Neglect, racism undid all-black 24th in Korean War
Ron Busser, 74, of Red Lion, and Robert Casbeer, 78, of Springettsbury Township, participate in a ceremony to honor Korean War veterans at the York Expo Center. See video: Korean War memories. (Click to enlarge photo.) Background post:York County Historical War Deaths top 1,000.
York County sent about 7,000 to serve in the Korean Conflict, and at least 63 made the ultimate sacrifice.
None of those returning paid a higher price than Lt. Leon Gilbert of York, a decorated World War II combat soldier.
Gilbert refused an order to lead an assault on a hill.
“Never to be Forgotten” tells the rest of the story:
Later, Gilbert said an attack against a much bigger force would be suicide for the all-black 24th Infantry Regiment. He faces court-martial and is sentenced to death. President Truman commutes the sentence, but Gilbert serves five years in prison. In 1996, an official Army report noted that Gilbert’s regiment performed poorly in the early years of the Korean conflict, as did many white units. But the report attributed the failures to neglect, inferior white leadership and institutional racism. President Truman integrated the U.S. military in 1948, but many units remained segregated for years afterwards. “There was no single reason for what happened (to the 24th),” the report stated. “An aggressive enemy, old and worn equipment, inexperience at all levels, leadership failures high and low, casualties among key personnel and a lack of bonding and cohesion in some units all played their part. There was no lack of courage among the officers and men.”