“Black Warriors: The Buffalo Soldiers of World War II” Author Chronicles His Experience in WWII’s First Black Infantry Combat Unit
On Sunday, July 12 at 5 pm, the African American Catholic Center for Evangelization (AACCFE) will hold a free admission event, its next Dinner Speaker Series presentation and book signing featuring someone who is the embodiment of “living Black History,” Ivan J. Houston, author of the highly-anticipated new memoir, Black Warriors: The Buffalo Soldiers of World War II (iUniverse). Though Mr. Houston is one of the nation’s African American business icons, Black Warriors is his riveting account of serving in WWII with the U.S. Army’s segregated Black 92nd Infantry-also known as the legendary Buffalo Soldiers–that became WWII’s first African American Infantry Combat Unit in Europe. While the 92ndwas profiled in Spike Lee’s recent film, “Miracle at St. Anna,” Mr. Houston hopes to expose even more people-especially young people–to the true story of the 92nd with Black Warriors. At the event, he will share his experience as an African American in a segregated WWII army, followed by a Q&A.
The educational aspect of Mr. Houston’s presentation is historically multi-layered. First, he has released the book in this 65th anniversary year of D-Day and the combat infantry’s first engagement of battle on August 23, 1944. Second, Mr. Houston is also part of historical records as the former Chairman/CEO of Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company, one of the largest historically Black-owned businesses in the country.
Third, he has a rare historical legacy with respect to African Americans and the military. Mr. Houston’s father, Norman O. Houston, was one of the few Black officers in World War I, and has a residential park in Los Angeles named after him in the Baldwin Hills area. His great grandfather, Benjamin F. Talbot, served in the Civil War, and his name is listed on the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, DC. His great-great grandfather, Charles Dyde Hine, was a member of the British Monarchy’s famed Life Guards. Therefore, in 1943, Mr. Houston, along with his brother, Norman B. Houston, was the fourth generation of his family in the armed forces when he voluntarily enlisted while a student at UC Berkeley. His family has also been featured in books on Black History.
Fourth, Mr. Houston experienced one of the more historically devastating aspects of WWII-the Civil Rights factor.
Over a million African American men and women served in WWII to help their country to help several countries to gain their freedom and independence back from Hitler and the other Axis forces, only to return back to the United States to legal segregation and to the continuation of being treated like second class citizens. However, that fact about life for African Americans did not stop Mr. Houston at 19, from being one of the youngest members of the 3rd Battalion of Combat Team 370 that had 4,000 men. And he brings history to life on the enthralling pages of Black Warriors,that include WWII maps and archival photos, revealing his personal journey as a Black infantryman and the 370th’s odyssey as a Black infantry regiment. Based in Italy, the Combat Team’s assignment was to cross the Arno River and break through the Germans’ deeply fortified, “Gothic Line,” which stretched 170 miles across Italy’s “spine.” This assignment countered how the U.S. Armed Forces had previously–and unjustly–relegated most of its Black military personnel to service units, in support of the combat forces, such as the Red Ball Express driving munitions to the front line. Eventually, the Tuskegee Airmen flying and defending their escort missions and the 92nd Infantry bravely and fiercely fighting on the ground to victory would defy that infamous relegation. Mr. Houston’s combat unit would actually be greeted with hugs and flowers from Italians.
After the war, Mr. Houston returned to UC Berkeley, becoming a three-year letterman in track and field, and graduated in 1948 to begin an illustrious business career that spanned over 40 years. He is still a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans.
The final aspect of Mr. Houston’s “living history” stems from President Harry Truman in 1948 finally banning segregation in the military. However, segregation was not illegal nationwide until 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling. Civil rights were not legally protected nationwide until the 1964 Civil Rights Act–over twenty years after Houston and others served America with distinction. And while the country has made progress, including the election of Barak Obama, it is important that people of all races–again especially young people–learn first-hand from Mr. Houston how people of color contributed to the United States’ victory over the Nazis so many decades ago, and to remember the bravery of the unsung heroes of the 92nd Division, who fought and gave their lives in defense of freedom…
The free admission event–which includes a light dinner-will be held at St. Eugene Parish Hall, at St. Eugene’s Church, 9505 South Haas Ave., L.A, CA 90047 (ph.323-777-2106). Free parking is available behind the church. For further information on Black Warriors: The Buffalo Soldiers of World War II or on Mr. Houston, please email [email protected] or go to www.blackwarriorsbook.com.