Support American RadioWorks with your purchases
  • News/Talk
  • Music
  • Entertainment
Home | Oral History Archive | Reporter's Notebook


interview with:
Dorothy Boyd (served as Phillips)

Listen to Dorothy Boyd Interview

As part of the research for Korea: The Unfinished War, American RadioWorks conducted almost 100 interviews with veterans and historians. We've made those interviews available here. Rough transcripts accompany each interview - but these are incomplete, and often paraphrase the speaker. The authoritative source should be seen as the audio recording, not the transcription. You can listen to and/or read the interviews -but please DO NOT QUOTE from the transcript.


Dorothy Boyd interviewed by David Cline
William E. Connor American Legion Post 16
Mattapan, Massachusetts
October 2002

{Dorthy Boyd:} I'm Dorothy Boyd. I'm the commander of this post, second female commander. I was in the Air Force during the Korean conflict. I served at the time they were integrating male and female, black and white. We were the guinea pigs. Went 13 weeks for basic training and from there sent to different bases, according to AFC. Mine was communications. From San Antonio I went to Cheyenne for school, graduated in top 10 of my class. Really quite a bit. Morse code. Worked in communications center, emergency messages, I'd pull the tapes, monitor back of vacuum system to monitor the messages as they came in. Busy thing but I like most base ops because I dealt with flight and weather and that was interesting. Worked five days a week. Could fly anywhere in the world I wanted to as long as I was back to work on Monday. No limitation on our passes until they separated the bases.

Slowly but surely they started phasing them out. Went overseas. Had Army, Navy, Air Force. In Newfoundland the bay freezes early and if you don't get supplies and get out you get frozen in. It was an interesting—I learned a lot. Saw a lot. Dealt with a lot.

{David Cline:} First class that came under integration.

{DB:} We would go into town and it was a mess. In my estimation they had more segregation and racial problems on base and to have to go off base and deal with it to. Keeps you from wanting to go off the base and deal with all the foolishness.

In Montgomery I went into Woolworth's—the furthest south I'd ever been was Philadelphia. Waiting for someone to wait on me. Every time the person would come and walk past me. After 5 minutes I said to the girl. I said "Excuse me, when are you planning to take my order?" She said, "We don't take niggers’ orders. You'll have to go to the other side and they'll wait on you over there.” I said, “OK. This is sad.” I said, “You mean to tell me I put this uniform on to protect your ass” —that's just the way I said it to her—“for you to tell me something like that? I don't think so.” So I got up and was heading out the door and this lady came and said "Oh miss, that was so rude of her." And I said "She can't help it, she's doing what she was told to do, but I don't have to take it."

{DC:} Takes strength.

{DB:} It's not easy and I really don't understand how they put up with it. Another time I was in Washington Park, the kids were playing ball. Great big chain-link running across the park. I said why do you have that? The kids could fall and hurt themselves. The lady said "They don't do that. They don't go near the chain." I said, "Who is they?" and she said "Those black kids over there, those white kids over there." A little girl kicked the ball over the fence and another boy picked it up. I stepped over and got the ball. A police officer said, "You can't have that." I said, “What do you mean? I'm giving it back to the little girl.” I stepped right over and gave it back to her. The little boy said, "That nigger got my ball." The lady said I had to give it back to him or the police would lock me up. I said, “I think that's really sad. I don't know how I'm going to last down here.” My mother sent me a letter and I said, “I have to answer your letter because the next one they might have to hang on the tree next to me." I couldn't keep my mouth shut.

When I finished that course in teletype and they said, “You have the highest training, but you might not get a job because they don't hire colored people in that field.” I said, “Why does the government spend the money?" They said I was an astute student. I said, “I don't worry about it. I can work doing anything. I have a lot of training and once I've got it here in my head they can't take it away from me.” It took me 8 years to become a commander here.

{DC:} How many women?

{DB:} 18 members—500 members. We used to have 1500, but as time goes on they are dying off, losing interest, can't drive at night.

{DC:} How many women served with you?

{DB:} Large group from all around.

{DC:} Which was more difficult –first female or first black?

{DB:} Racially integrated than first female. Didn't take long to integrate male-female. But they didn't integrate in the housing. Just in the classes and work place. Racially integrated housing but not male/female.

{DC:} In Newfoundland other black troops?

{DB:} 3 branches of military there. You have to go through that training in March or April, plenty of snow. Plenty, plenty, plenty. It's an experience. I think right now today if they take these kids off the street, put them in the military so they can learn discipline. They have no fear of anyone, anything. Fine put them on the front line. See how brave they are then. It would be a different story and they'd have their education. This way they're not getting their education. They are passing kids that can't read and can't write. I said, "why are you doing this?" Need seats for incoming classes.

