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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
May 5, 1981
G: This is Lawrence Gordon interviewing Mr. James McGill of High Springs,
Florida. Mr. McGill is a black World War If veteran, and we are going
to speak about some of his experiences while he served in the United
States Army. How are you d6ing, Mr. McGill?
G: I appreciate you taking out the time to talk with me. I know you have
a lot of things to do and I really appreciate the effort. Will you
tell me your legal name, Mr. McGill?
M: James McGill.
G: How old are kpu,.sir?
M: Fifty-nine years old.
G: Where were you born, Mr. McGill?
M: I was born in Sylvester, Georgia.
G: Where is Sylvester, Georgia?
M: Worth County, right across to Albany.
G: It is near Albany, Georgia?
G: How large a city is Sylvester, Georgia?
M: It's not such a large place. It's just a farm town.
G: Do you remember how many people lived there, in your early years? Do
you have any idea?
M: No, I don't.
G: Did it have a fairly sizable black population.
M: Yes, very much so.
G: Would you say that most of the people were white or black?
M: Most of them were white, but there were quite a few blacks there too.
G: Were most of the folks who lived in that area farmers?
G: How about your parents?
M: My parents. My mother was a mid-wife, and my brothers farmed here.
G: Okay, how about your father?
M: My father passed just before I was born.
G: Did your mother raise the family?
G: You say you were farmers. What kind of farming did your family do?
M: Well, back theh&they grew corn, peanuts, cotton and watermelon.
G: Did you grow the food crops for your own family, or did you sell them
along with the cotton?
M: We sold it along with the other stuff in feed for the mules back along
G: In your younger years, Mr. McGill, what kind of schooling did you get?
M: I didn't get very much schooling. I had to go to school and work some.
G: You worked on the farm part-time and then got a change to go to school
G: Do you remember how many months out .of the year you went to school?
M: I didn't go very many, I'll tell you.
G: Two, three or four months out of the year?
M: Yes, about three months out of the year.
G: Do you remember how far you made it? Did you go all the way through
M: No, when I stopped I was in the third grade.
G: Third grade?
G: Because your family needed you on the farm. Did you have any jobs other
M: Yes, I used to work for Dr. Gordon Sumler.
G: What did you do for him?
M: Well, I kept the office and stuff like that. Sometimes, a patient would
come in and I would bathe their legs and sores.
G: How long did you work for the doctor?
M: I worked for him from when I was about twelve years old until I was
G: Did you do any other kind of work?
M: Yes, I worked at a cotton mill.
G: How old were you when you worked at the cotton mill?
M: I was nineteen years old when I was hired at the cotton milli
G: What did you do there?
M: I ran a drawing frame.
G: What is a drawing frame?
M: That's a thing that winds the cotton and makes it into smaller cotton,
then it goes into threads.
G: How long did you work there?
M: I worked there until '41.
G: Mr. McGill, in your home town of Sylvester, Georgia, did black and
white people get along pretty good?
M: Yes, you cauld day they did. Everybody looked out for everybody.
G: Do you remember any fights or flare-ups between blacks and whites, or
G: Everybody got along pretty well?
G: Did they expect black people to take a backseat?
M: They always did.
G: I guess everybody kind of understood this?
M: Everybody just fell in line, they knew where their places were, and
that's where they were stuck.
G: After you got to the cotton mill, you worked there until 1941?
G: What did you do when you left the cotton mill?
M: I came to the state of Florida.
G: What part of Florida did you move to?
M: I went to Fort Lauderdale.
GL Can you tell me why you picked Fort Lauderdale?
M: I had to get away from it all. I went down to Fort Lauderdale, that's
G: Did you have friends or relatives there?
G: You just picked Fort Lauderdale. Had you heard something about it?
M: I was going down further but I got to Fort Lauderdale and stopped.
G: Why did you stop in Fort Lauderdale?
M: My money had run out.
G: You were going to go further down south? What was your original goal?
M: My original goal was Key West.
G: Why Key West?
M: I don't know. I just wanted to go down to the end of it I guess.
G: To the end of the state?
G: When you left Sylvester, did you go by bus, car or hitchhike?
M: I came by bus.
G: You came straight from Sylvester to Fort Lauderdale? Did you stop in
some other places?
M: I came straight from Sylvester to Fort Lauderdale.
6: When you got to Fort Lauderdale and you discovered that your money had
run out, what was the first thing you did?
M: I went abound and got a job. I went to a lady down there that used to
run the employment office. Miss Sylvia Irish. She had her own employ-
G: Was she a white lady?
M: No, she was a black lady. She was very nice. She would look out for
anybody. I had enough money to get a room but she told me to hang
around there. She asked me if I could drive an automobile. I hold her
yes. She said, "Help out my cab and you have a place here to stay un-
til I can find you a good, decent job." ThatIs what she did.
G: So, she ran her own employment agency and she helped you get a job in
Fort Lauderdale? While she was looking for a job, you drove cabs for
G: How many cabs did she have?
M: She had about seven.
G: Can you think of any other black businessmen or black business people
in the Fort Lauderdale area?
M: Yes, there was Hill. He had Hill Apartments. He had built a lot of
houses and he ran a liquor bar.
G: I see. Can you think of anybody else?
M: Well, there was another big guy living down there from Fort Lauderdale,
down around Pompano. He had his own place down there, a bar. Jim Sharp.
G: How long did you drive cabs for the employment agency?
M: A couple of weeks until she got me a job. When I wasnYt doing anything,
I would just go around and grab a hoe.
G: How did you find about her?
M: I just came upon herl.somehow. I was just looking for a place to stay.
G: Did she let you stay at her place until you dould find a job?
M: Yes, she had nice places there for you to live.
G: Did she have a boarding house?
M: She had little houses all along there.
G: Do you remember how much it cost to rent the room?
G: How much was it?
M: Two dollars a week.
G: That was in 1941?
G: What about the cost of some other things, like food?
M: Well, the food wasn't too expensive. You could get a good meal for
forty-five or fifty cents.
G: What did you do after driving a cab?
M: I worked at Scott's Dry Goods Store.
G: Scott's Dry Goods Store?
M: Yes, sending out parcel post and stuff like that.
G: I see.
M: And receiving all the packages.
G: Were you the mail clerk?
G: When parcel post came.in, did you deliver to people's houses?
M: No, just the stuff coming to the store. I checked that in. You put
the address on their box, attach a stamp, weigh it, and let it go.
G: At that time how large was Fort Lauderdale?
M: It was a pretty good sized place, but it wasn't all that big killing
G: How many people would you guess...?
M: I don't have the slightest idea of the people there. It wasn't a
great big place, not like it is now.
G: Did it have a fairly large black population?
M: Yes, you could say they had a pretty good size black population.
G: When you were in Fort Lauderdale, what kind of things did you do or
places did you go to for a good time?
M: Well, I didn't do very much hanging out at those places back then. I
was very much a church-going person, so I didn't hang around those
places. I was very much in the Lord during then.
G: Were you of the Baptist faith?
M: Not during then. I was of the Holiness faith, Church of God and Christ.
G: Do you remember the name of the church in Fort Lauderdale you attended?
M: Church of God and Christ.
G: Do you remember who the pastor was?
M: That was before I went in the service. I forgot his name.
G: Do you still belong to the same chuch?
G: Is -Fort Lauderdale the .place you got drafted i,?
G: How long were you there before you got drafted?
M: Well, the summer of '41 I went to Philadelphia.
G: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania?
M: Yes, I got up there and I stayed the summer in Philadelphia. Then I
came back to Fort Lauderdale.
G: What time of the year was that?
M: I came back when it began to get cold, about September.
G: Why did you go to Philadelphia?
M: Well, I just wanted to go.
G: Why did you pick Philadelphia instead of New York or Chicago?
M: I just wanted to go to Philadelphia.
G: You were there for how many thonths?
M: I was there practically the whole summer, about three months,
G: Did you have any kind of job while you were there?
