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Interview with Bobby J. Wallace []

Holly Mott:

Today is July 30th, 2002 and we are at Clio Associates the video history company in Florence, Massachusetts. Being interviewed today is Bobby J. Wallace of 15 Bedford Court in Amherst, Massachusetts born on September 12, 1926. Also present at this interview are the camera operator Jake McCormick and the interviewer Holly Mott.

Holly Mott:

Mr. Wallace, would you please tell me the war in which you served?

Bobby J. Wallace:

I served in World War II, two years in combat with the stevedore battalion following the first marines.

Holly Mott:

And the branch of the service you were in?

Bobby J. Wallace:

U.S. Navy.

Holly Mott:

Your rank?

Bobby J. Wallace:

During that time I was a Seaman.

Holly Mott:

And where did you serve?

Bobby J. Wallace:

In the Pacific. We landed in Espiritu Santo. From there we followed the first marines all the way up, what I call back that way, you know, and served in the stevedore battalion. We handled all the ammo and the equipment they needed. That was our job for two years. And at the same time we were ducking Japs too.

Holly Mott:

Well, we are going to start at the beginning and talk a little bit about your life before the war. Where were you living at the time when the war was really becoming apparent here in the United States?

Bobby J. Wallace:

I was born and raised in Mississippi. I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. And my father was a railroad man and I was the oldest of about ten children. And the financial situation at the house was, you know, not great. And President Roosevelt open up the Navy where the blacks could go in as seamen instead of -- before World War II you could only go in as a steward or a cook. Well, when it open up, I was deciding me and a couple of other buddies right there in West Jackson, and we decided we would volunteer to help our families. So that's what we did. So July the 7th, 1943 I finally made up my mind and joined, and my father had to sign for me. He didn't want me to go because, you know, the war every day was so many killed in the Pacific so many in Europe, but I went in. During that time they didn't have training camps for black seamen, so they developed Camp Moffett and Camp Lawrence in Great Lakes, Illinois. And I went through basic training at Camp Moffett and after we finished camp, we got a nine-day leave. They didn't know what to do with us because we were brand new. They didn't want us aboard ship. But they sent us to Pleasanton, California and that's where your CB battalions, construction battalions your stevedore battalions started. And we went through eight to ten weeks of jungle training. Actually, just Marine combat training, how to survive and how to, you know, be better. That was some rough times. We were called all kinds of names and things, laughed at, made fun of, what have you. We, most of us, we loved being in the Navy. And that was a challenge and some of the blacks didn't like it and they died. Some committed suicide, some became alcoholics. We call them three D alcoholics, drunk when you'se sober, drunk when you'se drunk, and drunk to keep your mind out in left field. (Laughing.) So this was part of it. Once we got out there in the Pacific, we landed at Espiritu Santo in New Hebrides. We joined the Marines there and I was in Base Company 7 and we fought with them, we handled the ammo and everything. And one thing, most of the blacks that I dealt with at the time we admired Chesty Puller, one of the marine generals that helped integrate the blacks into the fighting forces out there in the Pacific. And I was fortunate to see, you know, overcoming segregation and overcoming a lot of the name calling, you know, the N name, you black SOB and you this, you the other. We are going to see that you don't go home and all this. And it was some of those same men when they got hit, they -- a lot of the black sailors, black marines responded to their needs. Those same men looked up with not shock but surprise maybe, that some of the men that they had called names and looked down on they were the very ones that, you know, put bandages on their wounds, calmed them down when they was out of it. So when you are out there in combat, serving in World War II like that, I would say it was a primitive war because we didn't have the equipment that they fight with now. And it was a time when you survived because of your knowledge and your perseverance. And it was obnoxious. I tell people sometime I run into veterans, young veterans from the Vietnam war, what have you, and they talking about what happened. I says, "Well, you all had just one war to fight," I said, "but we had two wars to fight." "You had two wars Wallace?" I said, "Yeah, we was fighting prejudice, white supremacy, red necks and those Japs." (Laughing.) So when you fortunate enough to overcome those type of things, you are a three D man. You know, sometime we used to say three D, yeah, if you make it you did, you done and you had delivered so you became a three D man. You did, and you have done it and you deliver. So this was why a lot of the World War II sailors, soldiers and marines, the black ones especially, survived because there were three D men. They was fighting the same thing in the services as they would have been fighting back home, they just didn't have the Japanese to put up with.

