Open Letter to President Biden History Month request from Black Veterans

Replica of Colonel Charles Young statue destined for Washington, D.C.

By: Charles Blatcher III, Chairman                                                                    

   Congratulations on your election. America looks forward to a sense of rationality in addressing the many problems plaguing our Nation.

   We are a coalition of Black Veteran Organizations and cultural institutions that have come together in a unity of purpose to address our military History.  The coalition has been at the forefront in calling for redress for Black service personnel who were slighted or omitted in the historical record.  However, we chose to forego addressing the Federal Government under the past Administration.

  Our primary focus has been educating the public about the importance of preserving Black Military History.  We have advocated for years the honorary promotion of the legendary Buffalo Soldier Colonel Charles Young, USA 1889-1922. Charles Young is a Native Son of Kentucky, born into slavery in 1864. His  accomplishments are numerous which include being the third Black Graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He was the first Black Military attaché to a foreign country in 1904.  In 1917 he was medically discharged from the Army.  He protested the separation and rode on horseback and walked four hundred and ninety-seven miles from Wilberforce, Ohio to Washington, DC to prove his fitness to return to active duty. He was returned to active duty on November 6, 1918, days before the Armistice was signed ending World War I. He was the highest rank Black Officer in the United States Armed Forces from 1894 to his death in 1922. Historians agree that if had not it been for the racism of the era, he would had  been the  first Black General in the United States Military. 

   The Colonel was posthumously promoted to Brigadier General by Governor Andy Beshear into the Kentucky National Guard at our request in February 2020. We are seeking federal recognition for Brigadier General Young. We ask that you grant him the honorary title of Major General in the United States Army. There is a precedent for the request: Brigadier General William Mitchell, who is now considered the father of the Air Force was court martialed for insubordination. The crime was his advocacy for the use of aircraft in warfare counter to the command to shut up. He was reduced in rank to Colonel leaving the Army in disgrace. Years after Mitchell’s death, President Franklin D. Roosevelt posthumously awarded him the honorary promotion to Major General.  Brigadier General Young served honorably for three decades.

   We have worked with the Mason County Fiscal Court and the community of Maysville, Kentucky on the restoration of Colonel Young’s birth cabin. The cabin stands on thirty-eight acres of land with a main house,  two tobacco barns and an equestrian track. The county rescued the property from the public sale to preserve the cabin. The restoration was completed in 2014.  The property lies between two National Monuments, Camp Nelson in Nicholasville, Kentucky and the Charles Young and Buffalo Soldiers Monument in Wilberforce, Ohio. The annexation or designation of the Cabin as a National Monument would be of tremendous boost in attracting educational tourism to the region. We believe both Governors and citizens in the region would favorably approve of the positive visibility.

   Second, the matter of Seaman Dorie Miller, the Black Cook aboard the USS West Virginia who manned the anti- aircraft gun and shot down a Japanese Zero during the attack on Pearl Harbor. This has been an issue with Black Veterans for decades. There were sixteen Medals awarded for actions on December 7, 1941. Fifteen Medals of Honor were presented to White Sailors for actions above and beyond the call of duty. What could be more heroic and beyond the call of duty then a Cook regardless of color manning an anti-aircraft gun and downing an enemy aircraft? Seaman Miller was awarded the Navy Cross. We would like to see his Navy Cross upgraded to the Medal of Honor. We ask that a Medal and Citation be transferred to the National African American Museum of History and Culture to join his history in the Gallery. 

   Third, in 1945 a battalion of eight hundred Black Women Soldiers formed the 6888th Postal Battalion. The Battalion was sent to England and France to establish a central directory for mail sent to troops in the European Theater. The battalion replaced a unit of men who left behind a backlog of millions of pieces of mail. The Inspector General wrongfully blamed the arriving 6888th for the backlog. The Battalion made a tremendous contribution to the war effort through the expeditious handling and distribution of the mail to the GI’s serving in the European Theater. The recognition is long overdue.  

   The Organization’s Representative informed me that eight of the original members of the Battalion are still with us. We are calling for your consideration in granting them the Presidential Freedom Medal  representing the Battalion. Vice President Kamala Harris joining in the presentation would make the occasion extra special in American History. Again, we request a Medal and Citation be transferred to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington to join the Battalion’s History in the gallery.

   We plan to seek dialogue with the Smithsonian Institute to explore our desire to erect a statue of (hopefully) Major General Charles Young on horseback on the grounds of the National African American Museum of History and Culture. We believe the location would be fitting considering our military history is the cornerstone of the historic Civil Rights Movement. We would like to carry your support for that conversation forward. Our goal is to offer the statue to the Nation as a gift from the Black Veterans  Community and Friends.  Maquettes are on display in the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage in Louisville and the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum in Houston, Texas.

   Sir, we would hope that you give consideration of our request. We would like to join you in looking forward to the promise of this nation. Let it be on the premise we have addressed as opposed to overlooking the injustices of the past. We recognize Black History Month; February 2021 is upon us.  While it may be late for this February’s consideration there is always next year. However, Black History Month is not the only time the Black contributions to the Nation can be recognized. Brigadier General Young’s birthday is coming on March 12th.  A promotion for his one hundred and fifty-sixth birthday would be a timely tribute. We would certainly seek priority consideration on the request to recognize the surviving members of the 6888th Postal Battalion.   

   Thank you in advance for your consideration.

####                                                                          ####                                                                             ####

Contact Information: