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Red Ball Express

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Model Diorama of a Red Ball GMC 2 1/2 ton 6x6 (.Duce.) crossing a river

somewhere in France or Belgium.

Following the First World War, the Army War College prepared a report (in 1925) that concluded black troops of World

War I were "barely fit for combat." That was at odds with the Army Provost Marshal’s report that, of the 24 million men of all races called to service in 1917–1918, 36 of every 100 black men were certified, 64 rejected, exempted or discharged. By comparison, only 25 of every 100 whites were certified. 

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World War II saw the expansion of African Americans’ role in the military in spite of federal laws preventing them from serving alongside white soldiers, the reservations of American military leaders, and widespread racism. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black aviators, begun officially in June 1941, who disproved negative predictions by becoming some of the best aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

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The 761st Tank Battalion, known as the Black Panthers, were constituted on March 15, 1942, as an all-black armored unit in WWII. They faced institutional discrimination, training for for almost two years before being deployed while similar white units trained for about three months, and suffered regional discrimination during much of their training in Southern states. Perhaps their most famous member was Jack Robinson, who refused to move to the back of a supposedly unsegregated bus while at Fort Hood, Texas on July 6, 1944. Acquitted during court-martial proceedings, which prevented him from being deployed, he was honorably discharged in November 1944. Just three years later, Jack "Jackie" Robinson would break the color barrier in major league baseball.

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Following D-Day, Allied forces created a truck convoy system to supply combat units advancing through Europe after having destroyed French rail lines before landing on the beaches of Normandy to prevent the Germans from using them. The Red Ball Express, as it became known because of the red balls marking its route, operated from August 25 to November 16, 1944 and was composed of almost 75% African American soldiers who had been attached to other units. The Red Ball and its British counterpart, the Red Lion Express, made possible the rapid advance through France after the breakout from Normandy by guaranteeing that gasoline, ammunition, food and other supplies moved as rapidly as front-line combat units.

See more at:  http://www.historynet.com/black-history

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On the Road to Victory: The Red Ball Express

Also:  http://www.historynet.com/red-ball-express

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Other Websites with relevant information about The Red Ball Express:

Military.Com:  Overview of the Red Ball Express

Red Ball Express:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Ball_Express

National WW2 Museum.org

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