Holly Mott:

When you enlisted did you think that you would, were you thinking that you would be dealing with the same prejudice among --

Bobby J. Wallace:

Yes, yes. The recruiter he was a black enlisted man, and he let me know, he says, "I don't know if I want you to go in or not. I don't know Wallace." Well, I says, "I want to try it." And, the last words he said, he said, "You going to catch it." But he said if you got a good mitt, you know, catchers glove, whatever they throw your way, you will stop it. Those were the kind of things that helped us to survive. It was a mind boggling thing to start but once you got adopted to it like at night, the marines would tell us don't answer at night. If you hear somebody call you, TJ, the down hall names or skee (ph), what have you, don't answer at night. And some of the black sailors would answer, "I want to say what I want. You don't tell me." I said, "Man, you better listen." And sure enough some nights out there, see, a lot of those Japs was from New York, the Bronx and they knew all the slang. (Laughing.) So what happened was when they would say, "Hey Mack, Hey Bubba, Hey TJ," and you answer, you got a grenade for an answer, see. So, you know, we learned the hard way. We learned that you had to survive, you better listen. You had better take heed to what you hear because a lot times it would help you to survive. That's the reason I am sitting here today is because I listened. My father taught me to listen. He said, "Boy, you stay too broke, to be mean and hateful." So it still works and that's why I survived two years in World War II in combat because I was willing to listen, put up with whatever names I was called because I had been taught name calling is one thing, but what you are is another. So that's what made me a survivor is to listen.

Holly Mott:

I want to talk a little bit more about the training that you went through once you joined. You had mentioned that the Navy had just opened up the possibility of being a seaman to black men. Was training segregated?

Bobby J. Wallace:

Well, I would say, yes, because there is black, I think 200 and some men in my company, and the only thing white was the drill sergeant and he was from Oklahoma. We called him a red neck (laughing) and boy was his neck red. But after being around us for a week or so he became one of the most decent, respectable men that I knew at the time because, you know, when they said, "left foot," we -- the right foot went up. So once we learned how to fall in line and do like we were told to do and follow orders, because we had to talk to one another, encourage one another, because back in those days they could call you anything and get away with it. Once he straightened us out, he got us -- once he said, "left foot," everything on the left side went. He became a mentor instead of a knucklehead as we would say. So once we adapted to certain things, we learned how to put up with things, so when things were said to us, called names and everything, we looked at the man, "He missed the boat, he is out in a rowboat." So that's why we were able to serve and give our lives because we loved -- the love we had was different from the white man's love. Our love consisted of decency, respect and honor and they done told us we would not amount to nothing, we would never be this and they was going to make us do this and the other. So we had to prove that we were who we said we were. So that's what made me the man that I am today. Don't tell me I can't, I cannot do it, because you just started a war, see, so this is what went on. And what made most of your blacks in the services, all three of them, what they were, became heroes because they were challenged, their minds, their ideas, their way of life was challenged. So they had to prove that they were not what they said they were. And within eight years I was E6 Boatswain Mate because I met the challenges, so that's why I retired as E6 Boatswain. I could have went on higher but the pressure, segregation and things I had to put up with and my family wanted me to come home, I took off. But it made a man out of me. And what made it so bad after World War II, I came out of the Navy in December, no, October of '45 and I couldn't get acquainted with civilian life anymore since I became such a Navy man. (Laughing.) I got married on Valentine's Day of '46. I told my wife if she would agree, what have you, she would never have to work, I would take care of her. So for 56 years she answered the telephone, she does everything. But had it not been for her, I probably would have committed suicide, jumped off -- done a lot of ungodly things, but I had her and the teaching of my father and mother and it helped me become a survivor. This is why during my two years in World War II and when I got discharged, my wife wanted to know why did I want to go back into the Navy after putting up with all, you know, telling her about it, having nightmares and fighting in combat and why would I want -- that's the only life I know. So I went back in the Navy and within eight years I was E6 Boatswain and some of my friends, black and white, said, "Wallace, you had to be a smart knucklehead, you had the vision of periscope on a submarine." I said, "Well," I heard them say, you know, that I would never make it, I was a knucklehead, I was a dummy. So I proved it to them. And then when things got rough and they needed a man to do certain things, well, "Get Wallace," see? So a lot of times I often tell young men, I say, "Listen, take instructions and don't look at the objections, look at the objective and base your concepts, your perseverance on the end." That's how I survived. So I survived and my uncle is so sweet, I'm talking about my Uncle Sam (laughing). After I retired from the Navy, I went in the Post Office. Within about three years. I was a Detail superintendent. And after 1980 I retired from 35 years government service, so, hey, I loved my country. I wanted to go through the television when I saw the young man burning the flag. I wanted to go stick a match in his back pocket because I know white and black marines died in each other's arms for the country, and World War II. And it just really tore me up, but once you get embedded with certain things in the roots, you know, that's your source of survival. And that's been my source of survival. No doubt if I hadn't went through the prejudice and the hatred of World War II, I wouldn't be here today. But because I went through those things, the few things I run into now, piece of cake. Can I get a swig of this coffee?

