May 17th, 2004
Sergeant Calvin Brown, a native of Lake Charles, Louisiana, served two enlistments in the Marine Corps, first joining in 1946. He fought in the Chosin Reservoir campaign in Korea. After leaving the Corps, he settled in Baltimore, Maryland, where he worked for the Bethlehem Steel Company for thirty-three years, eventually retiring to New Bern, North Carolina.
CALVIN BROWN: Certainly. Calvin Elijah Brown. C-A-L-V-I-N E-L-I-J-A-H B-R-O-W-N. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10. (TECHNICAL)
INTERVIEWER: Mr. Brown, would you please, uh, for the record, state your name and the date? Today's date.
CALVIN BROWN: Right. Calvin Elijah Brown. Five 17 '04.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you very much. What I'd like you to do, if you would, Mr. Brown, is just tell us a little bit about your background before you joined the Marines. Just tell us where you're from, where you were born and raised, a little bit about your family, and a little bit about your educational background prior to joining the Marines.
CALVIN BROWN: Right. I was born at Lake Charles, Louisiana, May fourteenth, 1928. Just had a birthday a couple of days ago. I'm 76 now. And I went to school, and, um, my mother and my stepfather and my two siblings, I have, uh, a sister who was next to me in age, and a brother, who was the third one. They're all dead now, I'm the last of the line. So, at the death of my mother in 1942, I was raised by my cousin and, uh, his wife. And, uh, World War II was going on. And I worked at an air base, and, uh, I drove a truck. And at 17, I joined the Coast Guard in 1945.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) And I went overseas to San Juan, Cuba, Hispaniola, St Thomas, Virgin Islands. I was a mess attendant, or steward's mate, if you will. And, uh, in 1947, in April, we came back to the States and the ship I was on, the Coast Guard cutter Spruce, which was a buoy tender, was decommissioned in, uh, Charleston, South Carolina, and I went back to Lake Charles, Louisiana. Well, I was 18 years of age then, and I fooled around, drew my mustering out pay, and I think I got a job doing construction work, or something of the kind.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) But anyway, I passed the Marine, uh, recruiting station, and I looked and saw this guy with this beautiful dress blue uniform on, and hey, I said, gee, that's a sharp looking outfit there. So I went in, and, uh, I signed up. And he sent my papers to New Orleans, and, uh, that was on the twenty forth day of July, 1946, I joined the United States Marine Corps, and I came here to Montford Point to be trained. And, uh, my drill instructor, the, uh, gentleman that you first interviewed, uh, was Corporal Howard Meyer at that time. And, uh, he and, uh, his assistant, uh, Corporal Allen made sure that I got the word, so to say.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) And, uh, after getting out of boot camp, I went to, uh, the, uh, gentleman before me mentioned the 51st and 52nd Defense Battalion. Well, they were, uh, disbanded then, because World War II was over. But they had another organization they called a third anti-aircraft artillery battalion, and I joined that outfit. I was surprised myself, I didn't know I had an IQ of over a hundred, see, because Corporal Meyer kept saying to us, you guys are dummies, you won't go to third AAA, you'll go to third H&S, or whatever. And you, you won't, you won't wind up in AAA.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) So then I, why, what am I doing in this artillery outfit? That's a technical thing. (LAUGH) I, I don't got brains enough to be in that. But anyway, um, I served on the guns temporarily, from October the fourth, that was the day I got out of boot camp.
INTERVIEWER: And that date was?
CALVIN BROWN: October the fourth, 1946. And, uh, and sometimes in December, I think it was maybe the thirteenth or fourteenth, a bunch of us were called in and told we no longer would be used as artillerymen. We would go to a depot company. They had, uh, lots of depot companies and ammunition companies in the Marine Corps then. And the Black guys felt somewhat let down about that.
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Can I, can I just interrupt just a little bit?
CALVIN BROWN: Surely.
INTERVIEWER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I'd like to go back in the Coast Guard, because you had military experience before you went into the Marines, right?
CALVIN BROWN: Yes.
