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"I am an American. And when I go home [from Korea], I can't even sit and eat where I want to. Can't ride the bus. Can't get a job I'm qualified [for]. Then what the hell am I fighting for?" (Video Interview, Part 2, 22:03)

   Charles Earnest Berry
Collection image
Charles Berry, 2003
War: World War, 1939-1945; Korean War, 1950-1953; Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Army; Army; Army
Unit: 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division
Service Location: Hawaii; Japan; China; Philippines; Okinawa Island (Ryukyu Islands); Guam (Mariana Islands); France; Germany; also: Korea; also: Vietnam
Rank: Master Sergeant
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Through 22 years in service and three wars--in occupied Japan, in Korea at the Chosin Reservoir, and in Vietnam around the time of the Tet Offensive-Charles Berry saw incremental racial progress. He began with a segregated unit that developed its own esprit de corps in competition with white soldiers, was falsely arrested by a white MP who was later dismissed from the service, and encountered prejudice in Germany when he married a local woman. But his persistence paid off: He was rewarded with a long-delayed promotion and earned the respect of a troubled unit whose morale and performance he turned around.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (11 clips)
»Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 
Download: video(1) | 
Download: video(2) | 
Download: video(3) (89 min.)
More like this
»AAHM: Next Generation
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (11 items)
Basic training at Camp Lee, VA; his mouth getting him into trouble. (01:26) Voyage to Hawaii; getting seasick; separate sleeping arrangements for black sailors on board; discrimination on the islands; bar brawl between whites and blacks; competition between white and black units. (05:40) Seeing Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombs had destroyed them; engaged to a Japanese girl who died of pneumonia. (01:37)
Order to integrate comes down; selected to be a squad leader; tension in the barracks over mixing the races; hassled by police in Greenville, SC; white MP who harassed him was court-martialed; white company commander was sympathetic to blacks. (06:05) Working during the Korean War in a trucking company; dealing with ambushes, child suicide bomber; caught in the Chosin Reservoir action; briefly captured but escaped by jumping an inattentive guard. (02:59) Chinese fighters coated their bayonet tips with human waste and traveled light; national guard unit ambushed in their sleep and massacred; responding to his mother's suggestion that she send cookies. (01:44)
The lessons of Korea, especially in light of discrimination back home; seeing American planes strafing their own men at the Chosin Reservoir. (03:47) Problems with getting promoted; pride in seeing black officers. (02:21) Escaping racial hatred by getting out of America, but still encountering it in the service; demanding respect from a racist officer; shaping up an badly run administrative unit. (07:49)
Encountering more racism in Vietnam; racial tensions boiling over in wake of Martin Luther King assassination; disillusionment with the war. (03:05) Racial progress he witnessed while in the service; remnants of racism lingering in civilian world. (02:10) 

Home » Charles Earnest Berry
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  October 26, 2011
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