Jul 07

Segregation in San Luis Obispo, World War II week by week

Headlines from July 7, 1942 in the Telegram-Tribune.

Nazi troops led by General Rommel were threatening to take Cairo, Egypt. They hoped to drive the British out of North Africa and open the way to the rich oil fields of the Middle East.
Russian troops were also on the defensive as attacks pressed for a city renamed in honor of the Soviet leader, Stalin.
In retrospect this would be the high water mark in Africa for the Axis. British troops held their ground, the American Embassy in Cairo changed their code depriving the Germans inside information of the situation. British commanders were beginning to make sense of their decoded intercepts and began to target weaker Italian divisions for counter attack. This forced the German commander to redeploy crack units to shore up holes in the line. A new field commander would soon take over for the British and the Americans were gearing up to enter the fray. American troops were beginning to reach the front seven months after entering the war.
The United States was learning the lessons in logistics. The nation was converting to a wartime economy and training and deploying men to the other side of the world on ships. Coordination with allies was essential to make the effort effective. Sometimes allies agreed to disagree.
United States Army Air Corps struck the first U.S. blow in Europe by making their first bomb run on July 4th, 1942.
Americans were convinced that precision daylight bombing was the correct approach. The British having inflicted terrible losses on the German bombers in daylight during the Battle of Britain and having suffered terrible losses attacking over enemy territory in daylight had moved to a night time, area bombing approach.

In local news water impounded behind the Salinas Dam was being released downstream equal to the rate of inflow. The five member committee in charge of setting policy said water would be released from July 1 until the end of the dry season on October 31. About 18,000 acre-feet of water had been stored since the floodgates were closed the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Segregation is a word usually associated with the South but San Luis Obispo was also the scene of institutionalized discrimination. A front page story was headlined:

Colored Troops’ USO Club Opens Here July 19

The hall was at 861 Palm St. According to Google maps the location is the building with the Shanghai Low, Chop Suey sign in Chinatown.
J. Barksdale Brown was the director and his resume included degrees from Atlanta University and M.A. from Columbia. He had also worked in New York City with the YMCA, Harlem Boys Club and Children’s Aid Society. Activities were the usual U.S.O fare of dances, movies, letter writing and games and Brown expressed a desire for a board of management from townspeople, who he said “have been definitely cooperative.”

African-American troops would be given few front line assignments and as a result few promotions during the war. Many support roles involved danger but little chance for distinction such as the loading of ships with explosives.
Desegrigation of America’s armed forces would come after the war under President Harry Truman on February 2, 1948.

Related posts:

  1. Salinas Dam water tunnel completed under Cuesta Grade, World War II week by week
  2. Economic impact of war, World War II week by week
  3. Japanese relocation, World War II week by week
  4. Train wreck, Salinas Dam construction World War II week by week
  5. Camp San Luis Obispo during World War II