Black Sailor, White Navy

Racial Unrest in the Fleet during the Vietnam War Era

344 pages

14 illustrations

November, 2007

ISBN: 9780814740361



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John Darrell Sherwood is an official historian with the U.S. Naval Historical Center. He is the author of Officers in Flight Suits: The Story of American Air Force Fighter Pilots in Korea and Afterburner: Naval Aviators and the Vietnam War, both published by NYU Press. He is also the author of Fast Movers: Aviators and the Vietnam War Experience.

All books by John Darrell Sherwood

It is hard to determine what dominated more newspaper headlines in America during the 1960s and early ‘70s: the Vietnam War or America’s turbulent racial climate. Oddly, however, these two pivotal moments are rarely examined in tandem.

John Darrell Sherwood has mined the archives of the U.S. Navy and conducted scores of interviews with Vietnam veterans — both black and white — and other military personnel to reveal the full extent of racial unrest in the Navy during the Vietnam War era, as well as the Navy’s attempts to control it. During the second half of the Vietnam War, the Navy witnessed some of the worst incidents of racial strife ever experienced by the American military. Sherwood introduces us to fierce encounters on American warships and bases, ranging from sit-down strikes to major race riots.

The Navy’s journey from a state of racial polarization to one of relative harmony was not an easy one, and Black Sailor, White Navy focuses on the most turbulent point in this road: the Vietnam War era.


  • "Sherwood's contribution to our understanding of the racial tension that the navy experienced as the Vietnam War ended for American troops should interest military historians and students of the Vietnam War."

    —Ron Milam, Military History of the West

  • “A scholarly, readable, and thought provoking account of a troubled period in American history. Readers interested in the Navy, the Vietnam conflict, and race relations will find this authoritative study invaluable.”

    Journal of Military History

  • “A valuable contribution to the growing historiography on racial and ethnic minorities in wartime. . . . Sherwood’s good writing, voluminous research, and perceptive conclusions should make his book the standard treatment of its subject.”

    American Historical Review

  • “U. S. Naval Historian Center historian John Darrell Sherwoods examines the racial situation in the Navy during the sixities and seventies and the Navy’s attempts to deal with it.”

    The VVA Veteran

  • “Highly Recommended”

    The Hook

  • “Based on naval archives and scores of Vietnam veterans (both black and white), this book examines racial unrest in the turbulent Vietnam-era Navy and the Navy’s efforts to control it.”

    Columbia College Today