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) In the Coast Guard. And, uh, let me ask you to, to tell me a little bit about this. I think I know, but I am assuming the Coast Guard had a situation similar to the Navy, in that African Americans served primarily as stewards and so forth in, in the Coast Guard. Would you tell me just a little bit about the kinds of opportunities that were available for African Americans in the Coast Guard when you were in the Coast Guard? (TECHNICAL)
CALVIN BROWN: Well, the Coast Guard, uh, did not discriminate, as far as I could see. Now, mess attendants, or steward's mates, were strictly relegated to Blacks in the Navy at that time. But in the Coast Guard, White boys or the Black boys could both be steward's mates, or cooks, or whatever. And that was the difference. The Coast Guard, uh, made sure that they had a proper ratio in each branch of the service. The Coast Guard was small, it was not, you know, like the Navy. They got their appropriations from the Navy, and like the Marines, the Marines got their appropriation from the coast, from the (STAMMERS) Navy also.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) But there was no discrimination, according to a job that was to be filled in the Coast Guard. And, uh, I, uh, was, like I said, an officers' person. I made officers' beds. And, uh, they wanted to send me to cooking school, but I just simply told them that I did not want to go, because I didn't think I had the, uh, ability to learn how to cook for a bunch of men. But they said oh, we can teach you. Well, it was almost time for me to get out, anyway. So I told them no, I'll, you know, just go home. But, uh, and the, the difference between the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard was that the personnel was assigned to where we were best needed, or most needed, rather.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) And, uh, in the Marines, that unit that I was telling you about, the 51st and 52nd, they were disbanded, and the 3rd Anti-aircraft Artillery Battalion came into being. And in October, I went there, and in December, they sent me on a 20 day leave, I believe, me and a bunch of other fellows. But what happened, the, uh, unit was going to be disbanded, and the Blacks were sorely affected, because those guys really loved those guns. They felt more like Marines by, you know, servicing the guns and shooting at the Japanese when they, war, World War II was going on than they would by being in a depot company.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) Or, uh, an ammo company, where they were just simply a service outfit to, they were the same as a, uh, stevedore unit in the Army. That's what, uh, stevedore companies did, they, you know, unloaded supplies, and guarded them, and things like that. But, uh, I felt that by leaving the anti-aircraft artillery battalion, that later on, maybe there would be another, uh, opportunity for Blacks to come into, uh, different companies. And it did. In, um, 1950...
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Let me, let me stop here a little bit there, okay? Can I, can I just stop you a little bit (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ? (TECHNICAL)
INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) Yeah, I, uh, I understand about the Coast Guard service, and you come into the Marine Corps. Now, when you came into the Marines, you volunteered.
CALVIN BROWN: Right.
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) You re-upped.
CALVIN BROWN: (OVERLAPPING) Yes, I did.
INTERVIEWER: Um, and you said you were attracted by the uniform.
CALVIN BROWN: Right.
INTERVIEWER: Was there any other reason why you decided to go into the Marine Corps? Other than the fact that (STAMMERS) you liked the uniform. Had you heard anything about the Marine Corps, or?
CALVIN BROWN: Yes, a couple of people that I knew were already Marines. And, uh, on that, uh, poster, at that year, I think Uncle Same, that particular poster, I challenge you to become a United States Marine. When I looked into the, at the poster, and then I went in the office and said, well, I'm gonna try to be a Marine. And, uh, I successfully came through boot camp.
INTERVIEWER: Well, did you know when you went into the Marines that prior to 1942, it had not had African Americans? Were you aware of that history, or?
CALVIN BROWN: Yes, I was.
INTERVIEWER: You were.
CALVIN BROWN: (OVERLAPPING) Very much so. And, um, I was, uh, told that, uh, President Roosevelt, uh, when Joe Louis fought Max Schmelling, I think, for the second time, Joe Louis donated the purse to the Army. So then the next purse, he told President Roosevelt, he said, now, I'll donate this purse to the Navy, if you lift some of your restrictions. So the president asked him what did he mean, and he told him, he said, well, why, why can't you have some Black Marines, as you have, uh, White Marines? So then Mr. Roosevelt told him that, well, I'll look into it. And that's how, uh, Black Marines came into being, because Joe Louis (UNINTELLIGIBLE) something like $300,000 50 years ago was, was almost like three million now.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) So, I had no personal talk with anyone from the Marines, because what I, I knew a couple of guys that were in the Marines, but I did not talk to them, you know. So, when I got a chance, then I signed up. And they took me into the Marine Corps. The guy looked at me and said, you're a little short, but, uh, we'll give you a chance, anyway. So...
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Now, you went to Montford Point after you signed up.
CALVIN BROWN: (OVERLAPPING) Yes, I did. Yes, I did.
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Can you tell me a little bit about going to Montford Point and, uh, your first days there? I mean, what was it like for you? And the trip up there, and, uh, and the first impressions of the camp.
CALVIN BROWN: Well, the trip up there, on a segregated train, of course. I was used to that. When I arrived at Montford Point, uh, I thought the world had turned upside down. The drill instructor was God, and his assistant was Jesus. And so, you know, there were, uh, the, the, actually, the drilling itself made you aware of your, uh, entering man, young manhood, I should say. That you can do it. I had that drumming in my head all day. If the, uh, next guy can take this training, then I can, too.
INTERVIEWER: Now, how did that compare with Coast Guard training?
CALVIN BROWN: Oh, the Coast Guard training was a lark compared to the United States Marines training. Gee, that, there was nothing to Coast Guard training, none at all. I was just training to be a, an officer's person. You know, officer's personnel. But this was rugged, real down to Earth training.
INTERVIEWER: And you had, as you said, African American drill instructor.
CALVIN BROWN: (OVERLAPPING) Yes, I did. Corporal Meyer, the gentleman that, the first gentleman you interviewed here.
INTERVIEWER: But the officer corps was still White (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
CALVIN BROWN: (OVERLAPPING) Yes, it was. They had one Black, uh, second lieutenant that had been made an officer. I don't recall his name now, but he had been made an officer. And, uh, he was immediately, he being made, made an officer, he was placed on, uh, the, they had a system then that in the, in the armed forces that if they made a Black, an officer, he was placed on the reserve, the volunteer, something like that. They would only call him back if they needed him during the time of war. And this man, I think his name was Branch. That was his name, Branch. He was placed on, uh, immediate reserve.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) But, uh, my experience of boot camp, after about my third week, I, I knew that I would make it. Because, uh, the training seemed to get easier instead of harder, to me, physically. Because I was, uh, I had been driving a truck, and I was used to carrying packages and bundles, and stuff like that and all, and my body was hardened for that. You know, I was only, gee, I wasn't 20 years old yet. I could, I felt I could stop a lion in his tracks. (LAUGH) Pardon me. But anyway, uh, the training agreed with me. And going to the artillery battalion, that was all right. And, uh, till the day that they decided to...
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) I wanna get back to that in a minute. But let me, let me another, because I do wanna get back to that in some, in some detail. But, um, when you were at camp, you were there a little later. Almost all the DIs were, are Black by that time.
CALVIN BROWN: (OVERLAPPING) Right, yes, all of them.
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) You have a White officer's corp. Did you feel like you personally encountered any racism, of course, other than the fact that you're obviously in a segregated unit, still. Did, did you personally feel like you encountered racism from the flight officers, uh, while you were at the, on, on the training? During, during the period you were there in boot camp, or, uh, uh, immediately thereafter?
CALVIN BROWN: Well, no, because, uh, we did not come into contact with White officers, as per se, too much. That was a second lieutenant there, I don't remember his name right now. But we were firing the BAR one day, and he walked up to me and he said to me, just a minute, lad. And so I held my fire, and he got down and he, uh, he stooped over me, and he, he showed me, he said, you're sighting in wrong. Uh, he, he said, look a little higher, just a little higher, and fire. And I fired one round, and it, the bullet went exactly where he wanted it to go. I didn't know where it was going, myself. (LAUGH)
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) I was firing the rifle. But anyway, uh, he took the time to show me what I, uh, should do with the rifle. And, uh, the range, um, officer said to us all, well, the general came out to view our progress while we were firing. And so the range officer said, now, you don't walk near the general, you don't get close to him at all. You stay, you stand where you're at, and if he speaks to you, then you, then you come up to him, salute, and give him an answer. I would not call that discriminatory, no, but he was just doing his job to see what, uh, progress we were making, I suppose. And, uh, I finally got through boot camp, and went to the artillery, stayed there briefly, and then went to the depot company.
INTERVIEWER: Now, after you got through boot camp, and were able to get some liberty and so forth, do you remember, um, anything about your experiences in Jacksonville or Wilmington, or any of the towns while you were in, in service?
CALVIN BROWN: Well, um, not in Jacksonville, because I only went there maybe, you know, once in a while. I had a watch I had bought, and I was paying on it, and I went there to pay on it. And I pretty much stayed in the boundaries of the Black section. But in this town here, one night...
CALVIN BROWN: Wilmington, yes. So, I let the fellas, most Black Marines all had their little towns to go to, like, uh, Greenville, someone would go to Greenville, some would go to Jacksonville, some would go to Keniston, some would go to, uh, uh, the other place, uh, Marine, not Greenville, another little place. Um, they did, oh, Goldsboro. Goldsboro, they'd go to Goldsboro. So, I was here one night, and, um, I got lost, and so two White policemen drove up and says, hey, uh, you're kind of lost, ain't you, there? I said, yeah, I believe so, officer, instead of yes, sir.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) So the one that was not driving jumped out of the car, and bam. When I looked up, I was looking up at the stars. And boy, did he curse me roundly and soundly. So then, you know, naturally, I wouldn't do anything about it, 'cause he had this pistol. He only wanted a, an excuse to shoot me, certainly. So he threw me in the back of the car, and they brought me back to, closer to the Black section. I never really forgot that. But I never came back here again, either. So, uh...
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) That's understandable.
CALVIN BROWN: (OVERLAPPING) Right. So in, uh, Keniston, well, uh, there was, uh, the little Black section that you would go into, and the police would ride through, and it would be quiet, and they wouldn't bother you. Now, if they saw you walking, they would ask you where you going, and you could just tell them, say, we're going in this house across the street. He would drive on by, and he wouldn't bother you. In Greenville, the same way, you know, and whatnot. And so, you could have fun and enjoy yourself, and, uh, I do a lot of reading. Uh, I was really thinking about writing a book. And, um, my thoughts on that book, if I can share them with you...
