Cover image for We were there : voices of African American veterans, from World War II to the War in Iraq
We were there : voices of African American veterans, from World War II to the War in Iraq
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Amistad, c2004.
Physical Description:
xvii, 184 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 355.0092 WE 1 1

On Order



Black Americans have had an ongoing presence in the American military, from the Revolution to the Civil War to Vietnam to the War in Iraq, yet their contributions are often relegated to a footnote of history, if mentioned at all. The recent successes and wide visibility of African Americans in the military -- such as those of Colin Powell and Shoshanna Johnson -- belie a harsh reality: the Army was segregated until the Korean War. Only in the last fifty years have blacks been allowed to serve in a manner commensurate with both their skills and commitment.

Now, in a book that honors their service to their country, more than two dozen veterans and military personnel, including Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, one of the foremost spokespersons to the media on the War in Iraq, speak for themselves and their peers about their experiences -- in combat, in the barracks, and in their hometowns after they returned from war. Each profile is accompanied by photographs of the men and women from their days in uniform, as well as specially commissioned contemporary portraits from acclaimed photographer Ron Tarver. With stories of patriotism combined with a determination to overcome obstacles, We Were There is an inspiring account of the extraordinary sacrifices of everyday Americans.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Taking a cue from Bloods, the bestselling 1984 oral history of black Vietnam War veterans, Philadelphia Daily News reporter Latty allows 28 veterans from five wars, including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, do the talking in this affecting volume. The stories tell of college dropouts who were drafted into service, eager adventurers seeing the world courtesy of Uncle Sam and dedicated career soldiers pursuing lifelong dreams. The military, often praised as an engine of integration, receives a more nuanced evaluation here: several veterans look back on battles on two fronts-the first against foreign enemies and the second against bigoted white comrades-in-arms. Leonard Smith offers a heartbreaking memory of passing out sweets to just-freed concentration camp survivors; Waverly B. Woodson, Jr. describes landing at Omaha Beach: "If you ever want to know what hell is like, D day was it." Former World War II, Korea and Vietnam POWs add unsettling glimpses into their harrowing ordeals. Veterans of the Gulf War tell more upbeat stories, remembering their military service with pride and, in some cases, affection. Female perspectives on race and war also command attention: a World War II Army private, one of about 800 black women deployed to Europe to sort mail, still marvels over the European crowds that cheered her unit in parades; two Vietnam nurses share frank, heart-stopping accounts of combat zone carnage. Award-winning photographer Ron Tarver's evocative, dignified portraits, juxtaposed with early snapshots of the youthful soldiers, frame each testimony. The volume doesn't break new ground, but offers a celebration of unsung heroes and an important historical document. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Booklist Review

The short pieces by African American combat veterans of the past 60 years that make up this collection succinctly describe the authors' backgrounds; the kinds of fighting they did, both in the field and against racism; and the lifetime effects of their military service. It is illustrated with photographs of the writers at the time of their service and as they appear today. For anyone reasonably well acquainted with American military history since the beginning of World War II, the book contains nothing new, and that includes even the number of women contributors to it.ust for that reason, however, it provides an excellent introduction to combat experience for almost all but the youngest, least experienced readers. It is especially commendable as a resource for anyone trying to put together a Memorial Day or Veteran's Day project, since it puts the African American experience in the broader context of American military history in general. Perhaps it is of particular value to smaller collections. --Frieda Murray Copyright 2004 Booklist