While other students attended classes or traveled the world, Andrew Lin (12) spent most of his summer in his bedroom. But he was not sleeping in. He was revising his AP US History paper, which is now forthcoming in the Concord Review. The Review, a prestigious history journal, publishes fewer than ten articles by high school students per issue.
Andrew’s paper is influenced by his childhood, spent watching his father’s stockpile of World War II DVDs. “My dad is a big history geek,” he says. “Growing up with the DVDs around the house inspired my deep interest in the subject.”
Like the movies in his father’s collection, the paper follows the journeys of individual soldiers. However, unlike the films, his paper follows a predominantly African-American unit, the 761st Tank Battalion. “My research paper covers their training days in Louisiana and Texas all the way through World War II, where they served in the front lines with the U.S. 3rd Army,” says Andrew. “It goes into depth about their life in the military while they were still living under segregation.”
Andrew’s paper details the discrimination the unit faced both leading up to and during the war. “Despite the heroism of African-American troops in every major war, some politicians forgot that their past success, and opposed allowing them to fight on the front lines,” he says. “The 761st Tank Battalion definitely proved those politicians wrong, becoming one of the most decorated armored units of World War II.”
Andrew notes that minorities are often sidelined in historical narratives even today, and hopes his paper will make the pantheon of world war heroes more inclusive. “History is often written by the victors,” says Andrew. “African-Americans may have been on the winning side during World War II, but they hadn’t won. On the home front, they were still fighting the battle for civil rights.”
He chose to spotlight the 761st Tank Battalion over other units because of his passion for unearthing the lesser-known aspects of history. “When you think of minorities that fought for the U.S. in World War II, the two units that come to mind are the Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo Code Talkers. Aside from that, units consisting of minorities usually don’t generate a buzz,” he says.
The relative obscurity of the battalion made research exceptionally hard. “My biggest difficulty writing this paper was definitely the lack of resources early on. I couldn’t find anyone from the 761st who was still alive today, so I had to resort to online reading,” he says.
Over the summer, he delved into primary source documents for different perspectives on the Battalion. Andrew says, “After reading four books on the topic, I found an account of a white officer who was part of the 761st during the war, which helped me get a stronger and clearer picture of what was going on.”
Andrew is particularly grateful for all of Mr. Arnold’s help. “Without a shadow of a doubt, Mr. Arnold gave me the biggest boost during this whole process. I honestly don’t know what would’ve happened without him,” says Andrew.
With this paper, Andrew has come a long way from the ten-year old self who whiled away hours watching war films. “Growing up, I was fascinated by World War II, especially the battles and technology. Now, I’m interested in telling soldiers’ stories,” he says. “The 761st Tank Battalion contributed to the war effort and faced some of the most adverse conditions. They deserve to be featured more prominently.”