Thursday, October 8, 2009
OFF TO WAR: 1.2 MILLION STRONG: THE STORY OF AFRICAN AMERICANS WHO SERVED IN WORLD WAR II
"The man in uniform must grit his teeth, square his shoulders,
and do his best as a soldier, confident that there are millions of Americans outside the armed forces and more persons than he knows in high places within the military establishment, who will never cease fighting to remove all social barriers and every humiliating practice, which now confronts him. But only by being at all times, a first rate soldier can the man in uniform help in this battle which shall be fought and won."
Judge William H. Hasties, Dean of (HBCU) Howard University Law School, 1943
1942 – As the fighting progressed thousands of young men and eventually young women too, traded their civilian clothes for military uniforms. Some joined, but most men were drafted. After considerable pressure, draft boards began including black men, most in their early twenties in the World War II draft. Anxiously they waited for the notice, some hoping it would not come. It was a coin toss every time the postman came. When a young man received a letter with the salutation "Greetings from the President", he knew he had lost the coin toss and off to the induction station he went. There he had a choice between the Navy, Army, Coast Guard and eventually even the Marine Corps as a Montford Point Marine. Once the new inductee arrived at his training camp, he got a haircut, shots against exotic diseases and uniforms. Now he had to learn how to be a GI.
The wait for a draft notice was often unbearable. In a small farming community in Eastern North Carolina, it took so long for the draft notice to arrive that my uncle, Foster Brown, Sr. assumed he would not be called thus on a rainy Sunday evening, Uncle Foster and his future bride stood on a bridge between Halifax County and Warren County and said their vows. The couple had bought their marriage license in one county but wanted to get married in another county. The minister did not believe the marriage would be legal unless they stood on the county line. With his mother, Eva Brown, and my grandmother, Nora Alston, as witnesses my grandfather, Colonel Tee Alston, Sr. shined his headlights so the preacher could see his Bible, Uncle Foster married my mother's older sister, Alice. Unbeknownst to Uncle Foster he was not off the hook, as he soon received his "Greetings from the President" letter and on May 27, 1942 off to army boot camp Uncle Foster went. From basic training my uncle headed to Italy where he drove supply trucks. Alice waited patiently at home for her husband to come back safely.
Copyright © Sharon D. Powell, 2009 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED