Source: BBC

In his book, Mr Hitchcock raises another issue that rarely features in euphoric folk-memories of liberation: Allied looting, and worse.

"The theft and looting of Normandy households and farmsteads by liberating soldiers began on June 6 and never stopped during the entire summer," he writes.

One woman - from the town of Colombieres - is quoted as saying that "the enthusiasm for the liberators is diminishing. They are looting... everything, and going into houses everywhere on the pretext of looking for Germans." Even more feared, of course, was the crime of rape - and here too the true picture has arguably been expunged from popular memory.

According to American historian J Robert Lilly, there were around 3,500 rapes by American servicemen in France between June 1944 and the end of the war. "The evidence shows that sexual violence against women in liberated France was common," writes Mr Hitchcock.

"It also shows that black soldiers convicted of such awful acts received very severe punishments, while white soldiers received lighter sentences." Of 29 soldiers executed for rape by the US military authorities, 25 were black - though African-Americans did not represent nearly so high a proportion of convictions.

After reading the last paragraph a question arises: In the U.S. military forces, did black soldiers suffer a heavy racial segregation as late as World War II?

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    A notorious example en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Chicago_disaster
    – none
    May 26, 2013 at 5:40
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    1) What is BBC the source for? What part of this did BBC originate? 2) The first three paragraphs are about looting; the next three are about violence against women. What does looting have to do with African American soldiers? The only linkage to African Americans is in the bold, unsourced quote (could be Hitchock, could be Lilly, could be BBC). This question mixes together too many themes in a manner that makes me uncomfortable.
    – MCW
    May 26, 2013 at 17:39
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    Ease up; I meant no offense. After I wrote that I noticed that you're from Italy, and probably aren't quite as sensitive to racial politics in America. There have been some people in America who have attempted to link African Americans to crime and specifically to violence against women. When I see that linkage, I get very defensive because I don't want to be drawn into a manipulative debate - I DO NOT believe that you are guilty of this; you're a victim of some uncouth people who have poisoned the debate.
    – MCW
    May 26, 2013 at 19:43
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    Done. I also added some (hopefully) relevant tags. May 26, 2013 at 21:41
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    @MarkC.Wallace I read it more as an attempt to smear white people for using different standards of punishment and behaviour when judging blacks. While this may have gone on, the quoted text provides no evidence of it whatsoever.
    – jwenting
    May 27, 2013 at 5:44

1 Answer 1


During WWII the US military was heavily segregated. Most black soldiers served in support roles such as truck drivers and stevedores. There were some combat black combat units such as the Tuskegee Airmen and 761st Tank Batallion.

A notable exception occurred during and after the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. Faced with a shortage of replacements for front-line service General Eisenhower allowed black soldiers from support units to transfer into the infantry and join previously all white units.

As for Canada there were no segregated units in the Canadian military in WWII, but that doesn't mean there was no prejudice. Early in the war black volunteers were often rejected, especially by the Navy and Air Force.

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    +1 but would love to see some references for Canada. May 26, 2013 at 21:42
  • I met an African-American veteran of the 9th Cavalry Regiment. Well, that is, he shipped over to North Africa as a cavalryman, but the unit was disbanded and they were all made stevedores. Jun 21, 2013 at 21:24

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