We are giving away a copy of new release Muslim Americans in the Military by Edward E. Curtis IV. Fill out the form below for a chance to win!
Since the Revolutionary War, Muslim Americans have served in the United States military, risking their lives to defend a country that increasingly looks at them with suspicion and fear. In Muslim Americans in the Military: Centuries of Service, Edward E. Curtis illuminates the long history of Muslim service members who have defended their country and struggled to practice their faith. Profiling soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors since the dawn of our country, Curtis showcases the real stories of Muslim Americans, from Private Omer Otmen, who fought fiercely against German forces during World War I, to Captain Humayun Khan, who gave his life in Iraq in 2004. These true stories contradict the narratives of hate and fear that have dominated recent headlines, revealing the contributions and sacrifices that these soldiers have made to the United States.
Also, check out a free excerpt from the book below, and read an interview with the author here.
Read a free excerpt from the book:
It must have felt like walking the plank, except in something like forty-two degrees below zero, thousands of feet high, and accompanied by the sounds of German anti-aircraft artillery, whose only purpose was to take you out of the sky.
Sgt. John Ramsey Omar (1924-2007) was a flight engineer and turret gunner on an aircraft called the B-24 Liberator. His plane was nicknamed “She’s Our Gal.” As the crew prepared to drop thousands of pounds of bombs on Magdeburg, Germany, one of their engines was hit and a rudder cable was severed.
The bomb bay doors would not open. The crew would not be able to complete its mission.
Omar realized he was going to have to open the bomb bay doors manually. He disconnected his flight suit and made his way along the nine-inch-wide catwalk that ran from the cockpit to the waste door. Omar grasped ahold of the struts, which rose vertically on both sides of the narrow catwalk. He could see the earth below, and one misstep would mean certain death. Putting his hands on the cranks, he got the bomb bay doors open.
Then, he caught some shrapnel in his right foot.
Later, Omar would be awarded a Purple Heart, but there was no time to think about awards right now. He was injured, and there was more work to be done. Omar had to repair the severed rudder cable so they could turn the plane around. There was no time to spare. Without one of their engines, they were losing altitude. And they were running out of fuel, too.
They made a successful emergency landing in a little Belgian field, despite the fact that their fuselage had sustained forty-four hits.
Omar became severely ill, and an ambulance transported him to a hospital in Antwerp, Belgium. Diagnosed with double pneumonia, he fell into a coma. He awoke a week later to the sound of German bombs, some of which destroyed parts of the hospital.
After a forty-one-day stay, Omar was released and told to return to his base. Since he had no idea how to get there, he asked a couple of military police officers (MPs) for help. They gave him a train ticket to Brussels, and from there he wandered around the city looking for the displaced persons center.
When he arrived, Omar was told he had been listed as missing in action, and before letting him return to his base in England, military officials called his commander to confirm his identity.
Once he fully recovered, Omar flew more missions out of his home base in Pickenham Airfield in Norfolk, England. As a member of 491st Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, US Army Air Corps, Omar flew a total of twenty-nine missions during the war.
During the Battle of the Bulge, a German offensive in which approximately one hundred thousand US military personnel were killed or injured, Omar had another close call. Shortly after takeoff in the middle of a massive snow storm, his plane crashed. Eleven of the plane’s five-hundred-pound bombs fell on the ground far enough away from plane, but one hurled itself through the cockpit bulkhead just inches from Omar’s back. Omar assisted the pilot as they both ran away from what they feared would be an explosion.
Omar survived, and he was discharged in 1945. He opened Omar’s Auto Electric Service and worked there for five decades. Omar was also a member of the Islamic Center of New England, located in Sharon, Massachusetts. When he died, his obituary referred to him as “Haj” John Omar, an honorific title given to those who travel to Mecca to perform the annual pilgrimage.
Omar was one of perhaps fifteen thousand Arab American men and women to serve in World War II. They went to Europe to fight the Nazi regime and the Italian army, and they served in the Pacific theater, fighting the Empire of Japan. As in World War I, most of these Arab service members were from Lebanese and Syrian backgrounds, and perhaps 10 percent of them were Muslim. Many of the females who volunteered did so as nurses, although women also served in other roles, including the women Airforce Service Pilots. A woman named Anne Mohammed, for instance, signed up for the Cadet Nursing Corps at University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, though for some reason did not complete her training.
These were not the only Muslims to serve in World War II; the places of birth listed on Muslim draft registration cards include such locations as Afghanistan, Java, Malaya, Persia, Singapore, and Sumatra – countries whose dominant ethnic group are not Arabic-speaking people. For example, a man named Shrieff Mohammed enlisted in 1943. A resident of New York, he was listed as coming from Balochistan or another part of the British East Indies.
World War II marked the beginning of a turning point in the history of Muslim members of the US military. In the second half of the twentieth century, Muslim representation in the military came to reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of Muslim Americans themselves. The story of Muslim soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines in the second half of the twentieth century became a story of white, black, and brown Americans whose collective cultural heritage was echoed in the armed forces of the United States. They performed acts of heroism in combat but they also served in peacetime and in noncombat roles.
In the second half of the twentieth century, Muslim Americans became important to military history in another way. Some African American Muslims became symbols of protest against mandatory military service and against US wars in the developing world. The story of Muslim Americans in the military would be incomplete without including some consideration of those Muslims who refused, on principle, to serve.
Purchase your copy of Muslim Americans in the Military at your favorite book or online retailer to read more stories about the Muslim Americans who served our country and played key roles in our history!