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This report provides a historic context statement for Building 2101, a WWII period Black Officers' Club located at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, that is still in active use. The best historical evidence indicates that the building, a standard A-12 temporary classroom building, was designed as the club for black officers stationed at Fort Leonard Wood sometime between June 1942 and January 1943. Later in 1943, it was expanded with an addition. The building was built as part of Fort Leonard Wood's initial construction and used as a Personnel Adjutant's Office for the Engineer Replacement Training Center, 7th Training Group (Colored), until reassigned for the exclusive use of black officers who were denied the use of Fort Leonard Wood's main officers' club. After the addition's construction, a mural was painted above the fireplace located at the gable end of this addition. The artist of the mural was Staff Sergeant Samuel Albert Countee, a professional artist and a rising talent in the world of American black art. In 1945, POWs constructed a stone chimney on the exterior of the building and also constructed elaborate stone walkways and walls for erosion control around the building. A history of the Engineer Replacement Training Center, its black enlisted personnel, and officers, is provided to better understand the building's historical context and value. A separate chapter discusses Samuel Countee and his mural. An appendix discusses the POW stonework at Fort Leonard Wood. Building 2101 was determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in August 1998 by the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office, and stands as a symbol of the African American military experience during WWII--specifically the struggle of black officers of WWII to maintain a leadership presence in an army that was conflicted by their very presence. The black officer in WWII was a dilemma to the U.S. Army--a dilemma to policy makers, to both those who opposed and to those who supported their contribution, and to their race. The question of what to do with the black officer ultimately could not be answered during the war, because the answer was full integration, thereby making the black officer transparent in the officer corps. Until that time came, the black officer stood to remind the nation that a contributing segment of its population was being set aside from full membership. Although seemingly unpretentious in appearance, the building stands as a reminder of a period when the nation was vigorously challenging the continued existence of two racially intolerant governments (Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan), but was at the same time struggling with inequality at home. The building also contains a National Register eligible rare surviving example of WWII soldier art by an established black artist, and is surrounded by rare German POW stonework.
The South Carolina Institute of Archeology and Anthropology--University of South Carolina
Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, World War II, Officers' clubs, African American, Military, Army, POWs, Stonework, Historic Buildings
Smith, Steven D., "A Historic Context Statement for a World War II Era Black Officers' Club at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri" (1998). Research Manuscript Series. 210.