The first U.S. soldier to die in PH on Dec. 8, 1941 was Black
 
 
 
 
 
 

The first U.S. soldier to die in PH on Dec. 8, 1941 was Black

/ 11:36 AM December 08, 2022
The light-skinned Pvt. Robert Brooks served in an all-white unit in the then-racially segregated U.S. Armed Forces.

The light-skinned Pvt. Robert Brooks served in an all-white unit in the then-racially segregated U.S. Armed Forces.

The first U.S. soldier to die in the Philippines, the day after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, was a Black American.

An article in TIME magazine (Dec. 6, 2022) by Olivia B. Waxman, revisits the start of WWII in the Pacific 81 years ago on Dec. 7, 1941. After the Japanese Imperial forces attacked Pearl Harbor killing some 2,400 military personnel and civilians, they attacked the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island and British territories in Asia.

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In the Philippines, on Dec. 8, 1941, the Japanese bombed U.S. military installations like Fort Stotsenberg (Clark Field). Private Robert Brooks, a tank driver in the 192nd Tank Battalion from Kentucky, had only been in the Philippines for a day when a Japanese bomb killed him in the afternoon that day.

“He was the first casualty in the U.S. Armored Forces during the war,” says Matthew F. Delmont, author of the new book Half American: The Epic Story of African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad”, Waxman writes.

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The U.S. Army did not realize that the light-skinned Pvt. Brooks was a Black American serving in an all-white unit, until his parents, Black sharecroppers from Kentucky, came for his funeral. The draft board had classified him as white.

The Army went ahead with its memorial for Brooks on Dec. 23 in Fort Knox, Kentucky, where six generals showed and dedicated the main parade ground as Brooks Field. The memorial held by the U.S. Armed Forces where the policy of racial segregation was in in force took place in the segregated state of Kentucky.

“Not all Black veterans received such respect from their fellow servicemen or civilians,” writes Waxman. “For most of the war, Black Americans couldn’t serve in combat roles, and were treated like second-class citizens. Some Black veterans who returned to the U.S. after the war were murdered or brutally attacked, like Marco Snipes, a Black World War II veteran who was lynched for voting in Georgia.”

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