Col. Charles Young Denied by the Center for Military History
By Arelya J. Mitchell, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief
The Mid-South Tribune and the Black Information Highway(Editorial: Posted July 26, 2013)
Long before one president could utter: “Ask not what your country can do for
you, but ask what you can do for your country?” Charles Young had already answered
the call. Ironically, Col. Charles Young, a legend in his own time Buffalo soldier, was
medically discharged from the United States Army in the year John F. Kennedy was
He was proud to be called Colonel Charles Young; he was proud to serve his
country, the United States of America. No one could question Charles Young’s
patriotism, and no one could question that he deserved to move up in the ranks. Until now
and by the Center for Military History.
On January 22, 2013 the National Coalition of Black Veterans sent a very
compelling letter* to the nation’s first African American President requesting that Col.
Charles Young receive a presidential proclamation that would bestow on him the
honorary rank of Brigadier General. Written by coalition chairman, Charles Blatcher III
who is also founder of the National Minority Military Museum Foundation, and by the
museum’s chairman, Howard D. Jackson, this letter is a literary masterpiece in Black
History and should be read by every Black child and every American child, for the fact
that Black History is American History.
Apparently, personnel at the Center for Military History cannot read.
You see, the National Coalition of Black Veterans was not asking anything out of
the ordinary concerning a presidential proclamation given posthumously to a soldier, as
Blatcher and Jackson so movingly cited with monumental facts in their letter. Presidents
Harry S Truman, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton had accorded posthumously such
proclamations and honorary titles.
However, the response to this letter was so slow in coming that the Coalition
enlisted the aid of Cong. Barbara Lee (D-CA) who dispatched yet another letter to the
nation’s first Black President, requesting that he bestow the rank of Honorary Brigadier
General on a man who had served his country for 32 years.
It was after Cong. Lee’s letter that the Center for Military History was charged
with looking into the matter.
Fast forwarding: The Center’s response to the National Coalition of Black
Veterans was not only disrespectful but bordered on a crass naïveté that is repugnant in a
21st Century America, representing the first administration headed by an African
American President who also serves as the nation’s Commander-in-Chief.
Herein is the response: “… [W]hile Colonel Young did display exemplary conduct
and character and made significant contributions to the national defense, there is no
evidence that he ever performed duties and responsibilities commensurate with a
Brigadier General. Moreover, all evidence indicates that Colonel Young was promoted
simultaneously with his peers from West Point.”
One has to wonder what evidence would that be for a Black soldier who was only
the third African American to graduate from a lily white West Point and who had served
his country from 1889 to 1922? One has to wonder if the Center looked at the ‘facts’ that
Col. Young did not receive his promotion because white soldiers did not want to be
‘subservient’ to a Black man. One has to wonder if the Center looked into the ‘politics’ of
race which used bogus medical claims to force Col. Young into retirement after he
requested to be promoted to Brigadier General. One has to wonder if the Center
investigated the white officers who put in their requests for transfers so they would not
have to serve under a Black Brigadier General or a Black anything for that matter.
And we mustn’t forget the hilarious line “…promoted simultaneously with his
peers from West Point?” Do tell.
The highly esteemed Center for Military History expounds in classic brush off: “It
is worth noting, however, that Colonel Young’s official records were destroyed and that
CMH has determined it would be impossible to recreate them. The Army is certainly
willing to consider any additional, substantive documentation regarding Colonel Young’s
career that may support a recommendation for honorary promotion. Therefore, I ask that
you provide any additional documentation you may have — such as official military
records, commendations, resumes, curriculum vitae, etc. — to allow a complete
characterization of Colonel Young’s service.”
To which Charles Blatcher III justifiably responded in his letter of July 8, 2013 to
the nation’s first Black President and Commander- in-Chief: “Officers were not allowed
to command white troops. Their promotion opportunities were limited to the needs of the
9th and 10th Cavalries and the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments. There was no place in the
segregated armed forces for a Black General or full colonel. The date Charles Young was
promoted to full colonel was the same day that he was forced into medical retirement
from the United States Army. We are certain the Center for Military History is aware of
the facts of his service and of the era. We request that you grant the honorary promotion
in the name of historical redress and social justice.”
Now, what part of these facts cited above does the Center for Military History
need to translate with the Rosetta Stone? Why doesn’t the Center investigate how the
records were destroyed? When were they destroyed? After this man who had served his
country asked to be promoted? And then to add stupidity to injury and insult, the Center
had the audacity to ask for more proof “to allow a complete characterization of Col.
Young’s service.” Of course, the Center for Military History is aware of the times in
which Col. Young lived, but the Center has invoked its SOBP—that is, its Standard
Operating Black Procedure—which translates into the tactic that if you ignore a Black
person long enough, he’ll just go away. To which it should be noted that this Black
matter will neither be ignored nor go away.
