Letter: Veteran recalls World War II event

Recently, PBS had a documentary by Ken Burns on Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player in the major leagues.

This story reminded me of an incident in my past in the Marine Corp in World War II. Black men were not allowed in the Marines. Black Navy men served mostly as cooks. They served in the Army in transport units. They also were in the Army Air Force.

Before the 5th Marine Division was to leave for the battle of Iwo Jima, a black Army port company was assigned to the 5th Marine Division. We had makeshift theaters for movies each night. The black company was told they could attend any movie. One night they chose to attend and several of the southern men told the black men to sit at the back of the theatre. A fight followed between the southern Marines and the Army men. One Army man was a boxer and whipped the Marine. As a result, the group of Marines beat up the black troops.

To make a long story short, the commanding general called our regimental colonel, who called our battalion colonel to resolve the problem. As a result, the battalion was awakened about 3 a.m. and with full battle packs were ordered to march for four hours. No one knew the reason for the march. We found out. Our colonel was angry and let us know he was never to be embarrassed again.

Soon after, President Harry Truman ordered all forces, including the Marine Corp, to be integrated.

Robert Buckner



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