African Americans were enrolled in the U.S. Navy in 1932, but in a separate branch. When World War II came, the navy broke its racial barrier and accepted fourteen thousand black enlistees in its various ratings and branches. In March 1944 twelve black ensigns and one warrant officer were commissioned in the U.S. Navy. They had broken the color barrier in the navy and, without public knowledge, were given intensive training. The men later dubbed themselves the “Golden Thirteen.” The navy subsequently accepted their designation in recognition of their pioneering efforts to integrate that branch of the military. During World War II, the U.S. Navy commissioned about sixty black Americans.
The “Golden Thirteen” were twelve black ensigns and one warrant who were commissioned in the U.S. Navy in 1944, breaking a long-standing barrier in that branch of the military.