Were Louisiana's Creoles counted as White or Black on Army enlistment?

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Sid Guttridge
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Were Louisiana's Creoles counted as White or Black on Army enlistment?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 11 Jul 2020 13:40

The US Army was segregated in WWII.

However, there were mixed populations in the USA.

For example, what did Louisiana Creoles count as?

They had a distinctive culture and mode of speech based on French and were of mixed origin.

Were they viewed as the equivalent of Hispanics, who were also Latins of mixed heritage, and classified as white on enlistment?

Or were they classified as Black for the purposes of military service?

Or did they have their own units, thereby side stepping the issue?

Many thanks.

Sid

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Re: Were Louisiana's Creoles counted as White or Black on Army enlistment?

Post by OpanaPointer » 11 Jul 2020 14:08

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Re: Were Louisiana's Creoles counted as White or Black on Army enlistment?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 11 Jul 2020 14:31

Hi Opanapointer,

Thanks for the quick reply.

Although his situation was a little exceptional, it appears that the Creoles counted as Black, when they could be identified.

However, in civil society this was not clear cut. Official spies were sometimes sent to funerals to see if any obviously Black relatives turned up.

I would guess that the US Army may have had similar problems trying to draw strict racial divisions where there were none.

Cheers,

Sid

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Re: Were Louisiana's Creoles counted as White or Black on Army enlistment?

Post by OpanaPointer » 11 Jul 2020 14:46

When Truman asked Marshall about desegregating the Army the General replied that "the middle of a war is no time to conduct social experiments in the military."
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Loïc
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Re: Créoles de Louisiane

Post by Loïc » 11 Jul 2020 17:13

Créoles counted as blacks? Need to precise clearly white-créoles or black-créoles because such word suffered variables definitions from the past centuries, initially a créole is only a white born in the colonies, now mainly is almost an all-but white!

I don't think that in 1940 the US Army would have counted the General Pierre-Gustave Toutant de Beauregard as "black"

despiste several decades to marginalise the french culture after the ACW until 1968, according to the census of 1940 there were still 298 420 french-speaking white-créoles and cajuns in the State of Louisiana (for 2 363 516 inhabitants, one of the largest black community but the number of french-speaking is not precised for this one)

https://www.theadvocate.com/acadiana/en ... acc9b.html
As youngsters, they were forbidden from speaking French at school. As adults, those south Louisiana children went on to help win World War II. And Jason Theriot wants to tell their stories.

Theriot, a historian and environmental consultant who grew up in New Iberia, is trying to find Cajun and Creole servicemen or women whose fluency in French came in useful during the war. If families have letters or recordings about that from deceased veterans, he also wants those for a book he’s writing.

“What I’m looking for are those sort of hidden treasures — family-owned videos, probably on a VHS tape or a cassette tape recording that some granddaughter did of her grandpa who’s long-since passed,” Theriot said. “Those are the little jewels I’m looking for.”

His book, the working title of which is “Frenchie: The Story of the French-speaking Cajuns of World War II,” will be published by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press. It expands on Theriot's master’s thesis he wrote 12 years ago. The title references the nickname many south Louisiana soldiers were called by their military comrades.

“This book is going to be focused on … Cajun identity,” said Theriot, 44, who lives in Houston. “The letters that I found years ago and have returned to … these 20-year-old GIs are writing back to their families and friends back home saying, ‘Hey, you won’t believe, but that language I was told was not useful, that French language that was beat down when I was a kid, has become invaluable. And you wouldn’t believe all the wonderful things that have happened to me since I’ve gotten here.”

Aware of the culture of south Louisiana, intelligence and military services recruited French speakers to serve in specialized roles, including being parachuted behind enemy lines to work with the civilian resistance in German-occupied France, Belgium and North Africa.

Theriot interviewed about 150 veterans and highlighted some of their individual stories with a self-published trilogy, “To Honor Our Veterans: An Oral History of World War II Veterans from the Bayou Country.”