M: Yes, I started to work for Campbell Tomato Company. Right there in
Camden, New Jersey. See Camden and Philadelphia joined.
G: When you worked for the Tomato Company, what kind of things did you do?
M: I operated a tow motor, a fork lift, carrying stuff back and forth.
G: Then you left there and came back down to Fort Lauderdale around
September when it started getting a little cool.
G: Mr. McGill, it sounds like you had a wide background and different
kinds of experiences.
M: When I got back to Fort Lauderdale, I started doing stevedore work.
G: What did you do when you were a stevedore?
M: I loaded and unloaded ships.
G: A stevedore is like a merchant marine or a dock worker?
M: Just a dock worker. That's exactly what he is.
G: You loaded and :unloaded ships?
G: In Fort Lauderdale?
M: In Port Everglades.
G: Do you remember roughly what year it was that you started doing that?'
M: I started doing that just as I got back from Philadelphia. I started
that the first of '42.
G: Was it the fall of '42 after you had gotten back from Philadelphia, in
the winter time?
G: Do you remember any problems taking place in Fort Lauderdale between
blacks and whites? Riots, lynchings, or anything of that nature?
M: No. Everybody I knew around there got along real good.
G: Was Philadelphia the first big city you had gone to?
G: When you got to Philadelphia, what did you think?
M: Well, I don't know. I heard a lot of talk about Chinatown. I very much
wanted to see what Chinatown was like. I was curious.
G: Did you go to Chinatown?
M: Yes, I did.
G: What did you find there?
M: Nothing but Chinese people.
G: Had you ever met a Chinese person before?
G: Did you make any Chinese friends?
G: Do you remember any of their names?
M: I can't recall their names. I met several people. I worked with some
of them. They were very nice.
G: How about the size of Philadelphia? Did the size overwhelm you?
M: I had to be slow about getting around because I couldn't find my way
like I wanted to.
G: Did you have a car?
M: No,I didn't own an automobile back in those days.
G: How did you get around? Did you take cabs or what?
M: Most of the time if I was going anywhere I walked.
G: Did you by any chance live in Chinatown?
G: Just went back and forth?
G: You say you worked with some of the Chinese people. Was this at the
G: They did the same kind of work that you did?
G: When you were going to Philadelphia, how did you get there?
M: I caught the bus.
G: You took the bus from Fort Lauderdale?
G: Do you remember how long it took you to travel that far?
M: No, it's about four days without a stop. I stopped over two or three
G: Do you remember where youstopped?
M: Well, my first stop -- I can't recall it right now to save my life--
in North Carolina.
G: You don't remember the name of the city?
M: It was Washington, North Carolina.
G: Why did you pick that place to stop?
M: I just stopped there, got a lot of rest, and went on.
G: Did you stay a day or so there?
M: No, I just stayed overnight, at a boarding house.
G: How did you go about find the boarding house?
M: Well, that was easy to find in those places. All you had to do was ask
a cabbie there and he would take you right to one of them.
G: Were boarding houses rooms that people rented to others out of their
M: No, they lived there but they had rooms they would rent to people.
G: Do you know how much that cost?
M: It cost me three dollars a night.
G: Three dollars a night? Can't stay at a Holiday Inn for that now,
M: No. That's including breakfast.
G: You got breakfast?
G: For three dollars you got to stay all night in a nice room, aid
got breakfast the next morning. Too bad we can't go back to that
three dollars a night type thing. We would save a lot of money.
M: I know it.
G: Now things are really expensive. On your way from Philadelphia to
Fort Lauderdale, did you stop any place and spend a little time or
did you come straight back?
M: Yes, I stopped over in Savannah, Georgia.
G: Any particular reason?
M: Yes, I had brothers there.
G: How many brothers did you have in Savannah?
M: During that time, three brothers.
G: Were they all farmers?
M: No, they had been farming but they left home and went back to our
original home in Savannah. My mom and her brothers were born there.
G: Are your parents from Savannah?
M: Some of them are and some of them aren't. My father, that was his
home right from there. My mother's home was up in Americus, Georgia.
G: But you were born in Sylvester, Georgia?
G: When you went to visit your brothers in Savannah, how long did you
M: I stayed there, I guess, a couple of weeks.
G: Did anything interesting happen to you there? Did you meet any int-
M: No, no more than what I usually met.
G: Did you encounter any problems in Savannah?
G: No problems at all? You just went about your way?
G: On your way back from Philadelphia you stopped in Savannah, Georgia,
and you stayed there for a couple of weeks with your brothers?
G: When you left Savannah, where did you come?
M: I went straight to Fort Lauderdale.
G: This time that you had spend on and off in Fort Lauderdale, were you
thinking about marrying?
M: I did matter of fact. I got married in 1942.
G: What was your girlfriend's name pripr to her becoming your wife?
M: Her name was Annie Bea.
G: Are you still married to the same woman today?
G: How did you meet her?
M: I met her in church and we started from there.
G: How old were you when you got married?
M: I guess I was twenty-one.
G: How old was she?
M: She was twenty-three.
G: Was that a little unusual at that time, a younger man and an older
M: Not really, not if you care for the person.
G: I guess you have a point. Did you see that kind of thing all of
M: Well, it varies from one to another.
G: So you got married in 1942. Did you establish a home in Fort
M: No, I came back to Gainesville.
G: When you say back to Gainesville, had you lived in Gainesville before?
M: No, this was her home. That's where they were living.
G: How long did you stay in Gainesville?
M: I stayed in Gainesville a couple of months and, we went back to
G: Did you just come to Gainesville to visit?
M: No, she came up to see about their home, the stuff they had in the
house they were renting here. And so we came up to see about all that
kind of stuff. See, they were renting here.
G: Did you move back down to Fort Lauderdale?
M: She left, her stuff was still here. So we went back down to where
I was living.
G: Did you wife also work?
G: What kind of job did she have?
M: She was doing migrant work. She was working in the farms, that type
G: At this time were you still doing stevedore work?
G: Did you have any children in your early marriage?
M: No, until after I got out. When I went in the service, she was pregnant.
The kid was born after I got out of basic training.
G: What year did you get drafted?
M: In 1943.
G: Did they send the draft notice to your house, by mail, or what?
M: Yes, they sure did.
G: When you got home and got that draft note, how did you feel? What was
M: No. I had lost my registration card, and they were picking up
people. If you didn't have a registration card, they'd put you in
jail. So I went down to contain another one, and they told me I
didn't need one now, to get on the bus. The bus was there waiting.
They sent me right on.
G: You got a draft notice in the mail?
M: That was already there but I hadn't gotten that one.
G: So you, went down to check on a registration card, and they told you
that you were in the army?
M: Yes. Told me to get on the bus right there, and I got on the bus and
it carried me on to Camp Blanding.
G: You didn't get a chance to talk to your wife or anything before you
M: No. On top of that, they were giving guys twenty-seven days back
home. I didn't even get that. They kept me going.
G: Where is Camp Blanding?
M: Over here out of Starke.
G: How long were you there?
M: I was there long enough to take an examination, ad they swore me in.
G: Ydu mean a physical examination?
M: Yes. They swore me in right there.
G: So you were only there a couple of days?
M: Yes, about a couple days.
G: After you were sworn into the army, where did you go?
M: They sent me to Fort Benning, Georgia. I stayed there three days.
G: What city is Fort Benning, Georgia located near?
M: Americus, Georgia.
G: Americus, Georgia. When you got to Fort Benning, what did you do?
M: I stayed there three days, and then they sent me to Hattiesburg,
G: What was in Hattiesburg?
M: They had a soldier camp there. I never did get liberty to go anywhere,
so I don't know what was on the outside.
G: Do you remember the name of the camp in Hattiesburg?
M: No. I don't remember. But there was a camp there, Camp Shelby,
G: It seems like things were happening to you kind of fast. You got
drawn right in there. They shipped you off.
M: That's right.
G: How did you feel about all that?
