The Whole World Bleeds: Africa During The World Wars

11th East African Division Troops headed to Kalewa, Burma, dated around 1944.

Common misconception leads many to believe that World Wars I and II consisted of just/mainly European powers. But truly,  the bulk of the world was entangled in the madness.

One of the main causes of World War I (and in some ways, World War II), according to many scholars, were alliances. Countries were pulled into the conflicts of another due to legal military obligations made in times of peace. That’s covered in most history books. Something not often covered is how imperialism and colonialism played a role in this. Many non-European countries were subjected to fight and support the European powers that ruled them–with Africa being one of the main continents subjugated.

Graphic, showing the numbers of African soldiers involved in WWII

Moroccan Calvary Patrol in Belgium, 1914.

These troops fought in jungles, deserts, over the skies of Europe, and choked from tear gas used on them in shoulder-high trenches. Yet, similar to their African American counterparts, many African soldiers faced discrimination, segregation, and humiliation from their White brothers in arms. In both wars, they weren’t really paid much, didn’t get the same honors as whites, and to make matters worse, their exploits, perils and accomplishments were not typically mentioned in academia. Until recently, thanks to the internet and a new generations of scholars. Another positive is that it created even more anti-colonial sentiment among African countries, which was a factor in the surge of African countries fighting for their independence post-World War II. It’s extremely important that this history not be forgotten.

Congolese forces known as the Black Force landing in the harbor of Boulogne-sur-Mer (Northern French City). Relied on by French troops in all major battles of the war.

Sources:

http://www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/race-racism-and-military-strategy

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-30299982

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/03/AR2009080302959.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8344170.stm

http://ww2today.com/featured/burma-britains-longest-campaign-of-world-war-ii

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