Friday, January 13, 2012

Who Was Col. Charles Young?

He served in WW I and died in 1922. He was mentioned almost in passing in a documentary I stumbled across this morning[1] and I was moved to look him up. A U. S. Army colonel, he's responsible for the road that leads out to Moro Rock at Sequoia National Park (the Army used to patrol some National Parks! Who knew?), among other things. Things like leading a cavalry charge against Pancho Villa, service in the Philippines, military intel work in Haiti and military attache to various U.S Embassies.

In 1917, he was medicaled out with chronic high blood pressure, possibly related to a little problem aggravated by the odious Woodrow Wilson; for you see, Colonel Young was black and one of the officers under him complained he "found it distasteful" to take his orders. The Secretary of War Newton Baker knew how to deal with such nonsense and told the officer: "Do your duty or resign!" ...A ruling that lasted exactly as long as it took for Wilson to find out and overrule.[2] Sidelined, Colonel Young taught college (he'd been in charge of Wilberforce University's Military Science department for some time) until the end of the term, then got on a horse and rode 500-some miles to Washington D.C. to show his fitness. He was 54 at the time. It worked; he was returned to active duty, serving until his death.
1. A brilliant Frank Capra/First Motion Picture Unit (more here) lump-in-your-throat documentary with an interesting history -- the first two scripts were kicked back by the Army, who wanted a down-to-earth documentary rather than drama. Writer Carleton Moss and Director Stuart Heisler put together the third version, which the Army found acceptable; but no one involved was ready for audience reactions : "Nobody was certain what the impact of the film would have on viewers, and many people feared that African Americans would have a negative response to the film. However, when the first African American troops saw the film, they insisted that all African American troops should see it. Furthermore, after both African Americans and whites were surveyed about their response to the film, the filmmakers were shocked when over 80% of the white population thought the film should be shown to both black and white troops, as well as white civilians." Yes, it really is that good; wildly optimistic, perhaps, about attitudes of the day, but accurate and inspiring about individual achievement.

2. Wilson has much to answer for in regard to subsequent civil-rights turmoil; in undermining Federal meritocracy, he reinforced stereotypes and anger in both black and white Americans.


Bubblehead Les. said...

The more REAL History comes out about Wilson, the more it looks like we came too damn close to a Dictatorship. I bet you, if he hadn't had that Stroke, he'd have gone for a 3rd term, and tried to force that "One World Government" League of Nations down the American People's gullet.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

I'm sure Wilson is answering for quite a bit, down there in the fires of Hell where he belongs.

Larry said...

Wilson has much to answer for in many regards. Not one of my favorite Presidents.

NotClauswitz said...

I remember watching a local TV show about the patrols - they did it because the National Parks were being illegally logged and hunted - they needed a staff to quell the commercial activity. A lot of Buffalo Soldiers later settled in around Oakland - sort of the first African American migration settlement, before the Kaiser ship-building in the 40's drew the huge numbers of labor.
Woody Wilson was a stupid academic piss-head sonofabitch.

Stranger said...

I will second, third, and fourth your second comment. It was my pleasure to have known a gentleman, in every sense of the word, who was born a slave. He blamed Wilson for most of the twentieth century troubles of his people, including the rise of the second Klan.

And he did not do other minorities much good, either. America's Indians suffered as greatly as any other population group under the policies Wilson introduced.

Wilson did not just undermine meritocracy in Federal service, but meritocracy in American society. His name deserves to be stricken from history.


Chas S. Clifton said...

Say whatever you like about Wilson -- and I will probably agree.

Go the museum at Yellowstone and they not only have an exhibit about the days when the Army patrolled it but will explain how the military uniform influenced the traditional Park Service ranger's uniform, right down to the campaign hat.

Drang said...

Here's a link to the documentary online: Watch The Negro Soldier (1944) Free Online

Anonymous said...

Agree with Bubblehead Les: the more I learn about Wilson, the more I detest that overbearing, hypocritical, power-hungry son of a b*tch.

And we've got another one just like him in the White House now.

Cincinnatus said...

Woodrow Wilson was among the worst presidents we've had. Thomas Fleming's book The Illusion of Victory gives one a sense of oppressive Wilson's tyranny during WWI was. And the Wilson admin was also responsible in part for how badly the nation handled the Spanish Flu epidemic.