M: I didn't feel good about it, I never liked it at all, but that's the
way it went.
G: Considering the way a lot 6f black people were treated in those
days, did you feel that you should have been in the army, fighting
for this country?
M: No, definitely not. I sure didn't.
G: How did most of the other black soldiers feel?
M: A lot of them felt the same way. And then a lot of them were proud
they were in there.
G: How do you think most of the black soldiers felt? They didn't want
to be there? Or were they proud to be in the army?
M: I think most of them didn't want to be there, but they didn't have
any other choice. A lot of them would go over the hill anyway.
G: When you say go over the hill, you mean desert?
M: They'd leave the camp. They'd send MP's to get them.
G: Did they find them most times?
M: Yes, cause the other cops would pick them up and hold them.
G: Did you ever think about running off?
M: Yes, very much so.
G: Did you run off?
G: From which camp?
M: From Camp Clayborne, Louisiana.
G: You say you were at Fort Benning for three days, and they sent you to
G: How long were you in Hattiesburg?
M: About three months.
G: What platoon or what group were you in when you were in Hattiesburg?
M: Well, they had a ROTC school there. You would fall out in a group.
And every day you're with this group. So that's what you fall out
G: You didn't have like a so and so and so battalion?
M: No. Until I got to Camp Clayborne, Louisiana.
G: So prior to going to Camp Clayborne, you just, had groups of guys
who were in the same barracks and did things together in terms of the
way you were organized?
G: Now, you were saying when you were in Hattiesburg you didn't get a
chance to leave camp much?
M: You didn't go out at all.
G: Why not?
M: They didn't give you liberty there.
G: Do you have any idea why?
M: No, I don't. It was like I said, back in ROTC school.
G: So you spent you whole time on the base?
M: The whole three months, Yes.
G: Other than drilling, what kind of things...
M: Well, you'd take in all kinds of different schooling and training.
G:: Do you remember specifically what kind of training you were taking?
M: Yes, I was taking up what you call rigging.
G: What's rigging?
M: For instance, I could take a tarpaulin and pull your car across any
river--you and anything else in it.
G: Did they show you how to fold it or what?
M: Yes, and draw it with ropes.
G: You could float stuff...
M: Across a river. I could take ten pounds. I could rig up an outfit
out there and take ten pounds and pick you car clear up off the
G: How did that work?
M: Well, you'd use a block and tackle.
G: They taught you all these kind of things?
G: What other kind of things did you...?
M: That was the most they taught me. That was all I got other than
G: Giving all of you lots of target practices and that kind of stuff?
M: Oh no. You didn't get any of that until you got off to basic
G: Whenyou were at the camp in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, it was sort
of like ROTC School?
M: Right. You would go to school half a day and you'd drill the other
G: When you say go to school, you mean a classroom-type situation.
M: Some of it was classroom. Some of it was on the field.
G: What kind of things did they have in the classroom?
M: They would have everyday school.
G: Like writing, reading, arithmetic?
M: Yes. Then they had your book of what you scored, out there in the
field. It was what you chose to do.
G: When you were drafted into the army, Mr. McGill, could you already
read and write?
M: A little bit.
G: Did they improve these skills once you were...?
M: No. That wasn't improved while I was in there. I didn't improve
anything until after I got out of the service.
G: All of the places that you went, did you always have a white group
leader? Did you have a black group leader or what?
M: When I was in the service?
G: When you were in Hattiesburg.
M: Yes, he was always white.
G: No black?
M: We had a black first sergeant but all the commanding officers, like
lieutenants were white.
G: From you time in the camps.
M: From that time until I got out.
G: The highest blacks usually were first sergeants?
M: Yes, that's the highest it was.
G: How did you feel about that?
M: Well, it was all right, but some of it was rough. There was some
good, some bad.
G: When you were going through these training situations prior to get-
ting to Camp Claybourne in Louisiana, do you remember any of your
drill instructors or anybody of that nature who comes to mind more so
than anybody else?
M: Willie F. Brewer.
G: Was he black or white?
M: He's black.
G: Why does Willie Brewer come to mind as compared to ... ?
M: Well, he was from Jacksonville.
G: Can you describe him for me in terms of what he looked like?
M: He was a tall, black dude.
G: Was he really dark?
M: Yes, he'd say, "All right men, I want y'all to form a formation
and I want you to form it with the dust. When the dust settles,
I want you standing looking there like damn black statues." This
kind of jive, but he wasn't joking.
G: Did he work you pretty hard?
G: Do you remember if he had any kind of rank? Was he a corporal or
M: He was a sergeant.
G: First Sergeant?
M: No. He was a field sergeant.
G: What's the difference between. a buck sergeant and a first sergeant?
M: A buck sergeant, only has three stripes. And a first sergeant had
three up and three down with a diamond in the middle.
G: From everything you remember about the man, what one thing impressed
you the most about him?
M: Well, the one thing that impressed the most about him was that he was
no good for one thing. He always ran to the man with whatever went on.
G: He would squeal on you?
M: Right. Regardless of what went on, he would squeal on the guys.
Then he'd say, "You call me white mouth, black mouth, blue mouth,
but I'm going to tell the man."
G: He would tell on you in a minute?
M: Yes, like the boys would want to slip out and that kind of stuff and
they don't be right in there on time for reveille, but they would be
there,in the breakfast line. He would pull out from there and take
them on and say they were AWOL and stuff like this.
G: Mr. McGill, how abouttaling me through one of your normal days,
from the time you got up until the time you went to bed?
M: Well, you got up around five o'clock in the morning. Around five--
thirty reveille. Around six o'clock you went back in and filled up
for breakfast. And when you got through with breakfast, you started
policing the area.
G: When you say policing, what do you mean?
M: That means picking up paper, match sticks, and all of this out of the
area. Leaves or anything. We policed and cleaned it up. Then there
was formal formation. After you went to breakfast you got all that
out of the road. They got you back in formation. Then they went in
there and had a sergeant go in to check the huts, to see if they
G: You mean your barracks, the place you slept and all?
M: Yes. See if your bed was made up and your shoes were shined,i'under
the bed like they were supposed to be.
G: What would happen if your shoes weren't?
M: If they weren't, you were punished for it.
G: What kind of punishment?
M: They'd find some kind of extra duty for you to do, if it wasn't
anything but peeling potatoes, digging a ditch, or digging a hole.
They'd find something after duty for you to do.
G: You were going through the day for me.
M: After you did that, you went out for your training or drilling.
After they went through with that, they'd take about a ten minute
break, after two hours. Then they'd go and sit down. They'd have
a conversation about different things.
G: Like what kind of....
M: Concerns of the army, whatever, things like this. What manner you
were supposed to go about doing things. And then when they got
through with that, they'd get back up and drill you some more. Until
the day was over. Then you go in and take your shower.
G: About what time did your day end?
M: The day ended around four-thirty. Then you'd go in and take your
shower and stuff like that.
G: What kind of drills did you all do?
M: Just drilling like ordinary soldiers drill.
G: Marching and that kind of thing?
M: Up and down, up and down the company, over there in the field.
Sometimes running around. Whatever they want you to do.
G: Do you think the army was a good place for a black man?
M: Yes. Well, it did more in a way for black society.
G: What do you mean?
M: Well, what I'm talking about is that since they got out, they got
a lot of benefits, and then on top of that, it helped them in many
G: Do you think you were treated fairly in the army?
M: Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
G: Give me an example of when you thought you were treated good.
M: Well, I was treated real good when I was pulled out of my company.
They were calling everybody up to go and deactivate a mine field.
And all the guys had special training. They pulled them out and I
was one of them. And we were left there in the company.
G: Now, when did this happen?
M: This was after we went overseas.
G: We are going to get to that in a little while. There's lots of
things I want to ask you about overseas. We've taken you all
the way through Hattiesburg. Now you went through Camp Shelby
M: From there, I went on into port of embarcation and from there to
Camp Shank, New York.
G: You went from Hattiesburg to New York. What did you do then?
