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“The growth and the urge and also the spirit of integration really became alive within me” (Interview, 10:51)

   Walter Harold Richardson
Image of Walter Harold Richardson
Walter Richardson at time of interview
War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Air Force; Air Force
Unit: 33rd Fighter Wing; 332nd Air Base Group
Service Location: Pleiku, Vietnam; Dover Air Force Base, Delaware; Clark Air Base, Philippines; Griffiss Air Force Base, New York; Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand; Eglin Air Force Base, Florida; Hurlburt Field, Florida; also: Lackland Air Force Base, Texas; Lockbourne Air Force Base, Ohio; Okinawa Island (Ryukyu Islands); Johnson Air Base, Japan; Eglin Air Force Base, Florida; Itazuke, Japan; Dover Air Force Base, Delaware
Rank: E-9
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Enlisting in 1949 to help pay for his sister’s education, Walter Harold Richardson was on the forefront of the racial integration of the Air Force. He trained with the last all-black flight at Lackland Air Force Base, and was selected as one of 1,500 airmen to begin the Air Force’s integration process. Throughout 30 years of service, he faced discrimination and isolation, but also saw immense change, and viewed every challenge as an opportunity to prove that everyone could work together.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (6 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (56 min.)
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»Executive Order 9981
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (6 items)
Service on Okinawa; experience at the beginning of integration; using his singing voice to connect with fellow soldiers. (01:32) Serving as the only African-American in the engine shop; was not able to socialize with fellow soldiers; wanted to be ready for opportunities that may arise; seeing changes after integration. (02:26) Itazuke, Japan; overseas integration; lack of outside influences overseas; brought people together using his singing voice. (00:59)
Service in Dover, Delaware; Promotions were difficult despite integration; veteran’s wife kept notes and wrote to the President to draw attention to the problem. (03:52) Vietnam; fear of rocket attacks; receiving Bronze Star; low morale; asked to put together a show to entertain the troops; entertaining the wounded in the Philippines; helping build schools; care for orphans; planting the seed of democracy. (08:43) Seeing changes at Eglin AFB; separate squadron in the 1950s; returned in 1975, and everything was integrated; still discrimination in the civil service on base. (02:49)
  
 

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