Great Lakes, Il. [U.S. Navy], 1943. Panoramic photograph, 19 1/4 x 7 1/4 inches. Black and white photograph mounted on slightly larger beige cardstock. Small vertical cracks to image, caption faded, some wear and rubbing to mount. Very good. Item #WRCAM54821
A sharp photograph of one of the first companies of African-American sailors training for General Service during World War II. The photo caption printed in negative reads: "Co. 1781--H.A. Duwe, C. Sp. Co Comdr--W.A. Westmore S 2/C Sub Comdr U.S. Naval Training Station-- Great Lakes, Ill--Jan 30, 1943." The image shows 140 trainees in uniform, standing in six rows, with their Caucasian commanding officer standing in the middle of the second row. In 1942, the Navy expanded service opportunities for African Americans beyond mess service, and Camp Robert Smalls was created within Naval Station Great Lakes to host the first full, albeit segregated, training programs. The Navy began desegregating training in 1944, with the first thirteen African Americans becoming commissioned and warrant officers that same year (the "Golden Thirteen"). By 1945, all training was fully integrated. African-American World War II Army panoramas are scarce in the market, but photographs showing African-American Navy units are decidedly rare.