M: Camp Claybourne, Louisiana to New York.
G: You went from Hattiesburg to ...
G: Camp Claybourne is in Louisiana? What city in Louisiana is Camp
M: It's near Oakdale.
G: Can you think of any larger cities that it might be near?
M: It was near Baton Rouge.
G: About how far from Baton Rouge?
M: I really don't know. About twenty or thirty miles to Baton Rouge.
G: Was Baton Rouge the place you went to take liberty?
M: No. I always went to Oakdale.
M: Oakdale or Glenmore.
G: You didn't go to Baton Rouge much?
G: Now do you remember that year you got to Camp Claybourne? Do you te-
member the year and month you got to Camp?
M: I got to Camp Claybourne in '43, but I don't recall the month now.
G: Do you remember the battalion or platoon you were in when you were
at Camp Claybourne?
M: I was with the 1330's combat engineers.
G: Thirteen ...?
G: What kind of things did combat engineers do?
M: You built bridges. You fought with whatever was in front of you. You
G: You sound like a jack of all trades, so what ever it took to ...
M: Right. If they said fight, you fought. If they said blow that bridge,
you blew that bridge. If they said build that bridge, you built that
bridge. Or if they said, "Hey, we need this group over here to put
down runways for airplanes to come in," you did it.
G: You had training in explosives, guns...?
G: Like, a multi-purpose soldier?
G: When you got to Camp Claybourne and you were in the engineers, I think
you said 1220th engineers, who was your group leader? Who was the
leader of that particular group?
M: For that particular platoon?
G: Yes, the 1330th.
M: The 1330th that was just a company we had. But they had a whole bat-
alion. I was in a company. It was like "F" company.
G: You were in the "F" company of the 1330th?
G: Who was the leader of "F" company?
~d: He was--what was that Joeboy's name? I wouldn't ever forget it.
Captain-- what is that man's name?
G: Was he white?
M: Yes. Like I said, we didn't have any black officers. The were all
G: How many people were in "F" company?
M: Quite a few of us.
G: Can you give me an idea of how big it was?
M: We had over 200 people in there.
G: But you don't remember your captain's name?
M: I can't recall his name right now to save my life. No, I can't think
of his name right now, but he cracked up. I'll never forget that.
He cracked right after he got overseas.
G: But you don't remember his name?
M: No, I can't.
G: You remember his being a fair man?
M: No. That man wasn't fair.
G: Why do you say that? What are some of the things that he did?
M: Well, when we got overseas, we were in England, and England was all
right. But after we left England, and went on up through France,
he got over there in German territory and he hollered out: "Men, can
you hear me on the left?" they said, "Yeah." "Can you hear me on the
right?" They said, "Yeah." "I know damn well y'all can hear down
through the center. Don't want no fraternizing."
G: When you say no fraternizing, you mean between blacks and whites?
M: He didn't want you talking to any of the people over there.
G: None of the people overseas?
M: Right. At the place where we were. And he was the first one coming
out of a German's house and I pinned him down "cause I was the guard
on duty. I pinned him down right there with the 0-3 rifle. And they
wanted to court-martial me. If he hadn't turned sideways, I'd have
hit him. Don't you know good and well? I could have torn him up
if I'd wanted to. That old moon was shining just like daylight. And
he came sneakin'out of this German woman's house. He had no business
being there either. We caught him fraternizing. This kind of stuff.
G: But did you get court martialled?
M: They put me on six weeks of extra duty.
G: For almost shooting your captain?
M: I didn't shoot him. I knew who he was. I was just going to let him
G: You just wanted to let him know that you saw him fraternizing.
G: Okay. Taking you back to Camp Claybourne, were the blacks and whites
G: Were you all on one side of the camp and they were on the other side
of the camp?
M: You might see a white bunch way--, it was kinda that way, yes. You
could say it because just before you got out of the gate up there at
the front, that's where most of the whites were.
G: And the blacks were towards the back?
G: Were the camps where the blacks were positioned swampy land, kind of
mucky land, as compared to where the whites were living?
M: No, 'cause the black boys got in there and cleaned it all up.
G: But you were just towards the back of the camp and they were towards
M: The front of the camp, yes.
G: Did black and white soldiers interact with each other very much? Did
they laugh and talk with each other and that kind of thing?
M: Sometimes they did. The blacks would get in fights with the whites
you know...these kind of things.
G: Did you have any white friends when you were at Camp Claybourne?
M: Camp Claybourne, no. I didn't know any of them over there. I was
mostly with the guys right there in my barracks. Like Robert Davidson,
McKinze, those guys.
G: How big of a place do you think Camp Claybourne was? I mean in terms
of how many men ...?
M: Camp Claybourne was a big, big place.
G: I was just asking, prior to the tape ending a few seconds ago, how many
battalions or platoons do you think they had at Camp Claybourne?
M: I wouldn't have the slightest idea because there were so many outfits
G: Do you ever remember any black and white soldiers fighting? Anything
of that nature?
M: No. But just before we were sent overseas, a bunch of the guys went
over and wrecked a whole town.
G: What was the name of the town?
G: Do you remember what year that was?
M: That was in '43.
G: Roughly what month was it?
M: It was around September.
G: They wrecked the whole town?
M: They tables in there and tore that town up.
G: Tell me a little bit about it.
M: Then after they did that, they promised you so much till you got in
service. Then after you got in there, you couldn't do this and you
couldn't do that.
G: Like can't do what? What do you mean?
M: Like they said you could go this place or you could go to that place.
Like white people places you know. And then if you went there, re-
gardless,yyou had to get in the back. All the time. Even like you
caught a bus coming from out there and you had to get in the back, and
they'd drop a flap in front of you.
G: To divide the black from the white.
M: The black from the white.
G: In the middle of the bus?
M: Yes, or wherever. Wherever they wanted to slide that leather flap,
they'd drop it down in front of you where you could not see. You
couldn't see, but out of the side of the window.
G: Was this a military bus?
M: No, this was like a Greyhound...
G: A city bus or...
M: Like a Greyhound bus.
G: Oh, Okay. So what you're saying is that black soldiers didn't get
treated very well?
M: In a lot of cases, no.
G: Okay. Now tell me a little bit about what led to the soldiers tearing
up this town.
M: Well, they were all getting ready to be shipped overseas. And then
they got to town they were served old rotten food. You could smell it
and you didn't even want to eat before you could get it to the barracks.
And so they just good teed off and they just started to run out of
camp and went over there and started tearing this place up. After they
tore it up, they came back and like, staff automobiles and stuff like
that, they just left them in the road and turned them bottomside up.
G: Did anybody get court martialled or arrested or beat up...?
M: No, 'cause they didn't know who to court martial.
G: Did the restrict...?
M: They restricted the whole camp.
G: To the base...nobody could leave?
M: Nobody could leave.
G: Now how did the town's people, you know the regular people in the
Camp Claybourne area, treat black people, black soldiers?
M: They treated them fine, in that community round there, far as I know.
G: Did you ever hear of any of the white civilians who lived around
Camp Claybourne giving any black soldiers a hard time?
M: No, because they never went out... unless the guys went four or five
at a time. A white never jumped on a black unless he was out there
G: Do you remember any incidences of a black guy being beaten up?
M: No, not there.
G: My understanding is that at one time there were some German prisoners
at Camp Claybourne.
M: They were slaves. They would work in the mess halls and stuff like
G: These were German prisoners-of-war who had been brought to Camp
Claybourne to be detained?
M: Yes, I think so, I mean, I saw one or two there. Not very many.
G: Did you ever get a chance to talk with any of them?
G: How.were the German prisoners treated as compared to the blacks?
M: Well, German prisoners, all I ever saw them do is work. They came in
all at different times and they would be there working. But after we
went overseas, if you want to know about that, the German soldiers
were treated roughly.
G: But when you were at Camp Claybourne, they were treated okay?
G: They just worked in the mess hall and things of this nature?
M: Just worked in the mess hall. That's all I ever saw them do, work in
there, like peeling potatoes, mopping the floor, things like that.
G: How often did you all get passes to go to town from Camp Claybourne?
M: We would get one. Some of us depending on who you were. Depending on
what you did. Some of us didn't get any pass at all, and some of us
got a pass any night we wanted one. It depended on what you had on
G: How often did you get a chance to go?
M: I went 'bout once every two weeks.
G: Okay. When you were in the Camp Claybourne area, did you make any
lasting relationships? I mean real serious girl friends or really
good buddies or anything of that nature?
G: When did you get a chance to see your wife again?
M: After I got through basic training. To be shipped out to Camp Shank
to go overseas.
G: When you did your basic training in Camp Claybourne, what kind of
things did you learn in Camp Claybourne?
M: I didn't learn anything at Camp Claybourne. No more than what I had
already been taught. Just a routine thing that you just had to keep
G: What about marksmanship, hand-to-hand combat and that kind of stuff?
M: Well, you learn how to shoot there and all that. Yes, I learned all
that there, but I mean I already got to do my job. I was buck shoot-
ing the rifle there in Hattiesburg.
G: But when you were in Hattiesburg, you didn't get a chance to shoot?
Nobody? Or just blacks?
M: Nobody got a chance to shoot anything there.
G: So most of the black soldiers, were they all in engineering groups?
Were they all called engineers, most of the black soldiers?
M: You had some over there in the tank battalion. You had a few over
in there but the rest of them I saw, they were all engineers.
G: When did you finally leave Camp Claybourne?
M: I left Camp Claybourne somewhere around September, about the last of
G: In '43 or '44?
G: Where did you go then?
M: I went on furlough. Came back to Gainesville and had time at home.
Then from there I went back to Claybourne. When I got there I went
on to Camp Shank, New York.
G: How long did you get a chance to come home?
M: I got one furlough home the whole three years I was in the service.
G: That one furlough, how long was it? Was it a week or two weeks or...?
M: About fourteen days.
G: Fourteen. And you came to Gainesville to visit your wife.
M: Yes. Wife and baby then.
G: Did you have a little boy or a little girl?
M: Little girl.
G: What was her name?
M: Annie Mae.
G: Annie Mae. Did you have any other kids?
G: So you stayed at home ...
M: Fourteen days.
G: Had things changed very much since you left to go into the army?
G: Did people treat you better because of your uniform? Or treat you any
M: No different. There were a lot of them already around here. A soldier
was a soldier back then.
G: I understand. So you came home, visited your wife and your new baby,
.and left to go to New York?
M: Left and went back Camp Claybourne and when I got there we were loading
up to go to Camp Shank, New York.
G: You went back to Camp Claybourne?
M: Got with the outfit and they moved out to Camp Shank, getting ready to
G: When you went to Camp Shank, did you fly or what?
M: No. We went by train.
G: From Louisiana to New York?
M: New York.
G: Did you stop anywhere or was it straight through?
M: Straight through.
G: What city was Camp Shank near?
M: Camp Shank was right in New York.
G: Right in the New York City area?
G: How did you like it or you didn't get ...?
M: I didn't get around. The next time, we were loaded up from there--
weren't there long. We loaded up from there and went to Staten
Island and that's where we got on the ship.
G: How long were you in the New York area before you got on the ship?
M: I was there about a week and a half.
G: But you didn't get a chance to go through any of the city or anything?
M: No. You couldn't leave the post 'cause it was guarded all the time.
That's where you were under heavy guard.
G: In New York, do you remember there being any real difference between
northern white soldiers and southern white soldiers?
M: Well, I met up with some white guys who said they had never associated
with blacks in their life. They didn't even know what a black person
was like. And they were always taught to hate a black person.
G: Were these southern or northern?
M: Some of both.
G: Did blacks tend to get along better with northern whites than southern
whites? I'm speaking in terms of soldiers now.
M: As far as my knowledge, after the white people came to know the black
person, it didn't make a difference where he was from. After they
knew him, when they got together, you know. Yes. That didn't have
any bearing where he was from then, until later when we got overseas.
The white man tried to make it hard for the black person.
M: They said that every time the black person got drunk that he got tailed.
His taiIl'll come out.
G: That's what the white soldier said?
M: That's what the white soldier said that went around on jeeps over there
with loud speakers in England.
G: Loud speakers?
G: And they were saying what?
M: "Beware of the black soldiers because if he gets drunk or is drinking
and gets drunk, he's got a tail and his tail'll come out." So we had
a friend who got drunk when we were down in this pub and they kept
pouring him liquor till he got drunk. He got up to go out and every-
body followed him. And when they did, he just got out in the street
and dropped all of his clothes right there and told them,"I'm just
like you are."
G: Do you remember his name?
M: Yes. F.H. Mackey.
G: He's a buddy of yours?
M: Yes. And that's where it turned the English people back around to re-
spect the black man. That's where the white soldiers couldn't go out
unless they had a black soldier go with him so he could have some fun.
Other than that, he couldn't have any 'cause they didn't pay him any
G: So a lot of the English people looked upon the white soldiers as
natural soldiers then?
G: You talked about them putting loud speakers on the jeeps and driving
around. Were these just soldiers doing little naughty things, or was
this something that was condoned by the whole army?
M: I don't know who it was done by, but it was done. It could have been
stopped but the army didn't stop it. It's a constant thing around.
G: Do you remember any black soldiers specifically complaining about it,
and them still not doing anything about it at all?
M: Nobody complained about it. It worked itself out, in little or no:
time at all.
G: So you went from New York...you got on a ship in....
M: Camp Shank.
G: In the New York area then you sailed to London or to England?
M: To England, Yes.
G: What part of England were you stationed in?
M: I wasn't stationed there. I was just shipped there for a little while.
G: How long were you...?
M: ] d say I was there about three weeks.
G: Do you remember the city that you were near or the place you were near
M: I was pretty close to Hob.
G: It's a city called Hob?
M: Hob, England, Yes.
G: Is that anywhere near the London area or is it a long way from London?
M: It was a long way from London.
G: How did blacks...?
M: I was right there in Ipswich, England.
G: You were there for about three weeks?
G: How did black soldiers get along with British women?
G: No problems at all?
M: None at all.
G: The British women--they would date black soldiers?
G: How did the white soldiers like that?
M: They didn't.
G: You remember any ...?
M: That's why they were talking about us having tails and all kind of jive.
G: Did they say anything else besides the tails?
M: No, not that I know of, but when you got around a bunch of them, they'd
get nasty. But it didn't go nowhere.
G: Did they say you grew horns along with the tail?
M: No, Ithey didn't say that. They just said we had tails. That'sall.
G: Did any of the black soldiers that you knew marry any English women or
anything of that nature that you knew of?
M: No, not during this time. No, there was nobody marrying anybody during
that time over there.
G: How about yourself? Did you date any women or...?
M: No, I started to date in the West Indies. That's after I hit France.
G: When you were in England, you didn't date any English women?
G: Did you see any English black people when you were there?
G: Just whites.
M: All were white. There were no blacks there.
G: Other than American blacks?
G: So you were in England about three weeks.
G: And then where did you go?
M: They took us back down there to port of embarcation. We got on there,
and went over to Normandy Beach.
G: What port did you leave from?
M: I don't remember right now. Can't recall the name.
G: Do you remember the name of the boat you were on?
M: No, we floated on that joker at night and we got off in the night.
It was an old wooden boat, I can tell you that.
G: It wasn't a big fancy carrier or anything like that?
M: No, it was a wooden boat. It was made of wood.
G: Were there just black soldiers on it or black and white?
M: Black soldiers were on there and the commanding officers. They all
G: Did they ship white soldiers in wooden boats too?
M: I guess they did. I don't know. I couldn't say one way or the other.
'Cause it was night when we got on and night when we got off. We just
went across the English Channel.
G: And you went to Normandy...
M: Normandy beachhead.