Along the way, he interviewed 30 veterans who specifically commented on how their language skills served them well in combat units in French-speaking territories.

“In almost all of those regions, once they were discovered, they were either reassigned to a company headquarters to be a translator for some bigwig, or they were the unofficial translator of their particular unit,” Theriot said. “This was almost across the board.”

It made a big impact on the Cajun service members because they almost universally had been forbidden from speaking French, the only language they knew, in school. Many of the youngsters were mocked or worse. Theriot said his grandfather was forced to kneel on crushed pecan shells in the corner of the room because he couldn’t ask to go to the bathroom in English.

“There are so many stories like that,” Theriot said. “What does that do to a young person’s psychological makeup?”

Theriot had stopped his research after his thesis, but when he was invited to speak at the Acadian World Congress this summer in New Brunswick, Canada, he talked about these Cajuns in the military. The audiences, he said, were very appreciative.

On his flight home, Theriot said Matt Mick, of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, encouraged him to further explore the topic. Coincidentally, it was two World War II veterans — Sam Broussard and Burt Angelle — who helped start CODOFIL in 1968. The organization, Theriot said, became a catalyst for people to take pride in their French heritage.

Now Theriot wants to record in his book more experiences of these veterans, either in person or from their families, to preserve the stories. He has funding to transcribe recordings but needs to get them done by January. Contact Theriot at (713) 417-3380 or jpriot@hotmail.com.

EMAIL GEORGE MORRIS AT GMORRIS@THEADVOCATE.COM.

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2nd Battalion 156th Infantry Regiment from Louisiana

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Were Louisiana's Creoles counted as White or Black on Army enlistment?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 12 Jul 2020 18:17

Hi Loic,

You illustrate the problem well, but are not using US definitions of "Creole", which daw a distinction from "Cajun".

There was no clear dividing line between "Black" Creoles and "White" Creoles. Yet in WWII the US Army was segregated on the basis that such a distinction could be drawn.

Theriot's work deals with Cajuns, who were presumed to be overwhelmingly White descendants of French Acadians by the US Army. They spoke a recognizable, if archaic, north-western French patois and served in White US Army units. Indeed, the serviceability of their French in France and its colonies seems to have the Cajuns' unique selling point the military in WWII.

However, the Creoles, in US terms, were a separate group of mixed ancestry only partly French. Their ethnicity is given as 56.2% African and 34.7% Eutopean, with great variety within the population. Alhough they also had a significant French cultural background, their language is no longer mutually intelligible with French.

It is amongst the US Creoles that racial distinctions appear to be blurred and it is them I am asking about, not the Cajuns.

One thing is noticeable - like the Japanese-Americans of 442nd Infantry Regiment and the Puerto Ricans of 65th Infantry Regiment, the unit containing a largely Cajun/French-speaking sub unit (II/156), 156th Infantry Regiment, never served as part of an infantry division. In all three cases they remained independent/separate regiments throughout the war.

It is as if the US Army had some problem deciding where Japanese-Americans, Puerto Ricans and Cajuns stood in a Black/White segregated service.

This set me to wondering where the US Creoles stood.

Cheers,

Sid.

P.S. I have just been.looking at the US 1940 Census but under Louisiana I can find no reference to "French", "Cajun", or "Creole". Where do you get your figure of 298,420 from?

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Re: Were Louisiana's Creoles counted as White or Black on Army enlistment?

Post by LineDoggie » 15 Jul 2020 04:02

Sid Guttridge wrote:
11 Jul 2020 14:31
Hi Opanapointer,

Thanks for the quick reply.

Although his situation was a little exceptional, it appears that the Creoles counted as Black, when they could be identified.

However, in civil society this was not clear cut. Official spies were sometimes sent to funerals to see if any obviously Black relatives turned up.

I would guess that the US Army may have had similar problems trying to draw strict racial divisions where there were none.

