The True Unsung Heroes of World War II
1.2 million African-American men and women served in the United States Armed Forces during World War II. Of this number, 125,000 served overseas and 708 were killed in combat. As they fought to bring freedom to the world, they were awarded with little freedom themselves. They received segregated training, were placed in segregated units, lived in segregated housing and ate at segregated tables. In spite of all this, they proved themselves to be great soldiers. This is the story of three of them; young New Orleanians who never returned to their segregated way of life with the hope of one day bringing this same freedom home that they died for overseas.
Private William V. Broyard
William V. Broyard was killed in action somewhere in Italy on February 8, 1945. He held the rank of Private in the U.S. Army. The deceased was the son of Mr. & Mrs. Henry Broyard (nee Mary Alexandrian Lyons) and the brother of Hilton Broyard of Brooklyn, New York , Staff Sergeant Paul Broyard, Corporal St. Clair Broyard, and Private Randolph Broyard; all of the U.S. Army. He also left behind another brother, Corporal Samuel Broyard of the Marine Corps and two sisters: Miss Cornelia Broyard and Sister Marie Clarisse of the Holy Family Convent. He was the nephew of Mrs. Regina Labuzan, Mrs. Octavia Degrue, Mrs. Jeanne Bruce, and Mr. & Mrs. Edward Fournier.
Mr.Broyard was one of 24 Orleanians who received a certificate of Honorable Service for his faithful work and contribution to the war effort while there as a civilian employee. He was also cited for bravery at the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He died two days after his 26th birthday, February 6, and was buried in Florence, Italy at the Florence American Cemetery. He was later awarded the Purple Heart and had resided in the 6400 block of Marais Street in New Orleans before entering the military.
Sources: The Times-Picayune Obituary, 4 March 1945, page 8; WWII Casualty Listings and 1940 Federal Census (www.ancestry.com); The Louisiana Weekly,17 March 1945, page 9.
Private Malcolm A. Knox
On October 28, 1945, Private Malcolm A. Knox, age 20, was killed on Luzon Island in the Philippines. He was the son of Grace Pflueger and the late Albert Knox. He left behind a brother, Private Alfred A. Knox, stationed somewhere in the Philippines, and a sister, Maxine Knox Harleaux of New Orleans. His grandparents: Laura Knox, Alma Pflueger and Marie Dede (his adopted grandmother) all mourned his sudden and tragic death. He was also sadly missed by his aunts and uncles: George and Emile Knox, Mrs. Georgina Frank of this city, Mr. & Mrs. Walter Knox of Kansas City, Kansas, Wilfred, Gilbert, and Sidney Pflueger, Mr. & Mrs. R. Meteye of New Orleans; also Mr. &Mrs. Myrtie Castilde of Los Angeles, California.
Malcolm enlisted in the Army on October 19, 1942 and was a student at McDonogh 35 High School before entering the military. His untimely death came also as as a shock to all his army officers and comrades because of the manner in which he died. He was not killed by enemy fire but rather by a stray bullet from another American. He had been assigned the duty of driving a group of men to a dance in a small province of Luzon. Malcolm was selected to drive the truck because he was known to be a very responsible and dependable young man. During the dance some trouble developed and shooting began. Malcolm was seated in the driver’s seat of his truck, at his post, when struck by a stray bullet. He died on the way to the hospital. He was buried with full military honors at the Santa Barbara, Luzon, Phillipines National Cemetery and most of his comrades were present.
The man who did the shooting was apprehended and brought to justice, but that was little compensation for his grieving mother who never expected her son would die at the hands of his own people. Mrs. Knox received letters of sympathy from General Douglas MacArthur and other high ranking officials. Such letters said, “Your son was held in high regard by all the officers and men of this company. I do not hesitate to tell you that he was one of my most dependable men and always conscientious in the performance of his duties.”
Sources: The Times-Picayune, Obituary, 18 November 1945, page 10; WWII Casualty Listings and 1940 Federal Census (www.ancestry.com); The Louisiana Weekly, 1 December 1945, page 1.
Private Sydney P. Conyers
Private Sydney Conyers, a member of the 370th Infantry 92nd Division, was killed in action on April 6, 1945 in Italy. He was the son of Ludger and Coralee Conyers of New Orleans. He left behind one sister, Liguoria Conyers, and one brother, Ludger Conyers Jr. who was also stationed somewhere in Italy at the time of his brother’s death.
His paternal grandparents, Benjamin Conyers and Josephine St. Amant Conyers, and many other extended family members and friends were deeply saddened by his sudden passing. He resided at 2324 St. Ann Street in New Orleans before entering the military. Private Conyers was buried at the Florence American Cemetery in Florence, Italy. He was also awarded the Purple Heart medal.
Sources: WWII Casualty Listings and 1940 Federal Census (www.ancestry.com); The New Orleans States, Casualty Listing, 11 May 1945 page 22; The Louisiana Weekly, 19 May 1945.