G: When you got there, what was the first thing you remember seeing?
M: Smokestacks, mast poles and the beachside burning.
G: There was a lot of shooting and bombing?
M: That was what they had left behind.
G: Was the fighting still going on the beach when you got there?
M: No, the fighting was up in front of us. We didn't get into where they
were actually fighting until we hit Belgium.
G: Okay, so when you first got to Normandy Beach and everybody got off
the boat, what was the first thing you did?
M: Well, the first thing we did, we got out there and lined up, got on
trucks and headed over towards France.
G: Can you give some idea in terms of where France is?
M: No, I'm just as lost as anything in the world. I was just riding in
the truck, going up to ,France. We got up there, and then
right after we got there,in Belgium, our outfit went to deactivate
these mines, and the mines blew up and killed a bunch of them.
G: Your outfit, your battalion, or what?
M: My battalion. My whole battalion.
G: The 1330th?
G: You all went to Belgium?
G: To deactivate a mine field?
M: They were up there deactivating the mine field. We didn't go to do
this but this was part of the job.
G: Had you all been trained to do that?
M: Some of us where.
G: How about yourself, had you been trained?
G: You had actually been trained to deactivate mines?
G: When you got to Belgium, to deactivate the mines, is this where you
were telling me they ...
M: When they graded me out.
G: Why did they?
M: All the guys who had special training. They pulled them out of each
outfit and left them behind.
G: What kind of special training do you mean?
M: I had training there, when I told you I was a rigger--that I could do
your car or get it across the water?
M: This was in it.
G: So, all the guys who they thought had some kind of special talent...
M: Special training. They'd pull them out.
G: And they's send everybody else to deactivate the mines?
G: So a lot of them got killed?
M: A bunch of them got killed. The whole outfit was just about got wiped
out. Then they had to scatter us all about.
G: About how many men?
M: I don't know. There was a whole battalion.
G: I know nothing about the army. Can you give me an idea about how big
a battalion is?
M: Well, let's see, it's about a thousand of so men.
G: And almost all of them got killed in mine fields?
G: Up in Belgium?
G: That must have really been disheartening for you.
M: Yes, really. What they did was to scatter us about. They attached me
with the Red Ball Gas Supply.
G: What's the Red Ball Gas Supply? What is that?
M: We were pushing gas up on the front.
G: You would run gasoline trucks back and forth?
G: You were driving gasoline trucks?
M: Sometimes. Sometimes I was a gun-on.
G: You mean like a machine gunner or something?
G: Mr. McGill, do you remember specifically killing anybody?
M: No, I never killed anybody, not that I know of.
G: Do you remember shooting at anybody?
M: Yes, my company commander (laughter).
G: No, I mean enemy or something?
G: You never shot at anybody? Do you remember any of the other black
soldiers talking about what it felt like to kill a man or to shoot
somebody for the first time? Do you remember any of them saying anything?
M: No. That's something you rarely heard anything about, even if somebody
G: I guess it's just either you or them so you have to survive. You just
do what you have to do.
G: You said something about your captain cracking up when you got overseas.
M: Yes, that joker cracked up.
G: What happened?
M: I don't know. He just got over there and everything got so heavy on
him till he couldn't take it, cracked up.
G: Had a mental break-down?
M: Yes. See, a lot of them don't know.
M: I have seen guys stand up and cry like babies.
G: Did you have any real good buddies, or one or two guys that you always
traveled around with?
M: Yes. Robert Dawson McKinzie and Phillip Nero.
G: Did either one of them get killed or did everybody make it?
M: Everyone of us made it.
G: They did the same kind of thing that you did?
M: Well, they were in different parts of it, but they had special training
G: You said something earlier about them commenting to the effect that there
should be no fraternizing. Your captain said that?
M: Yes. Captain Johnson, that's his name.
G: Captain Johnson? Do you remember his first name?
M: No, all I ever knew was Johnson.
G: Where were you when he said that there should be no fraternizing?
M: We were just hitting Germany then.
G: Do you remember what area?
M: No, I don't know,all I know is they were going in there beating up
women and children, and putting them out the door and all that kind of
G: Were these white soldiers or black soldiers or both?
M: It was just those black soldiers...taking a place for them to stay,
putting people out in the street. See, by me being a religious person
along in there, it just didn't look right to me.
G: So they were putting the people out of their houses so they'd have a
place to stay?
M: Yes, they sure did.
G: And was this when Captain Johnson talked about the fraternizing?
G: When you were in France and Germany, how did the civilian people
treat black folks?
M: Well, when I was in France, they treated them all right.
G: The civilians treated you all right? No problems?
M: Yes, no problems. There was just one thing. They always wanted the
black soldiers to sell them something all the time. You know being
black market, they had a lot of black marketing going on.
G: Sell things, like what?
M : They'd buy your clothes, your shoes, your trunks, your anything.
G: Did you sell anybody anything?
M: No. y
G: How much could you sell your shoes for?
M: The guys could get thirty dollars for a pair of boots. And they got to
where they would check them when they were going out on liberty. You
know, see how many clothes they had on and all this kind of jive.
G: To make sure that you wouldn't try to sell clothes on the black market?
M: Right. You could sell soap, cigarettes, chewing gum, anything you had
you could sell it.
G: Sell for a good price?
G: Do you remember any particular places you were where there was a lot of
prostitution for example?
M: It couldn't be any worse than France.
G: Tell me a little about that.
M: Those young lady folks out there would line you up. Those guys would
be lined up in a line from here to that road up there.
G: Waiting to ...
M: Take turns.
G: Were these like houses of prostitution?
M: No, they had their pup tents out there.
G: Oh, the women would be inside the pup tent and the guys would be standing
G: Did you get into that?
M: No, sir.
G: How much did the prostitutes cost?
M: Well, different prices, depending on who he ip. If the soldier there,
knew you or he liked you, or something like that, he had these things
going on. See, that was a soldier's hustle.
G: Some soldiers were sort of like pimps for the French prostitutes?
M: Yes. They'd pay the French prostitutes so much and they'd take so
G: Were these black or white soldiers doing this?
M: Black and white.
G: Oh. Now you were talking about the soldiers standing in line waiting
G: Were black and white soldiers in the same line?
M: No, I never saw any white soldiers in that line.
G: Just all black soldiers. Did white soldiers have special consideration
M: They set up in a different area.
G: So it'd be black soldiers in one area standing in line, and white
soldiers in another area.
G: What was the worst battle that you remember seeing? Can you tell me
the worst fighting that you'd saw when you were over there?
M: Well, when I was standing there looking at Berlin burn, I guess you'd
call that about the worst. And well, I didn't see very much of the
actual fighting, because I was caught behind the line over there at the
Battle of the Buldge. I was trapped behind the line, four of us.
G: Were you delivering gas or something then or what?
M: No, we were supposed to have been scouting. Counting the people and the
automobiles going in what direction.
G: Were you counting the German troops and stuff?
G: What did you think of the German army?
M: They had the greatest army in the world. If they would've handled it
right, they would've conquered the world.
G" Why do you think they lost?
M: Well, I don't know. They were fighting too many fronts for one thing,
at one time.
G: Spread out too thin?
M: Yes. A lot of dead. If it kept going like it was going, everything
would have been under German command. But then they went to spreading
and fighting too many fronts. Then that cut them down to be such a
G: You were telling how blacks and whites were separated. But once the
fighting actually started, did they fight shoulder to shoulder, or were
they still kind of separated?
M: Well, all of them were in there together, then. As far as I could see
everybody was moving on up.
G: Then once the bullets got to flying, people didn't care too much in
terms of what color you were.
M: That's right, as long as you were on their side. You could have been
an Englishman or (anybody) you were welcome.
G: What did you think of the English and French soldiers?
M: I think they were great people.
G: Did you think the Germans were the best soldiers?
M: Well, I guess you could say they were better soldiers.
G: Better than American soldiers?
M: Yes. Germans had it together.
G: What do you think made German soldiers better than American soldiers.
