Buck Adams (a pseudonym) was an African-American soldier doing service in World War II. As a trained mechanic he worked closely with the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force). He began a relationship with one of the WAAF clerks. This didn’t sit well with his NCO, a man from the deep South.
When Germany was defeated, and Buck was being discharged, his NCO would not sign off on an honorable discharge. Instead, Buck was given a blue discharge, a middle ground between an honorable and a dishonorable discharge. Buck accepted the discharge because he was anxious to return to the U.S.
What Buck didn’t know was the consequences of a blue discharge. He was shunned by employers when he sought a job. He was denied benefits of the G.I. Bill by the Veterans Administration.
The blue discharge was a little-known approach for dishonoring veterans after they finished their service. It was disproportionately used to dishonor African-American soldiers and those who were suspected to be homosexual. Over 50,000 gay soldiers and sailors were given blue discharges. African Americans were similarly given large numbers of blue discharges.
The American Legion led the fight to get rid of the blue discharge. The military objected. An appeals board was created and about one-third of the blue discharges were upgraded to honorable. An African-American newspaper published guidance for how to appeal the blue discharge.
A committee of Congress took up the issue and recommended reforms and tightened the qualification process for issuing a blue discharge. The Veteran’s Administration still continued to discriminate. Eventually, the use of blue discharges was discontinued in 1947.
Just imagine how soldiers who fought for their country must have felt when they received a blue discharge. They risked their lives for our democracy only to be dishonored by the military and the VA. The fight for democracy was won abroad, but not at home.
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“Achievement has no color.” – Abraham Lincoln