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"We had the spirit of [the cavalry] and the spirit of airborne--you combine those two things, you become almost least we thought we were, anyhow." (Video interview, 1:03:05)

   Julius Wesley Becton, Jr.
Collection image
Julius Becton at time of interview
War: World War, 1939-1945; Korean War, 1950-1953; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Cold War
Branch: Army Air Forces/Corps; Army; Army; Army
Unit: 542nd Heavy Construction Company; 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Infantry Division; 2nd Brigade, 2nd Armored Division; 1st Cavalry Division; VII Corps; K Company; L Company, 9th Infantry Regiment; 101st Airborne Division; US Army Operational Test and Evaluation Center
Service Location: Philippines; Fort Benning Georgia; MacDill Air Force Base, Florida; France; also: Korea; also: Vietnam; also: Fort Hood, Texas; Falls Church, Virginia; Germany
Rank: Lieutenant General
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The son of a janitor from Pennsylvania, Lieutenant General Julius Becton’s career in the Army spanned multiple decades, conflicts, and continents--as well as profound changes within the military itself. Commissioned as an officer in August 1945, he served with a racially segregated unit in Moratai and the Philippines; after the war, he went back to civilian life, only to return to the Army following desegregation of the military. Departing for Korea in 1950, he led troops through a number of harrowing situations and was wounded twice himself. He received further training and additional promotions during the interwar period, and in 1967, he deployed to Vietnam, where he served as commander of a cavalry squadron of the 101st Airborne Division. Throughout his distinguished career--he reached the rank of Lieutenant General in 1978, and retired from the Army in 1983--he stayed true to his guiding philosophy of integrity above all.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (7 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (98 min.)
 Other Materials
»Biographical Information
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (7 items)
Sent to Moratai in the Pacific; joined segregated unit; youngest Lieutenant in regiment; interaction with all-white battalion; sent to the Philippines; return to the United States. (02:46) Going to college on a football scholarship and using the GI Bill; injured; going back on active duty; desegregation of Army; assignments and training during interwar years. (03:54) Arriving in Korea; part of an all-black battalion; being thrown into combat as a test; proving themselves; trapped in firefight in no man’s land; wounded by shrapnel (03:10)
Wounded again; bitter cold in Korea; taking command of a company that had lost of all its officers. (07:34) Offered command of a cavalry squadron in the 101st Airborne, which would be deploying to Vietnam; new type of assignment; having to prove that he was capable of commanding this kind of unit. (01:32) Deployed to Vietnam in December 1967; after Tet Offensive, moved from Central Vietnam to Hue; sent to Cu Chi to serve as executive officer; rejoined unit in July 1968; combat; pride in unit. (02:32)
Race relations within his unit; unique position as only African American battalion commander in the division; special quality of his unit. (04:50)  

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  October 26, 2011
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