How Diversity Helped Win World War II — Part II


World War II challenged the United States society and military forces unlike any war before it except the American Revolution. Like the American Revolution, America discovered that it began the war on the defensive, challenged by seemingly un-defeatable enemies, and without the immediate resources and trained military forces that it needed to succeed. Seemingly unlikely, deploying diverse members of the US population in roles that they seem ill-suited to succeed helped the US military to succeed. From women pilots to African-American Fighter Pilots to Japanese-American Infantry to Native-American Code Talkers to Latin-American Infantry — all of these diverse elements of the US population played oversized roles in their aid to the US victory in World War II.

Lessons in WWII Diversity #1 — Different Strengths Working Together Leads to Amazing Results. Alan Turing, an eccentric and highly skilled British Mathematician, lead a team that was responsible for one of the greatest scientific achievements during World War II, a dynamic method to crack the Nazi German Enigma. Alan Turning lead a team that initially experienced enormous frustration and lack of success to break the Enigma machine encryption, thought to be the best in the world at the time. Success came to Turing and his team when they completed a large, rudimentary, analog computer to try different combinations of Enigma encryptions to create words. The breakthrough came when a team member realized that a certain Nazi German message writer began every message with the same words that gave Turning’s computer a daily starting point to decrypt messages successfully. Turning’s team used different strengths together successfully and moved from decrypting zero messages a day to thousands.

Lessons in WWII Diversity #2 — Using Local Talent & Knowledge Creates Success. Towards the end of World War II, the Allied forces in the Philippines were rapidly advancing towards Japanese prisoner of war camps. The prisoners in the camps had little food, desperately required medical care, and their protection was uncertain as the Japanese forces retreated. A force 6th US Army Ranger Battalion was selected to quickly march dozens of miles across the Philippine jungle and rescue the prisoners at the POW camp at Cabanatuan. Accompanying the Rangers was a group of Alamo Scouts supplemented with a local Philippine guerilla force. The Alamo Scouts went ahead, placed observation on the camp, and the local guerillas were instrumental in gathering critical intelligence and stopping a Japanese reaction force. The raid on Cabanatuan rescued hundreds of prisoners who were moved back to American lines with the help of Philippine ox carts to move the prisoners. It was the critical support local Filipino guerillas and support from local villagers that made this POW raid an overwhelming success.

Lessons in WWII Diversity #3 — Pride, Passion, and Performance Overcome Adversity. The Tuskegee Airmen, an Army Air Corps group of African-American pilots and support personnel; the Nisei Battalion, an Infantry unit of Japanese-Americans; the Navajo Code Talkers, a Navajo American Indian group of communication specialists, and the USS Mason, A Navy Destroyer Escort had an all African-American crew. In the Army, Navy, Air Corps, and the Marines military personnel from different races found ways to serve with incredible distinction, valor, heroism, and patriotism despite the elements of overt racism that were present in American society at the time. One of the incredible elements of universal honor and self-sacrifice for all these units is that these members fought internally for the right to get as close to direct combat as they could. As a unit, they all fought to get the opportunity to fight the nation’s enemies.

As mentioned in part one of this series, instead of a distraction to the United States effort for victory in World War II, diversity and the inclusion of previously unused workers was a source of immediate strength that helped the entire country unite behind the war effort and contribute previously unappreciated strengths to a successful outcome. The United States realized that diversity and inclusion was a strength that made the United States efforts even more successful.

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