Surveying the Troops

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With the Pentagon prepping to survey America’s soldiers about how they feel about allowing their gay colleagues to have equal rights, my colleague Igor Volsky took a trip to the National Archives to examine the last time they attempted this charade:

Today [i.e., yesterday], I traveled to the National Archives and recovered some of the surveys the military conducted about the troops’ attitudes towards black people between 1942 and 1946. At the time, the military — along with the overwhelming majority of the country — opposed integrating black servicemembers into the forces and preferred a ’separate but equal’ approach that would have required the military to construct separate recreation spaces and facilities. One month before Truman’s order, a Gallup poll showed that 63% of American adults endorsed the separation of Blacks and Whites in the military; only 26% supported integration.

These surveys show that the same attitude pervaded the military: 3/4 Air Force men favored separate training schools, combat, and ground crews and 85% of white soldiers thought it was a good idea to have separate service clubs in army camps:

Sometimes you’ve got to do the right thing.