A Marine Veteran Writes On Teaching Marksmanship To Black Recruits In The ’60s


Re: James Fulford’s article The “Leaded Law” And Mass Shootings—Poor Black Marksmanship Is Saving Lives

From: A US Marine Veteran [Email him]

Good piece! In the Marine Corps in the 1960s we had a difficult time getting blacks to qualify with an M1 or an M14. They were afraid of the weapon’s recoil and either leaned into it or jerked away. They did better with the M16 but still far below the average white Marine. At the same time we had white city boys who had grown up in an apartment with a widowed or divorced mother and had never touched a gun but who shot expert.

My observations are from the 60s, although it was the same before and the same since. In the early 90s, Marine Corps Commandant Carl Mundy (pictured right) was “allowed” to retire after a truth-telling moment. He was asked why the Marine Corps lagged far behind the other services in percentage of black officers and blacks in elite combat arms units. He said they have difficulty shooting, reading a map or a compass, orienting themselves in the field, and swimming. Gen. Mundy was allowed to retire. [Rest In Pieces: WashPost Obit Rips Gen. Carl Mundy for Offensive Statements on Gays, Women, and Minorities, By Tim Graham, NewsBusters, April 12, 2014 ]

James Fulford writes: A 1946 report on “The Training Of Negro Troops” says this:

A division commander stated that emotional instability combined with another peculiarity of colored troops—namely, an aversion to firearms—to create problems in marksmanship training. “At the first rifle marksmanship exercise (following maneuvers),” he said, “the first order was in position on the firing point. The first soldier who fired became so frightened when his gun went off that he slid back off the firing point. About half of the men on the line started to stand up. They had all gone through complete marksmanship courses and combat firing practice (in prior training) , but they had not fired for several months, and they were jittery.” According to this officer there was among Negro troops in general “a lack of determination to overcome flinching in firing practice. Eventually most of the men overcame this handicap,” he added, “but it took a terrific amount of ammunition and time.” [US Army Ground Forces Study No. 36: The Training of Negro Troops, by Major Bell I. Wiley, 1946 ]

1946 was about the last year that an official report could say something like that–and at that, it was classified “Secret”.