Holly Mott:

Absolutely. I wanted to ask, obviously your family is very important to you when you were in those two years of combat during World War II, were you able to keep in touch with them at all?

Bobby J. Wallace:

Yes. My mother up until the day she died, back in the World War II they had V mail, you couldn't write a whole letter, you know. I often wondered what would the censures, when they saw some of these letters, we young fellows, wrote to our girlfriends (laughing), it was V mail, a little thing, it was a picture, you know, taking a picture, it was sent on a roll of film because if you sent mail like we do today, then those Japs would have knew, you know, what post, they would've known everything. So what happened was they photographed your letter and you couldn't write but one page. They had a V mail about yay big (indicating) and they photographed it. One day when I came home on leave one time my mother says, "Son, what did you mean here?" And it was a V mail where I had wrote, "Dear Mom and Dad, whatever you can do to get me out of the Navy, do it." (Laughing.) And they put where I put, "Dear Mom and Dad" whatever, they have scratched all of that out, you know, and my mother said, "Oh, that's what you meant." I said, "Yes, Mother," I says. At the time I was catching it and I says I wanted out. So, that V mail was the communication but you could write 15 on 20 of them. We don't know if they all got home or not, but that's the way in World War II, they had V mail. I couldn't, you know, I don't know what they use now, but back in those days for the military part of it because those Japs could decipher anything, and when we wrote those V mails they probably saw, you know, one thing but when you got to America it was just a roll of film. They, you know, developed it FPO, Fleet Post Office sent it out.

Holly Mott:

And they would censure it.

Bobby J. Wallace:

Yes. You couldn't, you know what I mean, if the Japs did get ahold of one it said we are in, like on one occasion we was in Bougainville, we were in the Solomon Islands, and we doing this, we kicking butt, no, see. So it had to be that way because the enemy will use everything he can to kill. And this is why we have to be very careful now because the enemy has taken a lot of our teaching and our ways of survival, using it against us. Back in those days, you know, we wasn't raised with two cars, a pickup truck and a skate board. We was raised with a homemade wagon and, you know, a slice of bread with some peanut butter on it, no jelly, see. So that type of lifestyle, when we had nothing but sea rations, hey, that was the cuisine. Compared to today when I had the chance to look at some of the food aboard ship and what have you, I said, "My God, I would have been too busy eating me a hamburger to get up and man that gun" (laughing). But back in those days I'd see that thing about I am a survivor, I says, some of them knuckleheads should have been out there in the Pacific on one of those islands like Guadalcanal or Tarawa or Bougainville or Saipan. And the worst one that you could think, God, I am glad I didn't have to go to that one, was Iwo Jima. Picked up some of the survivers from that one and boy some of them fellas were so far out in left field they hadn't played ball in that field since Grant went through Richmond. See so that World War II thing really changed the lifestyle of all America and in all the world if you look at it from that point of view.

Holly Mott:

Tell me more about being on the ship when you first -- where was the first destination for your group?

Bobby J. Wallace:

