EXTRAORDINARY BRAVERY AND COURAGE OF BLACK MEN ON THE BATTLEFIELD – PAST AND PRESENT: THE CIVIL WAR – THE VIETNAM WAR

The Participation Of Blacks In The Civil War:

  1. The Quoted Statement Of Lewis Douglass, Eldest Son Of Frederick Douglass In A Letter Written At Night While In The 54th Massachusetts Volunteers, A Black Civil War Regiment, Just Before Going Into Battle, Stating His Willingness:  To Die If My Death Will Mean Freedom For Our People – Asking His Father, Frederick Douglas:

 To ASee To It That Our Sacrifice Will Not Have Been Made In Vain.

The Participation Of Blacks In The Vietnam Conflict – A Recipient Of The Congressional Medal Of Honor:..

A Slim, Handsome Young Black Named Milton L. Olive Iii … Was Only Seventeen Years Old In August, 1964, With A Year Of High School Still Ahead Of Him, When He Said Good-Bye To His Parents And Their Pleasant Bungal,Ow On Chicago=S South Side And Went Off To Enlist In The Regular Army. … Certainly, Unlike Many Black Soldiers, It Wasn=T The Need To Escape Any Problems At Home.   Young Milton Was Doing Well In Saints Junior College High. He And His Father Milton B. Olive, Jr., An Employee Of A City Youth Agency, Had Much In Common: Their Mutual Interest In Photography Was Supported By Enough Equipment To Stock A Small Camera Store. The Draft Board Wasn’t Breathing Down His Neck, So There Was No Immediate Need For Young Olive To Go.

Whatever His Motivation, Olive Left On August 17 For The United States Army Training Center At Fort Knox, Kentucky, Where He Received Basic Combat Training Until October, 1964. He Celebrated His Eighteenth Birthday At The Artillery And Missile School At Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Once The Home Of The Black Cavalrymen Who Fought In The Indian Wars. Then, In Rapid Succession, Between February And May Of 1965, He Underwent Further Training At Fort Polk, Louisiana, And Fort Benning, Georgia, Where He Received The Basic Airborne Training Course. With That Behind Him, He Was Assigned To The 173rd Airborne Brigade In Vietnam.

Still Only Eighteen Years Old, And Now A Private First-Class Olive Joined Company B, 3rd Battalion (Airborne), Of The 503rd Infantry Regiment. He Had Been In Vietnam For Less Than Six Months When, On October 22, He And The Other Men Of The Third Platoon Moved Into The Jungle Near Phu Cuong On A Search-And-Destroy Mission Against Vietcong Who Were Operating In The Area. Before Long The American Soldiers Encountered Heavy Enemy Rifle Fire. They Were Pinned Down Momentarily, But Soon Leaped Up To Assault The Vietcong Positions, Causing The Enemy To Flee.

As The Platoon Pursued The Insurgents,= The Official Army Record Reports, >Private Olive And Four Other Soldiers Were Moving Through The Jungle Together When A Grenade Was Thrown Into Their Midst. Private Olive Saw The Grenade, And Then Saved The Lives Of His Fellow Soldiers At The Sacrifice Of His Own By Grabbing The Grenade In His Hand And Falling On It To Absorb The Blast With His Body.

Six Months Later, The Young Black Soldier’s Parents Joined Two Of The Men Whose Lives He Had Saved – One Of Them Black And The Other White – In The White House Rose Garden. There, President Johnson Awarded The Medal Of Honor Posthumously For >Private Olive=S Conspicuous Gallantry, Extraordinary Heroism, And Intrepidity At The Risk Of His Own Life Above And Beyond The Call Of Duty. … Through His Bravery, Unhesitating Actions, And Complete Disregard For His Own Safety, He Prevented Additional Loss Of Life Or Injury To The Members Of His Platoon.=

Even As Olive’s Father Remained Puzzled Over The Motives That Had Impelled His Son To Enlist, So Was President Johnson At A Loss To Account For The Extraordinary Courage That Enabled The Young Soldier To Choose Certain Death To Save The Lives Of Others.

Who Can Say,- The President Asked,

“What Words Private Olive Might Have Chosen To Explain What He Did. Jimmy Stanford And John Foster, Two Of The Men Whose Lives He Saved That Day On That Lonely Trail In That Hostile Jungle, 10,000 Miles From Here, Are Standing On The White House Steps Today Because This Man Chose To Die. I Doubt That Even They Knew What Was On His Mind As He Jumped And Fell Across That Grenade.

But I Think I Do Know This: On The Sacrifices Of Men Who Died For Their Country And Their Comrades Our Freedom Has Been Built. Whatever It Is That We Call Civilization Rests Upon The Merciless And Seemingly Irrational Fact Of History That Some Have Died For Others To Live, And Every One Of Us Who Enjoys Freedom At This Moment Should Be A Witness To That Fact.

Milton L. Olive’s Father, On Learning That His Only Son Would Receive The Nation’s Highest Military Award, Expressed His Gratitude To The President In A Letter Written On March 10, 1996. With The Quiet Eloquence That Was Also Present When You Met Him Face-Toface, He Wrote:

“‘Many People And News Reporters Have Asked Why He Did It.

“How Do You Feel? Across Six Thousand Years Of Recorded History, Man Has Pondered The Inevitable. The Conclusion Is, It Is Too Profound For Mortal Understanding. Perhaps, You Too, Mr. President, And The American People Would Like To Know How I Feel. I Have Had To Use Strength, Taken From The Courage Of A Brave Soldier To Be Able To Bear A Heavy Cross.

“I Suppose That Divine Providence Willed It And That Nothing Could Be More Glorious Than Laying Down Your Life For Your Fellowman In The Defense Of Your Country.

Our Only Child And Only Grandchild, Gave His Last Full Measure Of Devotion On An International Battlefield 10,000 Miles From Home. It Is Our Dream And Our Prayer, That Some Day The Asiatics, The Europeans, The Israelites, The Africans, The Australians, The Latins, And The Americans Can All Live In One World It Is Our Hope That In Our Own Country, The Klansmen, The Negroes, The Hebrews, And The Catholics, Will Sit Down Together In The Common Purpose Of Good Will And Dedication; That The Moral And Creative Intelligence Of Our United People Will Pick Up The Chalice Of Wisdom And Place It Upon The Mountain Of Human Integrity; That All Mankind, From All The Earth, Shall Resolve >To Study War No More.= That, Mr. President, Is How I Feel And That Is My Eternal Hope For Our Great American Society.=

 As President Johnson Said When He Quoted Mr. Olive=S Letter At The Conclusion Of His Own Remarks At The Rose Garden Ceremony:

“I Have No Words To Add To That.”

Excerpt from:  Harold L Carter, The Human Odyssey:  The African Odyssey:  The African Heritage in World History and Human Biological and Cultural History:  From Prehistoric Times:  4.6 Billion Years Ago and the Earliest Civilizations:  5000 – 3000 Years Ago to the 21st Century:  A Story of Civilization (Winter, 2015)

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About Harold L Carter

Bachelor of Science, Columbia University Masters degree, Ohio State University Undergraduate National Officer, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Eastern Asst Vice President, when a student at Columbia University Profile Photograph: Mom & Me, when I was a graduate student
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