CALVIN BROWN: ...is that, uh, we Blacks in America, we did not ask to come here. See? We were in Africa, minding our business, see? And so, somebody finds this very fertile land that, uh, can grow crops and crops and crops, the three crops that the south grew, tobacco, cotton, and sugarcane, and they needed Black labor for can to can't toil. And so, then we came here, through that method. Now, if we are a problem to White Americans, then White Americans must stop and think about why we're a problem. Uh, can I go and take you out of your house and bring you into my house and entreat you without the promise of some type of conflict, don't you see? I started that book about a year and a half ago, and I haven't wrote it. I started, I started a page, rather, and I haven't finished it yet.
INTERVIEWER: Well, you'll have to, you'll have to take out your pen, and, and, and keep, keep writing, then.
CALVIN BROWN: (OVERLAPPING) I, I feel that all men under God are brothers. So you might say, well, Mr. Brown, why so much fighting is going on today? I feel this. That's because somebody is falsifying evidence, and presenting it to the general public. And hey, grab up a bunch of people, and let's go shoot them. But I don't think that's God's way. None whatsoever.
INTERVIEWER: Well, let me get you back now, if I can, to Lejeune. Or, back to, uh, Montford Point. We'd like you to talk just a little bit about what you felt in terms of the atmosphere while you were in boot camp and, and, uh, at, at Montford Point. I mean, what did it feel like for you, in terms of being with the guys, and so forth.
CALVIN BROWN: Well, I felt that, uh, I was forging some friendships that would last me a lifetime. I felt secondly that I joined a brotherhood that was closer than a brother, due to the bond of misery that we suffered together. I felt that I was becoming more of a man each day, and becoming aware of my ability to take extreme punishment and to wake up the next morning awaiting what that day might bring. And Montford Point being as secluded as it was from Hadnot, and we saw very little of the White Marines. We knew they were being trained at a place called Parris Island, but we had no idea where Parris Island was at, you know.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) And we wondered if they were going through the same, uh, amount of hazing that we were carrying. So then, uh, I came to the conclusion this was a, a discipline, a disciplining of our mind, and teaching us, uh, one fellow, I can't recall his name now, that came through with me said what they're doing, they're teaching you blind obedience. You're given an order, you carry it out. Not to why or reason why. You just carry it to do or die, as some, uh, movie star said, I think in a, a war picture. But anyway, I found that, uh, it was a very good experience for discipline. Disciplining of the mind.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) Disciplining of the body, and so forth and so on. And, uh, on the fourth day of October, 1946, and I was out of boot camp, but still the discipline of boot camp remained with me throughout the time that I, the rest of the time, more or less, that I spent in, in, uh, in the Marine Corps.
INTERVIEWER: Now, let me ask you a little bit about, you, you mentioned the fact that you were in the 51st?
CALVIN BROWN: (OVERLAPPING) No, in the, not the 51st or 52nd. The 3rd Anti-aircraft Artillery, right.
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Third, okay, third. The, uh, the third anti-aircraft. Now, I, I know that, uh, the 51st and 52nd were really not allowed...
CALVIN BROWN: (OVERLAPPING) Disbanded.
INTERVIEWER: ...major combat duty.
CALVIN BROWN: No, no.
INTERVIEWER: Um, and you were in the 3rd Anti-aircraft Unit. Now, and that was disbanded, you say.
CALVIN BROWN: Yes, they, they disbanded it.
INTERVIEWER: And there was keen disappointment. I'd like you to talk just a little bit about that, uh, particularly if you can remember some of the guys that might have been a little older than you, and who had been, uh, trained, uh, in, in the anti-aircraft units. Uh, why did they feel so let down at the fact that it, it was disbanded, and you, uh, you instead were, were put into, uh, depot companies?
CALVIN BROWN: Well, primarily, they felt that, uh, the disbanding of the organization, that America had no use for them in that type of employment in the Marine Corps. Number two, that the budget had been lowered, there was two anti-aircraft artillery units, and there was one, the first anti-aircraft, I think was at Courthouse Bay. And there was another one, I believe called the second. I believe it was in Norfolk, or Suffolk, or someplace. And the main thing was the budget had been cut, and they only had money enough to fund the other two. So they were going to disband the third. And the guys, you know, they went down, went around with a sort of hangdog look on their faces. And they...
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the other two units White units?
CALVIN BROWN: (OVERLAPPING) Yes, they were all White, oh yeah, mm hmm.
INTERVIEWER: And it's my understanding that the 51st, for example, had what was a record setting unit.