In his letter, Blatcher further requested that Charles Young should be respected by
having the title of Colonel placed before his name on the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers
National Monument, stating: “…The omission of his rank in the title of the National
Monument disassociates him from his military history and outstanding service to the
nation. As it was stated to me by a fellow senior veteran: ‘He was robbed of his
promotion opportunity to general during his lifetime. Now it appears he has been robbed
of his earned title of Colonel in his death.’ We ask that you re-designate the Monument’s
name to reflect his military association and accomplishments. (Preferable title: Brigadier
General Charles Young.).”
In addition to his West Point significance, Col. Young became the first Black
military attaché, and was “the first Black soldier promoted to both the ranks of Lieutenant
Colonel as well as Colonel,” as stated in the Coalition’s letter to President Obama.
As a strong advocate of preserving Historical Black Colleges and Universities
(HBCUs), I must point out that Col. Young has too the distinction of having taught at
Wilberforce University, the first Black college founded by African Americans
themselves; therefore, it is incumbent upon Wilberforce alumni and all graduates of
HBCUs to join in the Coalition’s efforts give this Black soldier his due.
Others** who have joined these efforts are Lt. General Arthur J. Gregg, Brigadier
General Robert Cocroft, Col. Franklin J. Henderson, Captain Joseph Murchison, other
notable veterans, historians, and such organizations as Omega Psi Phi Fraternity (of
which Col. Young was a member), 761st Tank Battalion and Allied Veterans
Association, The African American Patriots Consortium, and the Congressional Black
Caucus Braintrust. (Please see full list below). Also, the Commonwealth of Kentucky
House of Representatives and the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights were among
the numerous resolutions in support of this campaign.
The January 22, 2013 Coalition letter is one of compassion and is symbolic of
Messrs. Charles Blatcher III and Howard D. Jackson being ‘officers and gentlemen’ in
making this request on behalf of Black veterans. I on the other hand will not be a lady in
asserting that this matter will not be swept under the rug because of an inadequate Center
of Military History which has personnel who cannot do its research in a warranted
historical context. Therefore, we are requesting that it is truly now time for all African
American organizations to come to the aid of Col. Young. Going all the way from the
American Revolutionary War, Civil War, Buffalo Soldier, Tuskegee Airmen, World War
I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and wars in between, the Black soldier’s blood has
been disrespected. Blood from those living and dead.
All African American veterans should crisscross military disciplines to right this
wrong and that can be done by calling The Colonel Charles Young Promotion Campaign
at 510-467-9242 or email to CNMMMF@aol.com .
This is the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, and Col. Young has
not been judged by the content of his character but rather by the color of his skin.
What does Col. Charles Young have to do to get the President’s attention: Stand
his ground? He’s already six-feet under, how much more ground does he need to get a
promotion he rightly deserves?
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of America’s first Catholic president.
Perhaps we can rephrase his famous line to juxtapose with the plight of Col. Charles
Young with: “Ask not what this Black soldier can do for his country, but what this
country can do for this Black soldier.”
*The above editorial and letters are on the Editorial, Letters, Black History,
Op/Ed, Black Paper, States, and Military Honorees lanes and can also be downloaded in
Adobe PDF format on the Black Information Highway and The Mid-South Tribune
ONLINE at www.blackinformationhighway.com . Welcome, Travelers!
**Coalition partners are: The National Minority Museum Foundation, Oakland,
CA; The American Legion-Charles Young Post #398, NY, NY; The Congressional Black
Caucus Braintrust, Washington, D.C.; Los Banos Buffalo Soldiers 9th and 10th Cavalry,
Los Banos, CA; The USCG National Association of Former Stewards and Mates,
Laurelton, NY; The Buffalo Soldiers Memorial Committee-Inland Empire Heritage
Association, Riverside, CA; The Association of the 2221 Negro Infantry Vo lunteers
World War II, Ft. Washington, MD; The 9th Memorial United States Cavalry
Association, Marana, AZ; The National Association of Black Veterans, Inc., Milwaukee,
WI; The African American Patriots Consortium, Inc., Baltimore, MD; The American
Legion-Cook-Nelson Post #20, Pontiac, MI; The 9th and 10th Horse Cavalry Association,
Los Angeles, CA; The 555th Black Paratroopers Association, Tampa, FL; 369th Veterans
Association, Staten Island, NY; The 715 Veterans Association, Laurelton, NY; Montford Point
Marine Association, Inc., Limerick, PA; 761st Tank Battalion and Allied Veterans Association,
Chicago, IL.; The African American Gallery of the Ethnic Heritage Museum, Rockford, IL; and the Aces Museum, Philadelphia, PA.