Critics Pan Wash Post ‘Greatest Generation’ Story on ‘Harsh, Racist’ Soldier Surveys

Critics Pan Wash Post 'Greatest Generation' Story on 'Harsh, Racist' Soldier Surveys the washington post building in the fall with a leave-less tree (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

By Charles Kim | Wednesday, 22 December 2021 04:59 PM

The Washington Post is getting a good deal of pushback for publishing a story Monday containing unearthed surveys from soldiers serving in World War II, depicting sexism and racism among the ranks.

Following the report, several people took to social media to criticize the publication for comparing the soldiers during World War II to the views held today, 80 years later.

"Sounds like it's time to topple some World War II statues and monuments," a user identified as David Marcus posted on Twitter.

"Breaking: WW2 troops were not antifa, media devastated," another user posted.

According to the story, a project at Virginia Tech unearthed some 65,000 pages of U.S. Army soldier surveys from the National Archives that provide insights into the minds of those serving during the 1941-45 war in Europe and the Pacific theaters.

"These harsh views, and others, from the segregated Army of World War II, emerge in a new project at Virginia Tech that presents the uncensored results of dozens of surveys the service administered to soldiers during the war," the story read. "Much of material is being placed on the Internet for the first time, and a lot of it runs counter to the wholesome image of the war's 'greatest generation.'"

Assistant History Professor, and project director Edward Gitre told the Post he initially discovered the material at the archives in 2009.

"It does speak to a generation," Gitre said. "The good, the bad, the ugly, heroic, not heroic."

Gitre worked to assemble the documents into the "American Soldier in World War II" project with funding provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, according to the Post.

The anonymously submitted surveys include opinions and views that would be considered racist and sexist when viewed from a 2021 lens, with white soldiers wanting the military to remain segregated by race and gender.

In one 1944 survey, a white soldier said he would "fight" to prevent racial equity.

"White supremacy must be maintained," he wrote. "I'll fight if necessary to prevent racial equality. I'll never salute a Negro officer and I'll not take orders from a Negro. I'm sick of the army's method of treating [Black soldiers] as if they were human. Segregation of the races must continue."

Another soldier said he did not think women should be in the military.

"A women's place is in the home," wrote one soldier. "She can do more there by writing letters or by doing war work than by being in the army. … There are too many immoral women in the service, and I wouldn't want my sister to live with such people nor would a self-respecting woman."

According to the Library of Congress, the segregation experienced during the war would lead President Harry S. Truman to sign an executive order banning discrimination in the military and helped the Civil Rights movement gain momentum.

"The fight against fascism during World War II brought to the forefront the contradictions between America's ideals of democracy and equality and its treatment of racial minorities," an article on the library's website said.