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“I went in to serve my country. What I was doing--mess attendant--I was still serving my country.” (Video interview 1:26:50)

   Silas Gross
Collection image
Silas Gross in Navy uniform, Guadalcanal [1944]
War: World War, 1939-1945; Cold War
Branch: Navy; Navy
Unit: USS Talamanca (AF 15); USS Comstock (LSD 19); USS Stone County (LST 1141); USS Hancock (CV 19)
Service Location: Bainbridge, Maryland; Camp Shoemaker, California; Guadalcanal (Solomon Islands); Philippines; Pacific Theater; also: Pacific Ocean; Enewetak Atoll (Marshall Islands)
Rank: Seaman First Class; Petty Officer Third Class
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While many northern-born African Americans, particularly those serving in the south, were taken aback by the racism they found in the military during World War II, Silas Gross was well acquainted with segregation and limited opportunities by the time he entered the Navy. Growing up in Lutcher, Louisiana, where Jim Crow was a fact of life, he worked harvesting rice and sugar, and then in the Higgins boat factory in New Orleans, before he was drafted in 1943. Restricted to serving as a cook, he helped feed the troops aboard the USS Talamanca, a supply ship, as it moved through the Pacific Theater, and established field kitchens on Guadalcanal and in the Philippines.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (5 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (118 min.)
»Photo Album  (7 photos)
»Transcript of interview with Silas Gross, with photographs from his life
[PDF: 5 MB / 73 p.]
More like this
»Executive Order 9981
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (5 items)
Reaction of his friends and neighbors to Pearl Harbor; deciding to get a job in New Orleans at the Higgins shipyard making Higgins boats and landing barges. (03:03) Routine segregation and racism while growing up in Lutcher, Louisiana; interactions between whites and blacks. (01:14) Induction into the Navy; riding the train with a group of Tuskegee Airmen; experiencing segregation aboard the train. (03:07)
Landing on Guadalcanal aboard a Higgins ship; digging his foxhole; building a field kitchen. (04:15) Pride in his service; coming home from service to segregated life in New Orleans. (01:46) 

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