Promoted to lieutenant general on June 3, 1945 (an overdue promotion in Simpson’s opinion), Gillem was appointed to two Washington study boards. One was the Postwar Weapons & Equipment Board. The second, the Utilization of Negro Manpower Board, turned out to be perhaps as revolutionary to the Army as the advent of armor. Gillem was appointed chairman of the board, which convened on October 1 and began interviewing dozens of witnesses and reviewing a pile of documentation. The following January the board produced a final report stating that black Americans had a constitutional right to fight and that the Army was obligated to use them. While the board stopped short of proposing complete desegregation, its finding represented the Army’s first step toward integration.
In 1947, Gillem returned to the States, where he assumed command of the Third Army. Ironically, his headquarters was at Fort McPherson, where he had served as a private in 1910 and had occasionally walked a guard post around his future quarters. Fort McPherson also turned out to be his final duty post; Gillem retired on August 31, 1950. He died on February 13, 1973, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Fort Gillem in Forest Park, Georgia, was later named in his honor. Thanks in large part to Alvan C. Gillem, U.S. Army tanks now rule the battlefield, and soldiers of every skin color can fight for their country. It is a fitting monument to the man with the old Army name.
This article by Chris J. Hartley originally appeared on Warfare History Network.
Image: Wikimedia Commons