Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I rise today to ask my colleagues to join me in celebrating and honoring the contributions of the 231st Transportation Truck Battalion as part of Black History Month. The 231st was a segregated unit of African American servicemembers that existed within the Maryland National Guard and that served our country with distinction during the Korean War.
African American citizens have made significant contributions in the United States Armed Forces and have played a critical role in the defense and security of our Nation, despite suffering from the depredations of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, and numerous other injustices. Indeed, our Nation may not exist today if it were not for their bravery and heroism. During the Revolutionary War, all-Black units were formed in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and fought with honor for freedom that would not be realized for anther century. During the Civil War, many African Americans fought in service of Union forces. Their service helped to preserve the Nation and bring us one step closer to a more perfect Union by ending slavery within the United States.
The bravery of these men and women was not limited to the battlefield. Harriet Tubman – a Marylander, I am immensely proud to say – worked as a spy for the Union during the Civil War. Intelligence reports provided by these African American spies were known as “Black Dispatches” and provided the Union with some of the most invaluable intelligence of the Civil War.
Today, Maryland is home to over 130,000 African American veterans. These men and women have endured great sacrifices to protect liberty, justice, and equality here in the United States and abroad. They are part of a proud military heritage, and I am proud to represent and serve them.
The 231st Transportation Truck Battalion is an integral part of this military legacy. The 231st existed as a segregated unit within the Maryland National Guard well after President Truman integrated the U.S. Armed Services in 1948 because Maryland, like many other States at the time, had not yet integrated its National Guard units. The 231st was the only Maryland National Guard unit that served actively during the Korean War, with the Battalion’s three individual truck companies sent to various places around the world.
The 147th Transportation Truck Company was deployed to Germany and the 165th Transportation Truck Company was deployed to Fort Story, Virginia, and both companies served honorably in each instance.
The third company, the 726th Transportation Truck Company, was deployed to Korea, becoming the first National Guard unit to support the troops there upon its arrival in December 1950. During its service in Korea the 726th Transportation Truck Company was attached to the 70th Transportation Truck Battalion as an integrated unit and served with distinction. For its distinguished service the 726th Transportation Truck Company and the 231st Truck Battalion were awarded two U.S. Army Meritorious Unit Citations and a Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.
When the Battalion was sent back to Maryland, the members of the 726th Transportation Truck Company learned that their unit would revert back to its original segregated status. The officers and enlisted personal of the 726th Transportation Truck Company were, understandably, unwilling to return to segregated service and they resisted. They worked to end segregation within the Maryland National Guard. In November of 1955, the men of the 726th achieved their goal when then-Governor Theodore McKeldin issued an order to end racial segregation in the Maryland National Guard. This order made Maryland the first State below the Mason-Dixon Line to integrate its National Guard.
What truly makes the men of the 231st Transportation Truck Battalion admirable is that in addition to displaying courage on the battlefield, they also chose to display courage in their communities when they returned home. I admire them for that courage. After sacrificing so much in Korea and other parts of the world they felt that they could not go back to an unjust status quo. The united efforts of the men of the 231st Transportation Truck Battalion marked an important step forward in promoting equal rights in our military and in our society. Our Nation is a stronger and more just country because of the contributions of these veterans.
I ask that we honor the service and commitment to human equality that the 231st Transportation Truck Battalion demonstrated and commemorate the Battalion’s contributions as we celebrate Black History Month.