Sunday, June 5, 2016
June 5, 1942 – The United States Naval Training station at Great Lakes opens its doors for the first time to African-American recruits bound for active duty as apprentice seamen and firemen aboard warships. The first of the recruits, Doreston Luke Carmen, Jr., a 19-year-old, one of nine children in a Galveston, Texas family, is sworn in on this day after his first train trip. “I like the Navy fine already,” he says. “Last night I slept in a hammock for the first time and didn’t fall out.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 6, 1942] The commandant of the station, Lieutenant Commander Daniel W. Armstrong, says that he will wait until all 50 recruits have arrived before issuing them regulation uniforms and sending them through the classification office. The Navy opened all ratings to African-American sailors from the time of the Civil War until 1922, but from that date until 1936 the Navy ended the policy. In 1936 that policy was reversed, but African-American sailors were only posted as mess attendants.