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"When you [went] to the South Pacific at that time, you knew you would not be back until it was over." (Video interview, 9:25)

   Charles E. Warford
Image of Charles E. Warford
Charles Warford [detail from video interview]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Navy
Unit: USS Sims (DD 409)
Service Location: Atlantic; English Channel; European Theater; Iwo Jima; Japan; Pacific Theater
Rank: Steward Third Class
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Steward Third Class Charles E. Warford got his greetings from Uncle Sam in September of 1943, and was assigned to the Navy. As a Steward Third Class, his primary role was as a mess attendant, the standard role for most African Americans throughout the war, but he also served as the loader on a 40mm gun. During his time in the Pacific, his ship, the USS Sims, took part in the Battle of Okinawa and weathered multiple kamikaze attacks. Between battle fatigue and casualties, by the end of the war, many of his fellow crewmembers were strangers to him.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (11 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (44 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (11 items)
Heading for Okinawa; surviving a kamikaze attack. (01:18) Manning battle stations all night, from 4 pm to 10 pm; intense battle fatigue; crew looked like zombies; helping to evacuate other ships that had been bombed; feeling so much older than replacement sailors because he had been in the service for years. (01:40) Being hit by a kamikaze; ship was on fire; putting out fire, but losing power; heading to Okinawa and then to Leyte to be fixed. (02:18)
Heading toward Japan; observing the Japanese generals boarding the Missouri for the surrender; got word to move on; sharing ship with traumatized and malnourished Australian troops. (02:23) Arriving in Tokyo; taking liberty there; going to Hiroshima and observing devastation caused by atomic bomb. (01:14) Entering the Navy as an African American; wouldn’t trade experience, but wouldn’t do it again. (01:22)
Not recognizing many of his fellow sailors at the end of the war, there had been so many replacements; many left due to shell shock; faith in God to see him through. (01:51) His ship was his home; setup of ship; establishing community there. (02:31) Situation of African Americans aboard ship; one of five African Americans aboard ship, all were mess attendants; trained and participated in combat. (02:35)
Living day-to-day; always expecting today to be your last day; no fear during war. (00:39) Excitement of the beginning of mustering out; once home, Christmas fireworks brought back flood of memories; post-traumatic stress; some things you just want to forget. (01:54) 
  
 

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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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