dances given for the other race. Dances must not be "crashed".
5. Neither race must interfere with or “cut in on” soldiers of the other race in company with girls. The right of each individual to personally choose his or her company must be respected.
6. At public or military shows, there will be no segregation by the military. If civilian officials provide separate accommodations for whites and negroes, the wishes and arrangements of the civilians must be respected.
7. Both negroes and whites must preserve race integrity through good behavior and the avoidance of any act that might lead to arguments or brawls.
8. This committee believes that committees of NCO's should be organized in each company to explain the provisions of this code and the purpose of its existence.
Good Conduct Committee
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.