Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

This Day in Truman History
July 26, 1948
President Truman issues Executive Order No. 9981 Desegregating the Military

President Truman had been examining the issue of segregation in the armed forces since at least 1947, when he appointed the President's Committee on Civil Rights. By January 1948, internal White House memos indicated that the President was determined to end military segregation by executive order. However, it was not until the delegates at the 1948 Democratic National Convention called for a liberal civil rights plank that included desegregation of the armed forces that Truman felt comfortable enough to issue Executive Order No. 9981 on July 26. The order stated that "It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin." The order also established the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and opportunity in the Armed Services (Fahy Committee).

Naturally, there was resistance to this order within the military. Staff officers from all branches protested anonymously and sometimes even openly to integration. The Fahy Committee worked with the different branches of the military to ensure that the armed forces instituted integration in their recruitment and unit composition practices. Full integration did not come until the Korean War however, when heavy casualties forced segregated units to merge for survival.

A banner created in 1953 to honor the integration of the United States Armed Forces. Source: Papers of Philleo Nash.