As Black History Month goes on, I’m choosing to write about contributions by Black Americans that have mostly gone unheralded.
Red Ball Express
The Red Ball Express kept Patton’s Army fed, fueled and fighting. Seventy-five percent of the members of the Red Ball Express were Blacks. It was one of the most logistically effective programs ever, conceived after 36 hours of planning in August 1944. With railroad lines around Antwerp destroyed by German bombs, the campaign carried supplies to the front on a continuous convoy of trucks. The Red Ball Express ran almost 6,000 trucks at its peak and continued for 83 continuous days, until tracks were repaired and trains could run again. The premise was simplistic brilliance. When goods were needed at the front, a call went out to the rear. As many trucks as could be mustered were loaded, then speeded to the front by a team of two drivers. They no doubt shortened the war in Europe.
The Alaskan Highway
The Alaskan Highway is one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century. Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, the Japanese invaded the Aleutian Islands. The United States and Canadian governments decided to build a highway to expedite troop movement. Of the 10,000 troops who built the road, one-third were Black. They started at two points, one in Canada working north and one in Alaska working south. The Black troops were stationed in Alaska working southward. Despite equipment shortfalls, dangerous animals, mosquitoes in the summer and brutal cold in the winter and over impossible terrain, they accomplished the near impossible in just eight months. An iconic picture of a white soldier and Black soldier marks the point when they met, close to the road’s completion. They climbed off their bulldozers and shook hands. The picture went worldwide; during the desegregation of our military, it was referenced many times.
The 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment
The 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. It was the first Black regiment to be organized in a northern state and the first Black unit to see combat during the conflict. Many of its members came from neighboring Missouri. The underground railroad also funneled many of its ranks from slave states. The regiment was started without federal authorization and against the wishes of the secretary of war. However, it distinguished itself so much that Maj. Gen. James G. Blunt, the commander of Union forces at the Battle of Honey Springs, wrote about them.
Veteran of the Week
Our Veteran of the week is someone I know well – my father, Conrad Krabbenhoft. He served in the North Dakota Air National Guard for more than 37 years in numerous capacities, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel. He retired in 1994 and has been enjoying being a grandfather ever since. Thanks for your service, Dad.
To submit the name of a veteran for this honor, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org