Well, after World War II and I went back in the Navy, and they had developed what you call an evaluation sheet and my two years in combat and never had no problem no court marshals or anything, and I was put on the deck force put on deck. And within a couple of years I commenced to go out, just my intuition as a man, my abilities that I had learned, my abilities to watch what you do and copy it, and some of my white friends, white sailors that I worked with say," Wallace, you are a smart man, we going to teach you this, that, the other," you know, "how to take orders." So I listened and when I went home a couple times on leave and told my father, he said, "Boy, didn't I tell you to take orders? To look at the person, size him up, see what he has to offer?" I said, "All right, Dad." And I did that and within eight years I was an E6 Boatswain, held the toughest rate in the Navy. And I had to be a knock down, drag out sailor now. I could out drink you, out fight you, you know, I was about 6'2" weighed about 190, everything was tough. So that helped me to become the type of man that I wanted to be in the Navy. And see, after World War II I was in that Amphibious Navy and served aboard the USS Fremont, APA44 and we were, I became a landing craft boatswain aboard this ship. And whenever we was in Europe or South America and they needed a coxswain to full file weather (ph), what have you, "Get Wallace." So that helped me to get promoted faster. Then the first, the first lieutenant on the ships I served on they scooped me right up because all they had to do was to tell me what they needed or what they wanted and I knew what to do. So that helped me to become what I were in eight years. And once I made it to E6, I wanted to go in the tin can fleet, that's the Destroyer Navy. And I went in the Destroyer Navy. And I thought I was catching it all night but the first Destroyer I rode -- can I tell you what happened?

Holly Mott:

Absolutely.

Bobby J. Wallace:

They sends a copy of your orders, you know, and before you are an E6 or above, or E5, I think, back in those days they sent a copy of your orders to let the personnel officer aboard that ship know who is coming. And when my orders went to the ship it said, "Wallace." I read the orders, said, "Wallace, Bobby J. Wallace, Boatswain Mate First Class 7221111, report to such ship blah, blah" and when I reported aboard the USS English DD 696 then I reported aboard on a Friday evening, and this chief gunner, first lieutenant was on deck. So I had my pea coat on, that hid my rate, they push a rate on your pea coat now but back in them days I was, it was -- you know. I reported aboard the ship that evening and he looked at me and said, "Welcome aboard, stew." I knew what was happening, see, he thought I was a steward mate, see. So I says, "I'm Wallace, Boatswain Mate First Class." "You are who?" I said, "I am Wallace, Boatswain First Class." And then I ain't going to say what he said on this interview but I said, "Yes, sir I am Wallace, sir, and I am here to be the ships boatswain." And I could hear, the whistle he made, (imitating a whistle sound). "Business is going to pick up now." And that Monday when I reported, came back that Monday morning about 12 o'clock, this steward, the duty steward came on deck and said, "Hey, Boatswain," he says, "They find out that you was a black man and you should have heard what the captain said." You should have heard what the exec said. I said, "Well, don't worry about it." He said, "Watch your back." I said, "Okay." So about 30 minutes later, "Wallace, Boatswain Mate First Class, report to the captain." I said, "Oh," and when I went in, he looked me up and down and he said, "I don't want no black man in charge of my ship." I said, "Well, sir, I says, I guess you can call the right bureau and tell them you don't want me." So for about two or three months it was kind of rough. But after he found out that when he needed the ship to be tied up or taking on fuel or whatever, we was top shelf. We won the, what did they call that flag, Oh Lord, anyway, we won that flag for the two years that I was on there, for being the fastest, smoothest ship, you know, because I trained the men when we was refuelling and everything. And so during this time I guess he figured I wasn't what he thought I was going to be. But I learned from that very first ship that I served on as the top enlisted man, that I had to watch my Ps and Qs. I still dress like a military man, I still shine my shoes every day. I remembered one of my white friends, Whitaker, I wish I could meet him, he was the Chief Commissary Steward. And one day we was in NCO quarters, non commissioned officers quarters, and he says, "Wallace," I said, "Yeah, Whitaker," he says, "Why is it that you never make a mistake? I notice the fuel, when we taking on fuel, when we taking on stores, when we come in port, it's a different story with you." He said, "What is it?" I said, "Well," I says, Whitaker, I says, "When you go out and get drunk and come in your uniform all messed up, full of blood, knees wore out where you done crawl, they laugh at you and pick you up and carry you up to the NCO quarters nothing said." I said, "But if I come in like that, they are ready to bust me right on the spot." I said, "It's not you," I said, "but the others made me be the man that I am." See, that's why we have so many killings on jobs then and everything, see, nobody wants to be nobody now, we wants to have our own way. But back in those days if you were a black non commissioned officer or petty officer, you caught it. They was watching every move you made, see. So this is why you didn't have as many blacks getting busted as you did whites, you know, for coming in drunk, fighting, tearing up things and all, no, no, no. So that is what made us what we were because we had to prove to the man that we were as good or better. And during my 20 years I never had a court marshal, no, never had any problems because of the challenge that I had to meet everyday, the challenge of survival, the challenge of survival, the challenge of being a man for the Navy. And to be man for the Navy being black that meant that I had to be twice as good as my white boatswain because some of them that served in the fleet when they find out and saw my rate saw me, he, one of them said he must have, he must have kissed butt for a week, but, and then I heard another one say, "No, that's a smart man, do not mess with him, that boy knows his onions." So a lot of times when you wanted, back in those days, to be something aboard ship and you were black, you had to be the best, because if you didn't, you was busted immediately.

Holly Mott:

Were you at the same time getting any flak from other black sailors who were maybe thinking that you were -- you know, what I mean?

Bobby J. Wallace:

Yeah, yeah.

Holly Mott:

Were you getting any of that?

Bobby J. Wallace:

Uncle Tom, yes. I had those too. Uncle Tom. "If you is an Uncle Tom" -- I said, "Hold it brother." I said, You are not out there at night when I am fuelling or I got men doing things and the captain up there on the bridge says, "Where is the boatswain?" "Oh, he was here from the beginning, sir." You see, the white boatswain, all he do is sent one of his lower ranks and take his place you see. So yes, I was criticized, I was ridiculed by some of the blacks but on down the road apiece when they really got to know me and heard about the reputation that I had aboard ship, the whole scenario changed, because see, I am guilty of it too. We go by what we hear a lot of times. We don't judge the person, we don't check them out to see if its true. And when I retired, went into the Post Office, and Lord bless things will work out all right for me there, it was because I learned to let my reputation speak, the honesty, the decency, whatever. And when I ran into some that didn't understand from a religious point of view or from a, they white, I'm black, I ran into some in the Post Office and, you know, I am from this country and I'm from that country, we this or we that the other, I says, "Well, you're in America now." I says, "How about listening to me now, you may need the knowledge that I have." And if you've been decent or kind, I'm going to let you have the money, see. So a lot of time when you help a person, in spite of what they said, as long as, you know, you're not what they say you are, see, because when they called me a black SOB and I know I had a loving mother at home and been raised properly, I said, "Boy, he must have been raised in a junk yard." (Laughing.) Because I say, "He sound like a junk yard dog," see. So a lot of time when you go through things in life you learn how to eat crow until it taste like chicken and when you get the chicken you'd rather had a crow. (Laughing.) So that's how I survived.

Holly Mott:

Fantastic. Let's talk more about your duties during World War II. You were on the ship all the time or were you also --

Bobby J. Wallace:

