Historians W. Douglas Fisher and Joann H. Buckley recently held a discussion about their book “African American Doctors of World War 1: The Lives of 104 Volunteers,” at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Some 104 black physicians served 40,000 black combat troops assigned to segregated U.S. Army units during World War 1. Despite a shortage of physicians, African-American doctors were only allowed to treat black soldiers. More than 350,000 African Americans had served with the American Expeditionary Force on the Western Front.
Most African American units were largely relegated to support roles and did not see combat. Still, African Americans played a notable role in America’s war effort. For example, the 369th Infantry Regiment, known as the “Harlem Hellfighters”, was assigned to the French Army and served on the front lines for six months. Some 171 members of the 369th were awarded the Legion of Merit.
The book tracks the lives of black physicians who cared for black combat troops during the first world war.