The Library of Congress Veterans History Project Home 
Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project
Home » Felmers O. Chaney

"It was amazing how you got treated, because these men had never had black commanding officers before." (Video interview, 16:10)

   Felmers O. Chaney
Collection image
Felmers Chaney [detail from video]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Army
Unit: 377th Engineer Battalion
Service Location: Camp Douglas, Utah; Salt Lake City, Utah; Boston, Massachusetts; Fort Belvoir, Virginia; England
Rank: Second Lieutenant
View Full Description

From the time that he attempted to enlist in the military with a group of white friends, only to be singled out for rejection, Second Lieutenant Felmers O. Chaney felt the full brunt of serving in the segregated Army during World War II. After being drafted in 1942, he quickly rose up through the ranks to become the first African American officer to hail from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Though he could command white soldiers, this did not automatically entitle him to their respect, or to using their same facilities; arriving at Fort Knox, Kentucky, he was refused service in the officer's mess. During his service overseas in England, he marveled at the kindness shown to African American soldiers by the British civilians.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (5 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (60 min.)
»Secondary Interview (61 min.)
More like this
»VHP 15th Anniversary
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (5 items)
Going to the enlistment office with a group of white friends from school; being turned down; eventually being drafted into service. (01:45) Truman reversing policy on black officers; becoming first black officer in Milwaukee; not being able to be promoted. (02:12) Being denied entrance to the officer's mess; disrespect given to him by white enlisted men; his response. (03:12)
Shipping out to Newton Abbey, UK; well-treated by British civilians there; race relations between white and black soldiers stationed there; showing strength. (03:20) Being taught to always follow the golden rule; interacting with German POWs; his experience with whites while growing up in Wisconsin. (05:24) 

Home » Felmers O. Chaney
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
  Legal | External Link Disclaimer Need Help?   
Contact Us