No, no, combat. I went in and once I came out of the, you know, Pacific after 18 months I believe it were, June of '45, you know, a little loose upstairs, been out there in combat, in you the jungle, you know. And when a mosquito flew past, we thought it was a dive bomber see, so shipped back home for R and R, our welfare, you know, recreation and leave, you know, so I got 30-days leave. Went home, enjoyed myself at home and my father and my mother, people in the neighborhood they were not used to being around men like me. I'd be cussing every other word, pass the so and so butter, (laughing) you know, so, when I got ready to go back to California to Treasure Island, my father said, "Whew," he was glad to see me go, you know, because I had to go out and drink me a pint or half pint of liquor and, you know, that combat fatigue thing, mind looses a truck load of dirt. And so when I got back to Treasure Island, we went aboard the ship after six weeks of training for landing and what have you, teaching the younger men and what have you, went aboard the transport ship and we didn't know we was getting ready for the invasion of Japan. And when we about 30 days later cruising I saw the Island of the Phillipines. And woke up one morning and said, I never seen so many ships in my life as I saw. We was waiting for the orders for the invasion of Japan and when, you know, the marines, the sailors, when we board, when we find out what is happening, because I was part of the boat crew for the invasion, one of the invasion coxswains and I said, "Man, we not going to survive this one. You do not go in a man's home, to take a man's home and expect to survive." And about the second or third day the ship's horn start blowing and everybody going on, you know, and come to find out that President Truman had let go one of those bombs. And man you could hear the whole fleet shouting. You know, and I almost wanted to kill a dude there. About five or 10 years ago we was in it about in '85 when I was still living in Mississippi, and he said, "It's a shame they bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki." And I said, "What, say that again?" "It's a shame they bombed" -- I said, "Were you out there?" "No, but all them humans" -- I said, "Man, you should have been aboard the ship or been there out in that fleet." I said, "I never seen so many ships in my life," I says. And we knew we weren't going to survive if we had invaded their homeland. I saw the way they kill and mutilate. It take me ten years to learn how to ride the Japanese car, you know, but when I think back now after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I said, "Thank God." I wouldn't be here because we wouldn't have survived. You know we had been trained for special tactics and maneuvering boats and things, and the boats that I ran carried 120 men, you know, and you had to really be top shelf. I thought about it, we wouldn't have stood a chance because, you know, farther in the marines and coming up to Solomon Islands, those invasions, you'd look up and see two or three landing ships or landing barges and you look again and all you see is arms and legs flying, you know. And I said, "Oh, God, don't let it be us." So, when you've seen and been among those type of incidents, life becomes precious, life becomes, you learn how to do whatever it takes to survive to do it. And that's why today when I see young men and women and they want a hamburger and it don't have onions on it and they complain about it, you know, I say, "Boy, that knucklehead should have been out in the Pacific. He'd have been glad to get the bread." (Laughing.) So, that combat and that serving aboard ship during the war was terrifying because we didn't have the convenience aboard ship that they have now. We could only take a shower once a week aboard ship to save the water (laughing). Now you could use salt water but fresh water you could only take a shower once a week. And, you know, I hear about the fancy things they got aboard ships now, I say, "Gee whiz, the next war we not going to win the next one because we not used to hard times, we not used to hard life." In World War II we were used to one slice of bread a day or, you know, when we saw a Cadillac or a Lincoln, that was the boss's car. Now, everybody is riding in Lincoln's and Cadillac's. Everybody living all kind of ways but the fellows that I fought in World War II that I fought with, if they came back to life now, they would think they were in paradise compared to the lifestyle, you know, and what have you. So this is why we have stop going on now that in World War II we wouldn't have been able to defeat the enemy because we -- everything is too easy, we dumb, because what was that picture I saw years ago, Sergeant York with Gary Cooper? And it showed him, how he killed all those Germans with the clucking of a turkey (laughing). And he didn't have a spotter on the end of his gun, or what have you. He took his thumb and licked his thumb and licked the end of the site on that rifle and killed. Today, we would hear, "I don't have no telescope on my gun, I got to go get me a telescope." (Laughing.) So this is some of the things we used to survive, some of the old ways, down home habits, helped us to survive. But today, I don't know.

Holly Mott:

Was there an event in your career in the Navy where you felt like things had changed as far as being black and being in the Navy do you think that World War II itself changed relations or did it come later?

Bobby J. Wallace:

It changed, it started there. See, everything has a root. If you go along the street here and see where a tree was you could tell there was a tree there because of the root. And sometime you think you done kill the tree or cut the tree down that the root is going to die. Sometimes, two or three years later the branches of that tree comes up. So its the same way with segregation, everything was cut down, but you got branches of it still coming up. And I'm running into blacks now this year, "Uncle Tom, we going to do this." And I say, "When you do take over make sure you kill me first," I said because with all this new technology they got on the market, you can't hardly read your name in box car letters. I said, "So kill me first." So a lot of the prejudice and hatred that was killed in World War II, branches of it is coming up now. Only it's all dressed up now. It's got an educated mind, it's, you know, gray, black, blue suits. Some of the young people now when I see them with ding-a-lings and trinkets in their nose and mouth and everything, he don't know how to even kill a mosquito. I know he ain't going to survive because he used to do everything his way, see, so the difference is that, thank God that I came along when they cut down the prejudice and hatred, cut the tree of it, but the root of it, they cut down the main tree, but you got the roots of it coming down now in different places and different ways. And if you're not aware of it, if you don't have the down home knowledge, you get caught up in it. But with me when I see certain things I know good and well I wouldn't survive with him or her because their knowledge is just two feet below the water. They need a life jacket in a bath tub. So the things the prejudice and hatred that I experienced of the Navy allowing blacks to come in as seamen, that tree has been cut down but roots of it is still coming up. Among some that are from down south, even up here they own, about one or two percent is black in the Massachusetts, western Massachusetts area. And I can look at the expression on some of them faces and tell that the tree hasn't been cut down, the roots are still there. Walked past me and won't even speak, look way across the creek trying to see over in China or somewhere. That prejudice, that deep rooted, some of them brought it from Ireland, from Yugoslavia, from England, brought the roots over here and its being planted. You go in some areas you can't even buy a house. I can't even buy a house in certain areas up here because the roots, the tree has been cut down but the roots are springing up from that tree.