CALVIN BROWN: It broke the cable on the, uh, guns. They, they would, Onslow Bay, that was where they would fire at. And as the aircraft pulling the sleeve passed the gun range, within range of the guns, they shot so finely, the guns were so finely tuned to the material that gave them the range and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and all, until they broke the cable. And, uh, the, uh, CO let them swim out in the boat and bring the cable back. And he took it to the officer's club and said, I got the finest Marines in the, in the world. They'll shoot, you know, and he was just proud.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) And, uh, the breaking up of the organization did have a tremendous impact on these men. Now, they, uh, lots of them got out, you know? Uh, there, uh, right directly after that, there was what they call a, let's see, COG, convenience of the government discharge, and a lot of guys, they left and went home. On account of, uh, you know, uh, the reduction in rank. Uh, not reduction in rank, but the reduction in personnel. So, uh, in, uh, 1948, no, 1947, we moved from Montford Point. We moved, I was now, I was now in an organization called 2nd Combat Service Group.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) It had a supply battalion, it had a support battalion, and it had a maintenance battalion. All three of these were concerned with dealing with, um, non-combatant duties. As, as per se. So, uh, in 1947, I was promoted twice, from PFC, no, from private to PFC in January of 1947. And in March or April of 1947, I was promoted to corporal. And, uh, when we went, when we moved from Montford Point in, uh, 1947, I was, uh, still a corporal. And we moved out to a place they used to call Old Tent Camp. It's, uh, I think there's a tower now that if you're going back towards, uh, Hadnot Point, you'll see the old camp.
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Now that's at, uh, currently Camp Lejeune?
CALVIN BROWN: Right, right. Uh, they call it Camp Giger. Camp Giger was exactly where that place was at. And, uh, we, uh, had duties with the, uh, service groups and whatnot and all, and in 1949, I finally made buck sergeant in, uh, November, I think it was, that year. They, we had (STAMMERS) an exercise in, uh, Canada, and come, returning from that exit, I, exercise, I was promoted to buck sergeant. And...
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) And you're still in segregated units at that time?
CALVIN BROWN: (OVERLAPPING) Yes, yes. Well, no, not really. Uh, because in 1940, the latter part of 1948, they began, uh, interspersing Blacks with Whites and Whites with Blacks. Now, in 1949, uh, the latter part of 1949, after I was promoted to sergeant, the first, the, the, uh, 1st Anti-aircraft Artillery Battalion was renamed the first 90 Millimeter Gun Battalion. Well, that was the heavy in the, uh, anti-aircraft artillery. You had the 90 millimeter, you had 90 millimeter guns, and you had 40 millimeter guns, and 20 millimeter machine guns.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) I mean, uh, 30, uh, 50 caliber machine guns. So in 1949, I just, no, I think it was May or June, the first 90 millimeter gun battalion, which was still at Courthouse Bay, sent for me to be transferred back to an artillery unit. So, my first sergeant, who was from, ironically from Lafayette, Louisiana, who, when he saw that transfer order, and he saw my name on it, he called me in the office and he called that unit, and he told them, he said, this is a Black man, you know? He said, do you really want him in the organization? So I think I heard him say well, you call me back later, or something like that, over the telephone, and he put the phone down. And I never heard no more about it. See? So that was the end of that.
INTERVIEWER: So you were then in an integrated unit. You were (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
CALVIN BROWN: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah, well, yeah, they had, uh, White, Whites and Blacks, and Blacks and Whites. Now, in that unit, uh, they, they brought in some, uh, laundry machines, field laundry units, that could clean clothing and stuff. You know, wash dungarees, and whatnot, and all like that. And so, I was put in charge of, uh, these, uh, White and Black troops, and we went to school on these laundry machines. And we, uh, you know, learned how to take them down and perform field maintenance to keep breakdowns out, you know.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) But not to just say generally take them down and go through them like McKenzie. (SP?) You had to have a motor transport mechanic to come and do that. But anyway, in, uh, 1949, uh, into 1950, I was at tent camp. And finally, uh, in June, 1950, Korea broke out. And, uh, the Marines, naturally, were, you know, being called, right, right and left. And at that time, all the Black Marines that had gotten out, were, and were called back, they were going in line, companies left and right, because they were going where they were needed, see?
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) Several of my buddies I know that got hit and killed and whatnot, and all like that. Um, the Army unit called the 24th Infantry was trying to hold them, but they couldn't. They couldn't hold them, see? The Chinese, or North Koreans, rather, were barreling through, uh, coming down to South Korea, and whatnot. And so, we went to Korea, and, uh, I had this laundry unit, and I had a Black and White crew, and all over Korea, I went and set it up, and used it, and set it up, and used it, and, uh, took it down, and went to another place, and so forth, and so on. I did...
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Can you tell me some of the places you went to in Korea?
CALVIN BROWN: (OVERLAPPING) Surely. Uh, I made the Inchon landing. We left Inchon, we went to, uh, Seoul, the capitol, Seoul. Then you left Seoul, and went to another little place, uh, We Jung Bu. And from We Jung Bu back to Seoul. And then from Seoul up, uh, to Honchon, Hungchon, I think it was Hungchon. Then from Hungchon to (SPEAKS IN KOREAN). And then from to Hamoong. A place called (STAMMERS) Hamhung and Hungnam. I think that was right on the east coast of North Korea.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) That's as far as I got, but the rest of, uh, like, like, the gentleman was telling you, that he went up to, uh, to the (SOUNDS LIKE) Chosen Reservoir at Coderee. Uh, and another little place, about 20 miles this side of China, properly.
