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Home | Oral History Archive | Reporter's Notebook


Dorothy Boyd, a female African-American vet, tells classic "Jim Crow" story about not being served at a Woolworth's lunch counter in Alabama even though she was wearing her military uniform.
Listen (1:08) or Read the entire transcript.

"In Montgomery I went into Woolworth'sóthe 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' óthat's just the way I said it to heró'for you to tell me something like that? I don't think so.'"

Norvel West talks about how integration of military affected the society, different world upon his return. Changing attitudes in both whites and blacks.
Listen (1:30) or Read the entire transcript.

"I think it was a time when young American men learned to live with each other and brought some of that back to the States with them. The whole monkey-tail thing was dispelled. You next to one white guy in the bunk next to you, another white guy on the other side. There were always more whites than blacks, so integration kind of swallowed them up."

Eddie Wright, an African-American vet, talks about riding on the back of the bus on his way to liberate South Koreans,
Listen (:37) or Read the entire transcript.

"Everything I did in the military was better than what I experienced in the fields in Georgia and I knew I didn't what that so I told dad when I find something harder than what were doing here, I'll come back. He never forgot that. He'd always laugh. I said I never found anything harder than this. On the bus that I rode on the way to Korea from Savannah, Georgia, to San Francisco, California to get the ship, I rode in the back of the bus to going to liberate the South Koreans."

Sam King talks about enemy propaganda targeting black soldiers and its impact on morale of the black soldiers.
Listen (3:58) or Read the entire transcript.

"They dropped fliers while we were over there. Remember the guy that got executed a second time in North Carolina named McGee. They had his picture on fliers and dropped in our area. It did upset us. We talked about it, saying weíre over here fighting a war and a man canít even get a fair trial because heís black. And the chair malfunctioned and they put him in it a second time and killed him. He died because of hearsay. A white lady said he winked or something.

Korean propaganda Ė do you think they had any effect on morale of blacks?

They did. The attitude was get this thing over and get home. It did have some bearing on it but it was an embarrassment to us, for someone in a foreign country to know how we were treated. And we over here fighting these people to make it better for somebody back home. We get back home and itís not going to be any better and we knew that. Still we had a job to do. We felt we should do it"

Mark C. Hannah served with the 224th Infantry. He talks about the hazing he underwent during basic training and his experience integrating into a predominantly white military unit.
Listen (:45) or Read the entire transcript.

"I was the only Negro in my company and I was frightened and immediately they went to work on me. Pranks; they would pull pranks on all the fellas but they were pretty heavy with me. They put snakes and tarantula spider that had spiders on top of it about the size of a quarter in my bed and I found all types of insects and so Iím going to go ahead and say this, I once woke up with something going around my mouth and it was semen."

Peter Taormina served in the 92nd Division. He talks about the integration of his unit which was entirely white until 1951.
Listen (1:36) or Read the entire transcript.

"The original 92nd that came from Ft. Hill, Texas they were all white. Most of them were Texans, Louisiana, and New Mexico, and of course you know how their feeling was towards blacks. But then they started to put them in around 1951 and 1952 and we had quite a few of them in my outfit at the time. And Iíll tell you I got along with the guys, they were no different than the white guys, you had the bums and you had the good guys. I got along [Ö] you see Iím the president of the 92nd Association and I also look up names with the computer to find some of these guys. The sad thing I gotta say is that Iíve located about 10 black guys, and most of them we had good conversation that I knew, but some of them I could see didnít waste much time talking to you. In other words, what do you want us for a reunion? Stuff like that. These were intelligent guys, but like I say, the times didnít treat them right I guess.

What do you mean by that?

Well you know that, look, letís face it, Iím 74 years old. Youíre a younger man than I am. And going back to my younger days when I was 18, 20, we hardly ever seen a black guy in NY. They lived up there in their neighborhoods, they never came down to our neighborhoods, stuff like that because they had a different mentality in those days."

Roy Flint talks about General MacArthur's failure to integrate the army despite Truman's executive order to do so. He also talks about injuries he suffered in Korea.
Listen (1:30) or Read the entire transcript.

"I think itís really unconscionable that MacArthur was in the theater so long and even after Truman had sort of by executive order, integrated the army, he did nothing about it, until ... he didnít even do it during the war, Ridgeway did it. He did it on his own authority right in Korea. He integrated the 8th army.

MacArthur hadnít taken any steps yet?

Nothing. It was terrible. Really, when you look at it as an exercise in responsibility, and what you would expectóthe army was bad that way though. My generation changed the army. And I think my generation changed the country too because our parents were bigoted. I can remember listening to my father talk about black people in such a way that I finally just had to say, I just canít buy that. I finally stood up to him. This was after I was a little older. But my wife had the same experience in her family and my kids always talk about how they liberated the world, you know. And I said no, we liberated you and then you went ahead, so we sort of take credit in that now sort of grandfather generation."

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