ARMED FORCES: Silent Service

Ben Davis was the first Negro ever commissioned from the ranks of the U.S. Army. A tightlipped, light-skinned man, he left Howard University for a temporary first lieutenancy during the Spanish-American War. When it ended, he signed on as a private, fought his way up to sergeant, ranked third on the examination that won him his permanent commission.

As one of only half a dozen Negro officers in the Army, his choice of assignments was strictly limited. He taught military science at Negro colleges, served as military attache in Liberia. He spent World...

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