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Mm hmm.
CALVIN BROWN: Well, the, you couldn't expect the Chinese not to intervene, since I've grown older and looked at things in the world, because they were all Communist together. And so, when the Chinese swept down on us, I think MacArthur and the president knew that that was gonna happen. I believe they had an idea it was gonna happen, anyway.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, I don't, I don't know (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or not, he kept reassuring us that that would not happen, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
CALVIN BROWN: (OVERLAPPING) Well, he did say that.
INTERVIEWER: You were, were you there when the Chinese came into the war?
CALVIN BROWN: Yes, I was. Yes, I was.
INTERVIEWER: And, um, what kind of experience do you remember as a result of that?
CALVIN BROWN: Well, they told us, we had several alerts once. Uh, they had moved the machines inside a building in Hamoong. (STAMMERS) or whatever, whatever. And, uh, we got an alert one night, and, uh, the, one of, uh, uh, a captain came by and as he passed me, do you have, do you, do your men have enough ammo, ammo? I said, well, we've got an initial amount. He said, well, come to the truck. I came to the truck, and he gave me two boxes of 30 caliber, and he gave me a machine gun. Now, I had never really received no training on a machine, a 30 caliber machine gun. Nothing happened that night.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) So the next day, the same captain came by with an Army man with him. And he said, he's gonna show you what to do with this gun, in case you have to use it tonight. He said, we expect them to come through. So then, that was a, we were in the city, but there was a little canal, like, that ran past the, uh, area where we were at. So then he told me how to set the gun up, and put sandbags around it, and all that sort of stuff and whatnot. And he left. So, about 20 minutes later, I heard some firing, but it wasn't close to us. Uh, it was maybe, say, half a mile, or something like that.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) And so I alerted my crew, and we all took a watch on the gun, but nothing never happened. The next morning, the city was still the same. So then when, uh, when, uh, the Chinese barreled in for real, they got within 25 miles, I think, of Hamoong or Hun Lam, or whatever, but they never came close. So then when they, when the, uh, Chinese, the steam blew out of their effort and they stopped, then we all moved from Hun Lam to, uh, Maison, New Maison, (SP?) that's where the whole division went, to, to New Maison. So then I was put into a (SOUNDS LIKE) graves restoration unit.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) Well, not put into it, but I drove the truck for them. We went up and picked up the dead bodies, and brought them back to Maison, and they buried them, and so forth and so on like that. And, uh, I stayed in Korea until July the following year, 1951, and I made staff sergeant in May, I think, of that year. And, uh, since it was integrated, and, uh, Macarthur was out, and the new general took over, I can't recall his name now. But he said that we will have an army of men who will be proud to fight beside each other. We have a common enemy.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) The 24th Infantry, uh, infantry regiment had some problems, some serious problems. I have that book by those three men that wrote it, you know, and you read the book, it, it, it just doesn't seem like it came from America. It seems like it came from anther world. That they, they problems that they had. But when I left there in 1951, in July 1951, I came back to the States, and I stopped in California, and I came, uh, back to North Carolina. I had met a lady in, uh, New Bern, North Carolina, and, uh, I married her, much to my regrets.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) She caused me problems in the Marines, and I just simply got out. Honorably, of course, but, uh, I just simply got out. I have an honorable discharge from the Coast Guard. I have an honorable discharge from my (STAMMERS) first hitch in the Marine Corps. But I have an undesirable discharge from my third time in the Marine Corps, and they just told me, they said, well, you're unfit for any further service. So we're just gonna have to send you home. So I understood that, see? It was not the Marine Corps' fault.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) No, it was my fault, see? But I'm not bitter at the Marine Corps. But I know that they have more cases than mine that have happened to people like that. So then, uh, maybe a year after I was discharged, uh, I got a letter from the Red Cross. I understand that they have to do that when men, you know, to, to find out if they can't give them a general discharge, anyway, instead of take that bad mark from them. So they said no, uh, they, you know, wouldn't, they would never consider my case. But, uh, it, they had so many other people ahead of me.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) So then, uh, I went back to Louisiana, and I sold my grandmother's old place, and I went to Baltimore, Maryland, and I became a steel worker for Bethlehem at the Sparrow's Point plant. And I stayed there 33 years and eight months. So then I wrote to them one last time, because somebody had told me, they said, now, if you don't get in no trouble, I have nothing against me. And if you don't, uh, if, you know, if you get a job, and stay on that job. So then I sent them, I said, oh, boy, they're gonna. So I sent them this information, and they told me, they said, no, because you alleged that your wife was the cause of your problem.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) Which I could understand, that that was not strong enough for them. But hey, I wasn't the only guy who let some woman cause him to go astray, you see? So then I wrote them the last letter, and, uh, they told, I said, well, if you don't reconsider me, it's okay. I don't give a rip. I know who I am, because by that time, I had begun a Black studies course about the history of Black people, the true history. Not this little 15 minute stuff they give you in February.