Holly Mott:

Well, we only have a few more minutes and I wanted to make sure we covered everything that you had wanted to talk about. Was there anything that you really -- that you wanted to talk about?

Bobby J. Wallace:

No. I appreciate this opportunity because I, living in this area for the last six or seven years, I don't see blacks involved in nothing, politically or otherwise. And the way some of the political leaders and who they are, I know that I wouldn't stand a chance because I have the old moral values, the old World War II type mentality. Like, when I said I saw that young man burning that flag on television, he don't do this and he don't do that, he don't know but I almost had started to go find him and go to jail for killing him, because I remember all those blacks and whites that gave their lives and that flag raising on Iwo Jima. It tears me up every time I see it because I remember seeing those fellows, what those fellas went through to get to the top of that hill and put that flag up, and if they'd let me, I'd go back in the Navy tomorrow. Because, that's, I just love my country, I love the Navy, I loved what it stood for. When I was in the 6th Fleet about six or seven years ago going to Europe, Turkey and South America and different places and seeing the way those people were living, man, thank God for America. Me and a couple of my buddies come back and kissed the ground when we landed and, you know, the ship was tied up and on one occasion we just left for, oh, God, I am trying to think. We just came back from the Suez Canal and we stopped for -- oh, I can't think of the name of the place, right outside of the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean, and we went to a show that evening. And I saw the man trying to control this ox, you know, and everything I said, he can't even listen to the radio, because he got an ox -- look at the streets and things. Oh, Karachi, Pakistan, that's where we stopped at one time there. And I looked at the condition, you know, and the odor that we smelled, open toilets no, drainage, no sewage, no nothing. And I said, "Thank God for America," see, so that's why I have been a dedicated American all my life. Because I remember, I have been blessed to go to these other countries and see their lifestyle and in America you can go from rags to riches regardless of race, color or creed. You can't do that in no other country on this earth. Because you got blue blood and you got, if you're born with money and a big plantation and everything, you die that way, no matter what you do. So this is why I love America.

Holly Mott:

That's a beautiful way to end. I want to thank you very much for sharing.

Bobby J. Wallace:

All right.

Holly Mott:

We have to leave a little time --

Bobby J. Wallace:

Okay. Yes. This is a picture of me in boot camp and Camp Moffett in Great Lakes, Illinois. This picture was taken, I went into the Navy on July the 7th, 1943 so this was made about two weeks later. They take pictures of all of us because they wanted to publicize the blacks coming into the Navy. So this is one of those. And this is a picture of me and my sailor buddy named Hacker in the center and Darton. We were on shore patrol on the Isles of Capri. During those years that I was in the Navy they, different ships sent leading petty officers, top rank petty officers on shore patrol. So one of the sailors that we knew said he wanted a picture to send to his grandfather in Kentucky (laughing), showing integration, so he snapped this picture of us on shore patrol. Yes, this is a picture taken while I was an instructor in Reading, Pennsylvania. I'm among the first blacks to go to training school, reserve training school, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And I think it was two of us out of the three or four hundred that was in the school of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the Navy yard. And if I had failed, I would have went back to sea, but I finished among the top notch group and they sent me to Reading, Pennsylvania as a naval instructor reserved training. And that ship that you see. That model ship, I built that from the ground up you would say because as I say, I was challenged a lot of times and I had to prove that I had some expertise that they hadn't even put on print. So that's me, and that's one of the pictures that they taken and put in the paper, the naval paper in Philadelphia and also the paper there in Reading, Pennsylvania. Yes, this is a picture of my family in April, Easter Sunday of 1962. We came together for dinner. I had duty that weekend. I was the duty boatswain that weekend. And my wife and my children came Easter Sunday. As you can see, they dressed military just like me, that was our lifestyle. Everybody had to be dressed up accordingly and I just loved it. And these are pictures of the collision we had at see. My ship is the one which you see almost a 6 with the bow busted up, DD 696 I was on the USS English and we was on ASW NI Air Submarine Warship training. And just before day, we hit the other ship in the side; in other words, we met almost right on the bow and it was with such force that it tore the bow off of my ship and just damaged the other ship. I think it was the USS Len or the Hank, one of the two. I don't remember which one, but we were the flagship for DesRon 22 and we survived, no injuries.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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