WASHINGTON -- Jehu Callis Hunter, a retired scientist administrator with the National Institutes of Health and a historian of the Buffalo Soldiers unit in which he served during World War II, died of pneumonia Dec. 7 at Laurel Regional Hospital in Maryland. He was 83.
Mr. Hunter, a native Washingtonian and 1943 Howard University ROTC graduate, entered the Army in 1943 and was assigned to the 92d Infantry Division of the Fifth Army.
The unit, organized in 1917 and reactivated in 1942, was made up of African-American troops, although the highest-level officers were white. The soldiers wore a buffalo shoulder patch that symbolically tied them to the Ninth and 10th Cavalry regiments of the post-Civil War era in the West who were dubbed Buffalo Soldiers, purportedly because their dark skin and hair reminded Indians of the American bison.
The 92d Infantry was assigned to northern Italy, where the division encountered fierce fighting by German and Italian troops. Resupplies were more than difficult, requiring ferrying by mules. The division lost 555 men.
Mr. Hunter, a communications officer, rose to the rank of captain and was awarded the Bronze Star. In 1985, he and Lieutenant Colonel Major Clark co-wrote ''The Buffalo Division in World War II," an unpublished history of the 92d Infantry.
At a reunion of the division in 1987, Mr. Hunter reflected on the unit's lack of success in major combat. The replacements ''got their training on the job," he told a
The white officers, many of whom were assigned unwillingly to the segregated unit, were rotated quickly and had little or no respect for the troops, the soldiers at the reunion said. Later investigations into why the unit was not more successful pinned the blame on lack of training, command failures, and racism. A report on that was one of the factors that led to the Army's decision to integrate its units several years later.
''The black soldier had to fight two enemies, the enemy on the battlefield and the burden of racism that affected his outlook," Mr. Hunter said. He remained in the Army Reserve after the war and pursued postgraduate studies at Howard University.