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah.
CALVIN BROWN: But going back to the Egyptian times, when Egypt in Africa were the teachers of the world. How do you, how did the pyramids get up there? They didn't have no machines back (UNINTELLIGIBLE) then. They had bull, brawn labor, see? The doctors, the lawyers in Egypt. This was before the birth of Christ. And this is false history that's being perpetrated on the world. I should be ashamed of myself for carrying through that book and whatnot and all. And I sometimes think about it. After, when I can put my little mutt out of the room. I got a little dog, you know. My other, my pitbull, she died. And, uh, I'm partial to dogs, and I got a little old thing running around there now.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) But I wish the Marine Corps no ill luck. They did what they were supposed to do to me for falling down on the job. See? But I am conscious of the fact that I believe they might have given me a little better break about this thing had I been Caucasian. But still, I don't, I don't feel bad to them about it, you know.
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
CALVIN BROWN: And so, uh, that's the story of me, more or less.
INTERVIEWER: Well let me, let me ask you a question, then, about you, you've given me an answer, really, in, in some ways, to your, to the last question. But I do want to come back to it a little bit. But, um, how do you think the Marine Corps has influenced your life? I mean, what would you say were the things that you've taken away from your Marine Corps experience in your life?
CALVIN BROWN: Well, it gave me a stick-to-it-iveness attitude, more or less. And, um, it somewhat reinforced the belief in me that I could do what I would. And, uh, it taught me that manly deeds are accomplished by sweat and sometimes blood. But if you stick to it, then you can accomplish your, your goal. I have never regretted one day of going to Bethlehem Steel, in that hot steel mill. And I'm telling you, you ain't got no idea what a steel mill is all about. That joker, (LAUGH) that joker don't back up. You back up, but, but the mill ain't. And I stayed in, uh, and I stayed in that heat, like I said, 33 years and eight months.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) And I was then 62, and I had no one 'cause my wife was dead, my little stepdaughter, her little daughter, which I wanted to raise and set to college, and went to New York to her aunt, and I think she passed. Uh, she, uh, was coming home from a party one night, and an automobile wreck happened, and she was hit in her kidneys. She had weak kidneys, anyway, and she just, you know, she died. But my wife, uh, she died from poisoning, like I said. Uh, you know, some, some mix up she had, and she'd gotten some stuff that was too strong for her, see?
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) And whatnot, and all that. There was no way I could save her, see? I didn't, I did not marry her to save her. I married her to enhance her life, but she could not understand that. In fact, I got hurt, not her. Because she stayed in the, you know, life she was in.
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
CALVIN BROWN: Certainly.
INTERVIEWER: But let me ask you, finally, how would you say, what are your feelings now about having been a Montford Point Marine?
CALVIN BROWN: Proud. I'm proud, still proud. It turned out bad, but I'm still proud that I wore the globe, eagle, and anchor. And I always will be. It was...
INTERVIEWER: Let me do one more wrap up question. You mentioned the disbanding of, uh, the AAA. Um, did you have Marines, African American Marines ever say anything to you about the, their decision of whether to try to make the corps a career, or, or get out of the career, out of the corps, was in any way influenced by what they saw as, uh, uh, prejudicial behavior on the, on, on the part of the corps, and disbanding units like this, and stressing, uh, uh, MOSs that were different, primarily service oriented?
CALVIN BROWN: Well, uh, yes. Uh, upon carefully going back into my mind, I can say that some of the guys said, well, the heck with it. I'll get out. As I said, they were proud of those guns. And, uh, now that you mention it, there was a, some type of controversy about the 52nd or 51st when they came back from overseas. Or while they were overseas, to let the guns become rusted, or their parts were not kept properly, or things of that nature. And, uh, the, uh, I also heard, now this could or could not be true. But, uh, rumors get to flying, and sometimes, they are, there, uh, see, if it's a rumor, there's some measure of truth somewhere that, uh, White officers were canvassed. This was a secret, very, very secret, hush-hush thing.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) Would you want Black Marines in your line companies? Hey, a death is a death. A bullet hits me, it hits you. If it's vital, it's gonna kill you. It's gonna kill me.
INTERVIEWER: Now, this was a rumor at what point? Back in '46, '47?
CALVIN BROWN: Uh, somewhere along in there, when the first (SOUNDS LIKE) convenience the government, uh, option came out. You know, if you wanna go home, you can go home.
INTERVIEWER: But do you recall people talking about that rumor?