M: Well, first thing, they were taught from kids, and the way they were
brought up was to work together. "Now you pull over here and I'll pull
over here,", or "Hey man, I'm going here, you go there." They worked
as a team whatever they did. And they were just smart people.
G: Out of all the black battalions and troops, which one did you think
was the best known black battalion.
M: The Twenty-fifth.
G: The Twenty-fifth infantry?
M: Yes, it was all black.
G: And they were a well-known group?
G: Why was the Twenty-fifth Infantry well-known?
M: Well, they were made up of all blacks, and they sent them to the Pacific.
Those were the guys that went up to Patton. I mean MacArthur.
G: They were good fighters?
G: They were always near the front fighting for him?
M: They were up there.
G: Everybody knew about the Twenty-fifth ?
M: Ask anybody that was in the World War II about the Twenty-fifth Infantry.
G: Do you know who was the commander of the Twenty-fifth infantry?
M: No, I don't.
G: Were you proud of them?
M: Yes, very much so.
G: Did you get a chance to meet any of the very famous generals like
Patton, MacArthur,or Bradley?
M: Yes. I served under him. I met Patton.
G: You served under Patton?
G: In what capacity?
M: I was a part of the (Red Ball Express), carrying oil and stuff up to the
G: Did you ever get to meet and talk to the man?
M: The man stopped and cussed me out.
G: Why did he cuss you out?
M: Because I was stopped at the side of the road.
G: Why did you stop?
M: I had to go on the side of the road.
G: You had to go use the bathroom?
G: Do you remember what he said to you?
M: He asked me what outfit I was from. This damn truck was supposed to be
rolling. He said,"Don't stop this damn truck on the side of the road."
He said, "Was it loaded?" I told him,"Yeah." He said, "Get the hell
out from here with it." Well, see, we were in enemy territory. We
weren't supposed to stop.
G: What did you think of Patton?
M: I think he had a lot of guts to tell you the truth. The man wasn't
scared to die, for one thing.
G: Why do you say that?
M: He must have been, the way he pushed things -hat went on.
G: What do you mean "the way he pushed things?"
M: You would always see him headed up toward the front. Always. He would
just barrel right on up. I remember we were gassing up tanks, shells
falling everywhere around there; that joker was still out there.
G: He would always be right in front of his men?
M: Not always, but he would be there. He'd be somewhere close or get to
where he could get a message to them.
G: Who do you think was the greatest or the best American general?
M: I think MacArthur.
G: Why do you say that?
M: If they'd have let MacArthur go on, we wouldn't have what we have today.
G: Why do you say that?
M: If Truman had let MacArthur go on across the Thirty-eigth parallel,
there wouldn't have been a Korean war. If he had let him go on through
the Thirty-eigth parallel, he'd have torn Russia and everything up.
G: And this was when World War II was coming towards the close?
G: And you think MacArthur was a good general?
M: One of the best.
G: You think they should have let him go on ahead?
M: He should have gone on. They should have let him go on across the
Thirty-eigth parallel. We wouldn't have had a Korean conflict. We
wouldn't have had a Nam conflict.
G: All of that would've been under American control?
M: It would've been, but you can't see anything that America fought. They
tore up Japan and Okinawa. They built all of those places back up and
gave it back to them.
G: And you think that was wrong?
G: We should have kept it?
M: I would say you would have something you could have shown Americans,
this is what you lost your life for or your people lost their lives for.
What do they have to show? Everything America fought for, we gave it
back to them. Trying to buy friendship, and they haven't bought it
G: How long were you in Europe, Mr. McGill?
M: I was in Europe from the end of '43 until Germany fell. Then they backed
us back down to Marseille, France. And I don't remember right off what
month, but anyway....
G: Do you remember what year that was?
M: It was in '45.
G: So you were one of the people that went into Germany when it fell?
G: Do you remember if there was rejoicing and dancing in the streets?
M: There was rejoicing among the soldiers there.
G: That's what I mean.
M: Yes, there was rejoicing among them, but they had so many German prisoners.
Even over in Germany, they had it so bad until the black man he even went
to Germany. They said he wouldn't surrender. Even if they captured a
black man, he wouldn't surrender. That's what so many Germans believed
and they were killing all the black people. Every soldier came out from
over there, but black ones were captured. No black soldier was captured
in Europe. So when a soldier said, "I was captured over in Europe,"
G: Because they would have killed a black person?
M: They would have killed that black man in Europe. The only time a black
soldier was ever liked was in the Pacific.
G: That was because, the Germans said that the black soldiers wouldn't
M: The Americans said they told the Germans that the black soldiers wouldn't
G: American whites told German soldiers this?
G: Where did you hear that?
M: All over there (laughter).
G: And so they would just automatically kill black soldiers?
M: Before they captured you, they would kill you. That was the black man.
You could see every one came out from over there but a black soldier.
There wasn't a black soldier in concentration camps.
G: Were you with people who liberated Jews from concentration camps? Do
you remember seeing any of the Jewish concentration camps?
M: I'll tell you, when I was over there, I saw so many different concentra-
tion camps until I couldn't tell one from the other one. They just had
barbed wire strung up behind them, out there in an old field.
G: How did the people look?
M: They looked like white folks. All white folks look alike to me.
G: Did they look like they had all been starved?
M: Some of them, yes. Some of them were. We went to concentration camps
there. They dug ditches there for a latrine. Some of them would be
over the latrine there and they'd fall back and some of the rest of them
had to reach down and get them out of there. They just about starved
G: And the Germans had these people in concentration camps?
M: That's the way Americans had them too.
G: You mean German prisoners?
M: Yes. Americans would have them that way. I saw Americans work them
and they could hardly do anything. They drove them to do it. Gig
them with the butt of a gun and all this kind of junk.
G: These were German prisoners of war?
G: So when you came back to France, where did you go?
M: The first place we got to in France, they graded us out. They loaded
us on the ship.
G: What do you mean they graded you out?
M: What I'm saying is like process. Your bags and what clothes you had and
this, that, and the other.
G: This was '45 or '44?
M: In '45. Then they loaded us on the ship. Then we would stop one night
in the Panama Canal. They refueled in Panama the next time they fueled
up, we were up the Marshall Straight on a little island called .
G: When you left France, did you think you were coming home?
M: Yes, I thought I was coming home.
G: But you ended up...
M: I ended up in the Pacific, on Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
G: What group were you in then?
M: Still with the 1330th Infantry.
G: When you got to ... was there fighting there?
M: No. When we got to there was nothing but to take on more fuel
and stuff like that.
M: No. Of course if that regular bullet hit you, you knew it. I was hit
with that thing there and didn't even know it. I was up on a light pole
attaching it to their lights over there so we could have lights down
here. And a sniper come out of this church and shot me. I didn't even
know I was hit until I had gotten off the pole and everything.
G: What did you think about the Japenese soldiers?
M : They were great guys. They liked the black person.
G: Why do you say that?
M: I know. I used to be with them.
G: Were these prisoners of war?
M: After they had surrendered. Some of them never had been in Okinawa.
People on Okinawa are still Japanese in the way of speaking. The civ-
ilians around there would treat the black person real nice. Treat
you just like you were one of them.
G: A lot better than the Europeans treated you?
G: When you heard about the atomic bomb being dropped on the two cities in
Japan--Hiroshima and Nagasaki--how did most black soldiers feel about
M: They were proud.
G: They were glad for the war to be over?
M: Yes. I think everybody back then, black and white, was proud.
G: You felt good about the atomic bomb?
M: Yes, I did. I wanted to come home.
G: Do you think it was necessary for them to have dropped the bomb?
M: If they didn't, they'd have been fighting until now.
G: You don't think the Japenese would have surrendered?
G: Why you say that?
M: Some of those people are still in over there.
G: You think so?
M: Yes. Some are in the back hills and back woods. Some of them are dying
G: Do the Japenese fight to the death?
M: Just like America. They had their suicide crew just like America had
their suicide crew.
