Breaking Barriers

Lieutenant Dan Inouye
Medal of Honor Recipient Lieutenant Dan Inouye who served in the all-Nisei-442nd Regimental Combat Team which in turn was one of the most highly decorated military units of World War II. 

U.S. Army

World War II pushed the world's nations to defining moments of realization.In the United States the century long cultural beliefs regarding gender and racial equality were turned on their head. America simply did not have time to tolerate discrimination in the work force or on the battlefield. Every man and woman regardless of race or ethnicity was needed to help pull the Allies to victory. Millions of mothers, daughters and wives entered the industrial work force in unprecedented numbers for the first time. African, Japanese, Latino and Native Americans among others entered into military service and almost exclusively proved their valor beyond even the highest expectations. President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated "Americanism is not and has never been a matter of race or color. Americanism is a matter of mind and heart." His successor President Harry Truman would in turn desegregate the U.S. Armed Forces in 1948.

  • 4 African American airmen walk down a runway; B&W photo
    African Americans

    World War II was a time of struggle and achievement for African Americans. Learn more about their stories.

  • sunset next to a white monument with Japanese writing on it; mountains in background
    Asian American and Pacific Islanders

    From Japanese American internment to Pearl Harbor, the World War II experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is deep and diverse

  • boats pull ashore, mountain in background, B&W photo
    Native Americans

    Explore the stories of Native Americans and indigenous cultures during WWII including Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians.

  • Two women in dungarees site in front of a machine

    Women broke glass ceilings and more during WWII.

Last updated: August 1, 2018


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