CALVIN BROWN: Very, very secretly. Very, very secretly. Very secretly. Not...
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) But it, but it was discussed.
CALVIN BROWN: It was discussed, very much so. And the, some of the answered back to this, uh, enquiry, I believe it took place. You see, because certain things in the higher echelon of command can be done the little people know nothing about. And if they do know about it, what the hell can they do? Pardon me, dear. (INTERVIEWER LAUGHS) I don't like to curse around ladies. Uh, I believe that it had some, see, there, there was something, uh, now, when Korea happened, you see, they, they had no choice. Because the message went out, hey, put your uniform on, you gotta go.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) He's Black. Hey, put your uniform on, you gotta go. He's White. He's Mexican. Whatever he is, hey, we got to go over there and start throwing lead again.
INTERVIEWER: And also, the executive order that integrated, began the integration of the service came out in '48. That, that happened after the, the instant with the gun (UNINTELLIGIBLE) disbanding, too, so.
CALVIN BROWN: (OVERLAPPING) Disbanding the gun, certainly. Now, the 24th Infantry, its, its problem was, uh, after reading the, the, uh, the book by these three men, its problem was that there was no solidification among the officers, noncommissioned officers and enlisted men of that unit. There was no way that unit was gonna succeed.
INTERVIEWER: Was that a Marine unit?
CALVIN BROWN: (OVERLAPPING) No, no, no, no, it was an Army unit. The 24th Infantry. Certainly. Certainly. See, they, but they went to war, and it was a total disaster. You heard about the, what happened to the 24th Infantry, I'm sure.
INTERVIEWER: No, I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . I'll have to, I'll have to check up on that. (TECHNICAL)
CALVIN BROWN: (OVERLAPPING) Well, you, you can check up on it. It'll, the books, I can't think of it, I, but I got the book, see? It's, it's, uh...
INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
CALVIN BROWN: ...it's that thick.
CALVIN BROWN: And it's, uh, it's, it's, um, very, very, okay, I'll tell you, there's an accompanying book that goes to it. North To The Yalu, South To The Naktong. Um, Applebee. (SIC) You probably know of him. Applebee. He wrote that one. But the other book is, there were three men on this book the one that I got. Uh, I have, uh, often, uh, tracked different books, like I say, that give rise to the Black man's activity (STAMMERS) in war time, you know. Because if a man is on a line with another man, he's gonna do one thing. He's gonna throw fire, see?
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED)(STAMMERS) He knows he may be killed, yes. But as long as he throws fire, he has the satisfaction of knowing that he did his part, don't you see. So, uh, this junk about oh, they want, uh, in discipline, no, you can discipline a man to make him do any, not make him, but have him do what you want him to do. It's according to the leadership he receives from you, see? You can (BACKGROUND NOISE) invite him to come on in, brother, and let's, let's, or whatever. Or you can ah, no. Well, heck, you can get an idea he don't want me around no ways.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) So I don't have to, so I don't have (UNINTELLIGIBLE) , see? But my point of view is this. We did not ask to come to America, see? (STAMMERS) And after we got here, see, if we were a problem, America got to think why we're the problem. It's just like a husband or a wife. A man marries a woman, six months later, he can't stand her. Okay, he married her, see?
INTERVIEWER: Well, I think that one of the reasons we need to make these records, uh, available is, is, uh, the extraordinary service that was rendered during the second world war, in, in a period which was not very hospitable to, to African Americans in this country. So, that's one of the reasons we would like to get all this material, uh, on tape. And, uh, is there anything else you'd like to say to end this? Uh, I've asked you to, you know, sort of comment on your general feeling about being in the corps, and so forth. And.
CALVIN BROWN: Well, I enjoyed the Corps. Had it not been for my disastrous marriage, I probably would have, uh, (COUGH) pardon me, retired like the other men, or whatever, you know. But, um, I regret that I made this, uh, mistake, thinking that I had a person that would back me up, you know, and whatnot and all. But, uh, it just simply didn't work out that way. And, uh, generally, I feel good about the part that I did in the Corps, that was good before it got bad. And generally, I think all Marines today will go on and keep the tradition, as they should.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) Uh, I was on a bus in Baltimore one day. And two Caucasian ladies were, one was, one son was a Marine. And the other lady was just, uh, listening at her. And she was just gushing on about, uh, her son being a Marine. So then, um, this one lady say, what is it about Marines so much that, uh, makes them seem to stand out? So then, uh, I said to the lady, I said, let me answer this question for you, dear lady. So then she said, well, go ahead. And I told her that being an ex-Marine, I felt this way. A Marine is a member of a group of fighting men who also wear the name Marine.
CALVIN BROWN: (CONTINUED) There is, uh, Merchant Marine, and there is a police marine in big cities. But a US Marine, if ordered to do so by his captain, will shoot the hinges off the gates of Hell and invite the Devil out to fight, if he ain't too afraid to come out. Thank you.