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No Bigots in Foxholes
The military brass was divided over integration. Some wanted all the troops they could get, no matter the color. Others said whites and blacks would fight each other instead of the enemy. Korea would prove that wrong.
"You've heard that there's no atheists in foxholes? There are no bigots," laughs John Cannon, who was a black paratrooper in Korea. "You want somebody! They could be polka dot and you get to love him. You get to love him. He gets to look out for you. You get to look out for him and all of that shit dies. It just dies."
On top of sharing a foxhole...integration meant sharing mess halls and showers. For many a young man - black or white - the integrated military was the first time he came so close to the other race.
Veterans John B. Jackson explains, "I came out of a segregated community in Texas. So when I went into the army, then we had to sleep with the different races. I was in shock that we were sleeping bunk-to-bunk."
Another vet, Charles Day, of Penola, Texas remembers, "I was with the Triple-9 in Korea. I was probably the second white man in A-battery. I said 'My Lord, what have I got into?' To me, they could do a more efficient job between theirselves than having some white dude interfering with them. But after I learned some of their key words, everything smoothed out, but it was rough there for two or three months."
Black veteran Samuel King also belonged to the 999th artillery, "When they brought 'white' in, I remember the first guy we got. His name was Lucas. And we had these little canvas cots and you kind of make it up like home. And Lucas had his girlfriend's picture on the thing and you know the guys would just go up and take the picture off of there and say 'she's staying with me tonight' and put it over by their bed. So Lucas looked at us and it might have been because he was the only white in the outfit with 20-some other guys - black - so maybe he didn't say anything. You know, so then the others started coming in and Lucas was kind of old hat."
Next: Struggling to Integrate