Liaison Officer for Negro Personnel
Like most other continental Naval Districts, the Eighth Naval District had, under the Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel, a Liaison Officer for Negro Personnel. The first officer to fill the billed (called in the beginning Personnel Officer for Negro Personnel) reported for duty under the Commandant, Eighth Naval District, on 1 February 1944.
The Liaison Officer concerned himself with the supervision, housing, health, discipline, recreation, amusement, comfort, and morale of all Negro Naval personnel attached to activities under the Commandant. He kept informed by making tours of inspection and consulting with commanding officers of Naval activities under the Commandant. Conditions throughout the district were very good, though it was necessary, in a fee instances, to direct the removal of "Jim Crow" signs. The Liaison Officer confined himself to Naval activities and Navy policy in the correction of such matters.
Another function of the office was to maintain liaison with representatives of civic organizations in order to coordinate civic activities with Naval programs for keeping up the morale of Negro Naval personnel. The Liaison Officer helped establish the United Service Organization Service League for Negro baseball players and basketball players. He worked in conjunction with the Negro United Service Organization and other such organizations in arranging suppers and dances.
Facilities to promote a happier social life for the Negro sailor improved steadily as the war progressed.
On 1 June 1945, there were 1253 Negro enlisted personnel (no officers) serving in various capacities at the 31 activities under the Commandant to which Negroes were attached, with the largest number, 468, at the Naval Ammunition Depot in McAlester. (There were about 5000 at Pensacola at one time; the Air Commands activities had their own Liaison Officers for Negro personnel.) At the Naval Repair Base, in New Orleans, it was estimated that of the 245 Negroes assigned to that activity in July 1944 only 50 were capable of becoming skilled workers, and many more than this were needed, as a large number of skilled white laborers had had to be transferred. On the whole, however, there was an increase in the number of Negroes to advance in the general service rates, such as ship fitter and carpenter. The Liaison Officer promoted the educational and training program of Negro personnel wherever possible. Classes for illiterates were instituted where there were as many as fifteen to enroll.
Though special problems in connection with Negro personnel will exist in the Navy perhaps as long as they exist in civil life, the Navy program for improving conditions in the district for its Negro personnel had beneficial results.
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