Title I they don't want to be bothered with the child put them in Title I. Get rid of them, put them into special needs classes. They don't help. This is sad. When they had desegregation in the schools, I was on that committee. I was going through my papers and I come across my letter to the feds requesting them to come in. I was living in Columbia Point and it was wicked. Same as in Alabama. Crazy. It really hasn't taken care of itself. They want to scream and holler but it was never fully completed. Do a hit and a miss. It comes forward. When the next regime comes in, they set up their own program. And that's the problem. Kids today, they're not learning what they should be learning. Young teachers want to get rid of older teachers and they can only teach what they were taught and they were not taught a full program. I don't know how they're doing in the service. As long as they have junior ROTC that's a very good program. They have to get into these programs. Veterans Educational Program. It's a very good program. That's the one I work in. They lost all their day classes, only have nights now and they miss a lot of veterans.

Federal government will grant you these things. As far as I'm concerned there's a lot of federal money being wasted. Research, fine but when are you going to find out what's really wrong and admit it? That's the whole problem.

{DC:} Civil rights?

{DB:} I was in the NAACP doing entertainment during the Second World War. I've covered a lot of fields.

{DC:} Civil rights ideas when you entered the service?

{DB:} I was in show business and we were supposed to go into Haiti to do "Tropicana" and they wouldn't let me in because I was too light. I said, "Well, if that's the case nobody's going." They said, “You can't do that.” I said, “Watch and see what I do.” So when I told the rest of the crew what was going on, they said, "Oh, we can't do that." So they told us we'd have a two-week layover to see if everything calmed down in Haiti to see if they'd let me enter. We'll do the two weeks and when the 2 weeks was up I was in Texas so we never went to Haiti.

My mother had five sons in the service. I went into the Air Force because I was tired of ironing those army pants! I came home because they wanted to send me to Kentucky and I said "no, I'm not going back south, I'm going home."

{DC:} Back from Newfoundland.

{DB:} Funny. They had a snowstorm and I had summer blues. I had to put on my winter uniform and just look around and see everything was so different, so changed. Everybody looks at you like you new in town? I'd tell them who I am, but I know you. I said "I knew you when you were that high." Kids that were this high when you left was this high when you came back. Whole new generation. Went back to school.

I have 6 kids, 6 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren and I tell them "stay in school. That's nothing in the street but—trouble. Okay Mom. Okay Nana. I have a son every time I turn around he's in jail. Foolishness. Oh well. That's his choice. He said "I'm fine. I'm going to be alright." He's doing fine right now. I tell him, "Stay out of trouble." So there I go.

{DC:} Forgotten war?

{DB:} It was never declared a war. It was "police action" (for you as a female veteran) that's true. They call it the forgotten war. The Vietnam veterans came with their complaints about the Vietnam Era. One of the Vietnam vets wrote a poem. I love a parade. I thought, He got it wrong. So I answered it. He sent me a letter saying, Oh wow, I didn't know all that. That was really something. I was never beyond talking to somebody to find out information. Can't go around thinking you know it all because you don't. You have to put the puzzle together. I tell my kids, You're going to have a Chinese puzzle. Piece missing. Piece over there. You never know. Toss it in the air and let it fall as it may you have to be able to work around missing pieces and set it straight. I sit and I listen. You learn the most from the older generation. When you take time to sit down and talk with them you learn quite a bit. Never too old to learn. Never. I stress that to all the kids. Get your education.

{DC:} Active in post.

{DB:} Thirty years this year. I was post day commander. Was first black female veteran for the department of mass executive committee woman. And I belong to the group called the 40 and 8 la boutique. I was […] I did a year at that. Past district director. I covered quite a bit. The 40 and 8 is the French name for a group that does hospital work for children with asthma and AIDS. We work really hard. "Where do you get the time?" I find it. I can't sit still.

{DC:} Took you eight years to become commander here.

{DB:} The guys said "Oh please. A woman. What can you tell me. "I said, "A lot of things but I don’t' think you want to hear them." I ran every year. A man said "If you didn't win, what would you do?' I said, "I'd run again." He said "You've got determination. You're going to get it." You can't let them knock you down, you got to keep pushing but you have to keep learning. Can't sit in the corner and say, Maybe one day they'll vote for me. Oh I wish I had that determination. I said, "You can get it." He said, "They don't want me, the hell with it." I said, "Wrong attitude." A fellow said, “I notice something about you, you laugh.” You gotta keep going. I laugh. You gotta keep pushing. And they'd say, "She's determined, she'll get there one day." After the eight years was up, I’m here but what I like about it is they work with me. Makes me feel proud and I let them know that. You have to let them know and let everyone else you appreciate them. Let them stand up in a meeting and everybody see who they are. That means a lot. A lot of the guys say, "Nobody appreciated it." I tell them, "You guys are just like little kids. I don't have candy, but I'll let you know I appreciate what you're doing." It's a great feeling. Getting everything moving.

I'm having a ball. I appreciate what all of them are doing. I give them citations, awards. I sat at the computer the other day and I did thank you every much and ever letter I get something beside it. Ran it off the machine and gave it to them last night. "Aw them are grown men, they don't appreciate it." Well, that's an opinion. Makes them feel wanted.

{DC:} How long have you been doing this?

{DC:} Anything else?

{DB:} Dorothy M. Boyd served as Phillips. I was born Sept 25 1932.


Search Again