African American Experiences
As Wilson Relates, “My unit was spread throughout California and Nevada after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. One of our jobs was to guard Boulder Dam. The nearby towns were off-limits to all Negro personnel except the Boulder Dam (which was an important military installation),but we could not enter Boulder City. Also Las Vegas was segregated like the southern cities. We were only allowed in the small colored section in the famous gambling city.”
Lieutenant Wilson was a member of the 364 th Infantry Regiment, later to join other African American regiments to form the 93 rd Infantry division. Wilson had to sit out the war because of incidents of racial violence involving the 364 th at Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi.
He goes on to talk about how he was called to be an officer in the Headquarters Company, then commander of the cannon platoon. As the platoon was converted to a company, he became the “low man on the totem pole,” as Lieutenant Wilson states it. The 364 th along with Wilson was transferred to Camp Van Dorn in Mississippi. After the day arriving there, black men were killed by a deputy sheriff right outside the post and it ignited a riot. After this incident, his group, being all black, was sent to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. There he said, “The blacks and whites in the Aleutian got along fine. There were no women of any race present. In the Aleutians we were all brothers under the skin.”
Toward the end of the interview, Lieutenant Wilson said, “I think the army, government, or white people, which in the end are the same thing; purposely humiliated blacks in uniform to attempt to make them feel they were less than men.”
He then ends the interview saying, “Black soldiers in World War II showed more courage just surviving, as well as fighting back by all means possible, in the southern and in northern camps, than young people today can possibly imagine. Hell we fought the ‘man ‘the system, and the Axis powers. The infantry can’t go a damned place without quartermasters and engineers, which a lot of people seem to fore get.”
Source: Motley, Mary P. The Invisible Soldier: The Experience of the Black Soldier, in World War II. Wane State University Press. Detroit, MI. © 1975