Cheers,

Sid
Seriously What branch of government were these Official Spies from? OSS
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Re: Were Louisiana's Creoles counted as White or Black on Army enlistment?

Post by LineDoggie » 15 Jul 2020 04:05

OpanaPointer wrote:
11 Jul 2020 14:46
When Truman asked Marshall about desegregating the Army the General replied that "the middle of a war is no time to conduct social experiments in the military."
And yet Ike and JCH Lee's 5th Platoon concept worked well in 1944-45
"There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here".
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Re: Were Louisiana's Creoles counted as White or Black on Army enlistment?

Post by OpanaPointer » 15 Jul 2020 11:55

LineDoggie wrote:
15 Jul 2020 04:05
OpanaPointer wrote:
11 Jul 2020 14:46
When Truman asked Marshall about desegregating the Army the General replied that "the middle of a war is no time to conduct social experiments in the military."
And yet Ike and JCH Lee's 5th Platoon concept worked well in 1944-45
Yep. Marshall was being hyper conservative.
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Re: Were Louisiana's Creoles counted as White or Black on Army enlistment?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 16 Jul 2020 07:04

Hi linedoggie,

The people sent to spy on civil funerals to see if any obviously black family members turned up were working for the civil administration of Louisiana, which was trying to enforce segregation. Creoles trying to pass as White breached segregation.

Cheers,

Sid.

P.S. It is interesting that you mention OSS. OSS deliberately recruited Cajuns, not Creoles, for use in their Jedburgh Teams and Operations Groups behind German lines inside France because they spoke French as their first language.

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Re: Were Louisiana's Creoles counted as White or Black on Army enlistment?

Post by Nickdfresh » 17 Jul 2020 02:50

Sid Guttridge wrote:
16 Jul 2020 07:04
Hi linedoggie,

The people sent to spy on civil funerals to see if any obviously black family members turned up were working for the civil administration of Louisiana, which was trying to enforce segregation. Creoles trying to pass as White breached segregation.

Cheers,

Sid.

P.S. It is interesting that you mention OSS. OSS deliberately recruited Cajuns, not Creoles, for use in their Jedburgh Teams and Operations Groups behind German lines inside France because they spoke French as their first language.
Hi Sid, can you please provide any sort of documentation for this?

The second point, I do not recall ever reading the OSS specially recruiting "Cajuns". Would Cajuns have been that useful?

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Re: Were Louisiana's Creoles counted as White or Black on Army enlistment?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 17 Jul 2020 11:18

Hi Ndf,

There are several books by Jason Theriot on the Cajuns serving in WWII that detail their recruitment by OSS. We are not talking large numbers, but then the OSS was not a big organisation. OSS needed fluent French speakers and sent a recruiting mission to Louisiana specifically to recruit suitable Cajuns.

The information on the spying at Creole funerals came from an article on Naomi Drake, Registrar of the Bureau of Vital Statistics for the City of New Orleans over 1949–1965. Her office classified everyone as either Black or White. Creoles presented a problem for this simplistic view. The Registrar's office therefore used to sift through obituaries and check whether the surname or funeral home implied a deceased person claimed as White might be Black and sent spies to check who was attending as relatives.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Were Louisiana's Creoles counted as White or Black on Army enlistment?

Post by Futurist » 21 Jul 2020 04:25

Sid Guttridge wrote:
11 Jul 2020 13:40
The US Army was segregated in WWII.

However, there were mixed populations in the USA.

For example, what did Louisiana Creoles count as?

They had a distinctive culture and mode of speech based on French and were of mixed origin.

Were they viewed as the equivalent of Hispanics, who were also Latins of mixed heritage, and classified as white on enlistment?

Or were they classified as Black for the purposes of military service?

Or did they have their own units, thereby side stepping the issue?

Many thanks.

Sid
My educated guess would be as black--at least if they had any documented black ancestry--due to the one-drop rule in the US:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-drop_rule

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