Black Service Members of the Army Service Forces
During World War II, the U.S. Army was divided into three autonomous forces: the Army Air Forces, Army Ground Forces, and the Army Service Forces (ASF). Commanded by Major General Brehon B. Somervell, the Army Service Forces were divided further into Service Commands, which oversaw the logistics, supplies, and services needed to support the entire Army at home and abroad. The ASF was responsible for nearly everything for the Army outside of training soldiers and fighting on the battlefront. They ensured troops had the supplies and services they needed to carry out the Army's mission. This included everything from combat and training equipment, ammunition, and fuel, to basic life necessities like food, drinks, shelter, clean clothes, healthcare, legal services, military police, burial services, and entertainment. The duties of the Quartermaster Corps fell within the purview of the ASF. Most Black service members during WWII were employed in the ASF. Black service members stationed at Camp Howze would have been part of the VIII Service Command, which served Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Texas. It was headquartered in Dallas, TX, and commanded by General Richard Donovan. The commander of Camp Howze was Colonel John P. Wheeler, a member of the ASF. Though the infantry divisions Camp Howze served were each commanded by officers who outranked Col. Wheeler, the responsibility of running the day-to-day operations of Camp Howze fell under Col. Wheeler's authority.
Due to prejudicial policies and racial segregation, Black soldiers were generally assigned to small units called "special complement detachments" to move them easily with minimal disruption to whatever mission they had been supporting or were being sent to help. These special [service] detachments were typically assigned to combat units to supply troops with fuel, ammunition, nourishment on the battlefield, or carrying prisoners on supply trucks. Though generally not high skilled jobs, the men who filled those positions were essential members of the Army.
Only two photos of Black soldiers stationed at Camp Howze could be found published in the Camp Howze Howitzer after August 1943. Those men were listed as members of detachments, but details of their work were missing since no story accompanied the photo. Fortunately, the video interview of former Camp Howze soldier, Staff Sergeant Charlie David Mitchell (below), produced by the Veteran's History Project, provided insight into one Black soldier's experience during WWII as a soldier in the 3918th Quartermaster Gasoline Supply Company, a detachment assigned to a combat unit in Europe. SSgt. Mitchell served in the military for 23 years and retired as a Staff Sergeant after serving in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.