James Pratt: A Footnote in History: The U.S. 366th Infantry Regiment (Colored)(Separate) in Italy in World War II

A group of soldiers in uniform and civilians in front of a plaque on an old building

James Pratt served in the U.S. Air Force from 1966 to 1970. He has a B.S. in economics from Kalamazoo College, an M.S. in agricultural economics from Purdue University, and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University. He served on the faculty at Cornell from 1980 to 2006, teaching courses in quantitative methods and statistics. During his academic career, his research focus was on regional interindustry models of economic activity, the importance of the household sector, as well as spatial economics and logistics models of the dairy industry. In retirement, he has focused on documenting the history of the 366th Infantry Regiment in the U.S. and Italy.

Abstract:

While the role of the Buffalo Soldiers in Italy is well known, the role of another "colored" U.S. Army unit, the 366th Infantry Regiment, is lost to history. Soldiers from the 366th covered Italy from Taranto to Genoa to Venice. Unlike the Buffalo Soldiers, which had all white commanders, the 366th Infantry Regiment was lead by all "colored" officers, from the commanding colonel to the lowest lieutenant. Many of the 366th men came back to be leaders in many fields including the U.S. civil rights movement. This lecture will discuss the formation, training, and deployment of these soldiers, and their contributions to the Italian campaign from Apulia to Tuscany to the Po Valley between May 1944 and April 1945. In combat, they lost soldiers to death at a rate higher than the 92nd Buffalo Division and even higher than the vaulted 442 "Nisei" regiment. Pratt will also discuss the role this piece of history might have for local Italian Pro Locos today.