Discrimination in the Armed Forces

Sara: Did you experience discrimination in the armed forces?
Bill: Yes. All the time that I was in there I was only barracked and lived with colored as we called them at that time. So there was a good deal of discrimination as such. I guess the point that I remember the most was that there was some lieutenant or ensign told me that I’d never amount to anything. That kind of irritated me because I didn’t think he knew me.
Sara: Was the Navy less discriminatory, do you think, than the other armed forces, or about the same? Or do you know?
Bill: Maybe about the same and maybe a little bit more. I’m not sure. At least in the Army you could make rank, but you were ranked among your own kind…among black soldiers as such. In the Navy, I guess, it was maybe six months before I was discharged that I saw anyone above my rank and they were aboard a tug. So I applied and went aboard a tug boat and these guys were aboard the tug. They were machinists and mechanics and electricians and that kind of thing.
Sara: So when you say you had rank but only over other colored soldiers, how did that work? Were you like your own little individual group?
Bill: That’s right. The black or colored soldiers were stationed, in my position and at my time, way down at the end of the pier. The white sailors were up in barracks up at the other end of the pier as such. So they definitely had us separated. We ate separately, we went to movies separately, and all of that kind of thing.
Sara: There was just as much segregation in the services as there was going on in the rest of the world.
Bill: Yes.
Sara: Were your meals different?
Bill: The meals were somewhat the same because they bought the same kind of meals and just dropped them off for white sailors.

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