An African American stands guard over German prisoners (1945)

This photograph, taken in April 1945, near the end of the war in Europe, shows an African-American soldier of the 12th armored division with a group of German prisoners. The 12th armored division took part in heavy fighting during the invasion of Germany in late 1944 and early 1945. The heavy losses suffered was one reason why the division commander was willing to take African-American volunteers into frontline combat roles, making the 12th armored division one of the few to include both white and Black units. This photography was widely distributed in the African-American press, and the fact that it showed a Black man in a position of authority over white soldiers–even though they were the enemy–provoked fears within the War Department. Many worried that such images and the experiences they represented could unsettle segregation back in the U.S. when the war ended and the Black soldiers returned.

Jeff Bowersox


Source: Record Group 208, National Archives, Washington, D.C., 208-NP-6QQQ(1).

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An African American stands guard over German prisoners (1945) by Jeff Bowersox is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at