G: Americans had suicide crews?
M: Sure they did.
G: What do you mean by suicide crews?
M: They didn't care whether or not ...
G: They had guys trained for that?
G: Any black guys?
M: No. I never knew of a black in...to my knowledge.
G: What kind of things did the suicide crews do?
M: They flew planes. They'd fly dead into something. They knew they were
going to get killed. But the flew into it to tear up everything there.
G: Both America and Japan had these kind of groups?
M: Yes, all different countries did.
G: Did you get a chance to meet MacArthur?
M: I told him- I had served in both theaters and when the points froze, I
was one point from getting out. Now the war was over in both places.
G: What do you mean the points froze? What does that mean?
M: Well, during that time, you had to get out on points.
G: How many points did it take to get out?
M: It was seven points, and I had six points.
G: How did you go about getting points?
M: If a man had three children, you got a point for each child. I didn't
have but one child. Plus how many times you were on the battle front,
how many battle stars you earned. I earned six battle stars, but I only
got five of them.
G: Why didn't you get the sixth one?
M: I don't know. I didn't get it because I was in the battle zone.
G: So you were one pdint shcei.?
M: Right. And they sent me all the way from Europe to the Pacific. Should
have put me on a ship there and sent me to the States. They sent me
all the way into the Pacific because I lacked one point from having
enough to get out.
G: And you didn't get another point when you got to the Pacific?
M: No, the points froze. That's where they were frozen.
G: So they stopped giving you points?
G: That's why you couldn't get your ...
M: I couldn't get out, so I was to do duration in six months. That's the
way it was on your paper when you were in service, six months after
duration. Duration wasn't signed from the last war (chuckle).
G: I see what you're saying.
M: I wrote and told him, I had served in both theaters, how the points were,
and how long I had been in service. I got a letter back within two
weeks. Then they came and put my name up there on discharge. And they
kept me down there. When the ship came in, I was the last guy they
called to get on it. It was going toward San Francisco.
G: The letter you got back from the White House, did you get a chance to
M: No, they kept it there in the office. They just came down and told me
about it. But when they told me about it, I was laughing because I knew
I had connections.
G: So you finally managed to get on that ship to go back to the States?
G: You went back to San Francisco?
M: Got off in San Frnacisco and then got on a train and came all the way
over here to Camp Gordon, Georgia. That's where I was discharged.
G: Okay. Camp Gordon is in Georgia, you say?
G: What part of Georgia?
M: It's a Fort Gordon now. That's over at Augusta, Georgia.
G: So you came from San Francisco to Augusta, Georgia?
G: By train again?
G: And how long did it take you to get out of the army from when you
M: After I got there?
G: ...when you got from San Francisco?
M: After I left and got over here, it took us a week on the train. From
San Francisco to Camp Gordon, Georgia. I was in Camp Gordon, Georgia
for three days and got discharged. Then I caught the bus to Gainesville.
G: And came back to your family?
G: I bet your little girl must have been a big girl by that time.
G: You came back to Gainesville, and what did you do once you got to
M: I started to work.
G: What kind of work?
M: I was working at the University Milk Dairy.
G: Doing what?
M: Like working and cleaning up stuff and like where they make ice cream
and bottled milk-.and stuff like this.
M: It's just a small island up the Marshall Straight. We went on from
there into Iwo Jima. When we got to Iwo Jima, you had snipers. But
Okinawa was still.
G: You had fighting in Okinawa?
G: And you all went from ...
M: From Iwo Jima to Okinawa.
G: And what'd you do in Okinawa?
M: When we got to Okinawa, we were getting ready to go to Tokyo. And we
were loaded on a ship to go to Tokyo, which was the fifteenth day of
August, 1946, when it surrendered.
G: So you were on Okinawa until ...
M: August of '45.
G: So you were on Okinawa until the Japanese surrendered in '45.
M: That was afterward too.
G: When you were on Okinawa, they were fighting there. What kind of duties
did you have?
M: When we got there, the heavy fighting was over. Just a few snipers.
G: On Okinawa?
M: Yes. Just snipers then. That was all.
G: What kind of duty did you have there?
M: What they had me doing then--I was guarding the ration dump and oper-
ating road graving.
G: A road graver? You mean making roads and stuff for trucks?
G: Did most of the blacks do that kind of work?
M: Most of the blacks, yes. Jackhammer work and all that kind of stuff.
G: Most of them weren't active fighting men then.
M: All outfits had the lower part, you might call it. Like the army had
engineers and the navy had what they called a seabee. I was in the
navy work battalion.
G: So the engineers were basically a work battalion then?
M: We fought. We did some of all of it.
G: But by and large, you did work rather than fight?
M: Right. You would always follow the infantry up. That was your basic
doing, to follow right behind the infantry.
G: And you would do things like what as you were following the infantry?
M: If they said to build runways, you built runways. Whatever they said
to do, the engineers did it. If they said, "Hey look, these troops
want to go across that bridge over yonder. When we get across, blow it
up. Or blow it up first. Don't let them cross it," we had to go and
blow it up.
G: Were you by any chance wounded or injured while you ...?
M: Yes, I was hit in the leg with a flesh wound.
G: Where were you when you got shot?
M: In Germany.
G: It wasn't enough to get you home?
M: No. It was just a flesh wound. There it is right here. With a wooden
bullet at that.
G: A wooden bullet?
M: Yes. One of those old wooden poison bullets.
G: Were the Germans using wooden bullets?
M: Yes. They got to where they didn't have anything but wooden bullets to
G: They didn't have any supplies left, so they just made wooden bullets?
You said they were poison ones?
G: They had poison on them or what?
M: Poison green bullets.
G: Were they more dangerous than regular bullets or ...
G: Did you notice that, since you had gone off to war that things had
changed back in the United States? Were blacks still treated the
same as before you left?
M: Man, it looked like they were treated worse.
G: What do you mean?
M: When I got back here, you couldn't sit on your porch in the daytime,
not a black person.
G: Why not?
M: They'd pick you up for vagrancy.
M: Yes. They carried me down and asked me what I was doing.
I was sitting on my porch. They said, "Come on, get in."
I told them
G: Who's they?
M: The policemen..
G: The Gainesville police?
G: You were sitting on your porch and they came and picked you up?
M: Yes. They
carried me all the way downtown to the jail and asked me where
And I told them, University Milk Dairy. They said,"When do
I said, "At night." They had to call out there and they ver-
I did work out there at night. Then they wouldn't take me
They turned me loose right there. I had to walk back home.
G: What part of Gainesville did you live in?
M: I lived over there on Thirteenth Street, which was Ninth Street then.
G: You think things were worse for black people?
M: As far as I know it was worse.
G: What do you think caused that, in terms of relationships between blacks
M: They just hated the black man in this part of the country. And they
always have and they always will.
G: You think they always will?
M: That's right. Here they poison the people to try to kind of communicate,
you know, that raised up around here against the black man after all.
It's been that way and always will be that way.
M: Yes, Gilchrist County and all around here. In Gilchrist County you
can't even go in a place.
G: Yes, I've heard some stuff.
M: You know how it is.
G: So when you got back here, you were still pretty restricted? You could
not go to certain nightspots and that kind of stuff?
M: You know that, Yes. Nobody fixed that for any better than Martin Luther
King. Now they are just throwing that away, what he died for.
G: Do you remember any, I guess you'd say, lynchings or anything of that
nature after you got back from ...?
M: No, they never lynched anybody around here that I know of.
G: Do you remember any big fights or riots between blacks and whites, any-
thing of that nature?
M: Well, you know they had that riot here and stuff like that.
M: But that was after Martin Luther King went on.
G: Yes, but not during..,not after you came back from the war?
M: No,'cause the blacks, were all still scared right on.
G: Okay. And you say you lived down on Thirteenth street?
M: Yes. It was Ninth Street then.
G: How long did you work at the Milk Dairy?
M: I worked at the Milk Dairy for about a year and a half.