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ADNER BATTS

June 29th, 2005


a thumbnail image of Master Sergeant Adner Batts Master Sergeant Adner BattsMaster Sergeant Adner Batts, a native of Edgecombe in rural eastern North Carolina, made the Marine Corps a career. He entered the Corps in 1948 and served as a cook in the Korean War. After duty in the Mediterranean and at Montford Point, he served two tours in Vietnam, providing logistical support to a Marine engineering unit and saw action at Khe Sahn. Retired, he resides in Jacksonville, North Carolina.


INTERVIEWER: State your name and your date of birth, just for the record.

ADNER BATTS: My name is Adner Batts, Jr. I was born May 24th, 1929.

INTERVIEWER: As you know, we're interviewing a number of the veterans of Montford Point, and we'd like to begin this interview with you, as a Montford Point veteran, by asking you to tell us a little bit about your background, before joining the Marines. In other words, tell us a little bit about where you're from, what you, where you grew up, tell us a little bit about what your family was like, (STAMMERS) and your immediate family as a, (STAMMERS) an adolescent and a young man. And a little bit about your educational background, if you would.

ADNER BATTS: I was born at Edgecombe, North Carolina, 75 years ago, this day. Um, I was born in a family of, uh, two boys, two girls. I lost my dad when (STAMMERS) I was a year old, I don't remember him, and my mother, when I was 17. The little, (STAMMERS) where we lived was just on the inside of the Pender County line, on Highway 17, south, about, uh, about, uh, 75 yards south, just on the inside of the line.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) Um, I was raised in a home with the five of us, and, uh, I was a seventh grade dropout. Lost my mother when I was 17 years old. I, um, attended school at a place, little place you call Edgecombe, well, of course, that was there the station was, the trains was running, in those days. And, uh, the school room carried about six grades. And then when you got to seventh grade, you had to go to Rocky Point.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) And uh, we had to get a bus to go to Rocky Point, of course, all the communities, about five communities, which namely, Woodside, Topsail, Brown Town, and others, uh, had to purchase a bus. The state wasn't, wasn't provide a bus because, uh, Black people in that area wasn't making enough money to purchase a bus, so the churches got together, purchased a bus.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) And then we stared going to school at Rocky Point, so that's where I dropped out of seventh grade at Rocky Point, in North Carolina. And, uh, after that, I started to work at, uh, Camp Davis. Ran my age up, told them I was 18, of course, I was a long way from it, and started there as a janitor, in the quartermaster laundry. That's, when I started becoming intrigued with the military, uh, hearing cadence every morning.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) And, uh, I worked there, also worked at old (STAMMERS) cleaners there, at Camp Davis. And we lived at Camp Davis. We had to move from where we were living to another place, which it was in, (STAMMERS) right in from the rifle range, at Camp Davis.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Now were you living on a farm, originally?

ADNER BATTS: No, I was not living on a farm. Did farm, but we wasn't living on a farm. We was living right in the, what you might call the place where they tucked the sand bar pit, for building Camp Davis.

INTERVIEWER: And you weren't raised on a farm?

ADNER BATTS: No, I was not raised on a farm.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, uh, so I, I think I know a little bit about how you're going to answer this (STAMMERS) the next question, but why did you decide to join the Marines?

ADNER BATTS: Well, uh, I did go to work at Camp Lejeune, at, (STAMMERS) after I lost my mother at 17 years old. And, as a janitor there, on the bar and, (STAMMERS) I hear around Jacksonville was a lot of signs saying, join the Marine Corps and see the world. But I'd never knew that a, there was a training camp, a recruit set, at a, Camp Lejeune. I thought I can join the Marine Corps, and I was going to see the world. I didn't think about that I'd go back to the same place to train.

INTERVIEWER: And, (STAMMERS) why did you decide to join the Marines? Just to see the world?

ADNER BATTS: Well, to see the world, and for the dress blues, doing, plus the fact, nobody from my neighborhood ever (STAMMERS) Marine Corps, they said it was mean, bad, I had a, a first cousin that joined the Navy in World War Two, but everybody else had went in the Army, and I'm the only one in the community that joined the Marine Corps, and then, (STAMMERS) the only one I know around anywhere that joined the Marine Corps.

INTERVIEWER: Well, when you joined the Marine Corps, were you aware that the Marine Corps until 1942 had never admitted African Americans? Or was that not, uh, something you were aware of?

ADNER BATTS: I was aware of that, uh, there was, uh, they would, uh, there were no African Americans in the Marine Corps, but I didn't know what time it was. I thought they were speaking about way back a long while or back, because, there was also, (STAMMERS) I thought there was, they'd been in the Navy for a while.

INTERVIEWER: Did this have anything, (STAMMERS) did the knowledge that the Marine Corps had not admitted Africans until 1942 have anything to do with your decision to enlist?

ADNER BATTS: (OVERLAPPING) Of course it did, I wanted to go into it, it was the best, uh, military outfit I thought, and I wanted to do something that nobody else wanted to do, I wanted to go back home in my dress blues, and let everybody know I was somebody, and of course, uh, that's what I did. And as a matter of fact, I joined, uh, right here in, uh, the (SOUNDS LIKE) Custom House in Wilmington, North Carolina.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) And with the understand that, if, when I got to Raleigh, if I didn't, uh, stand the physical, I was going to have to hitchhike back home. And so I stood the physical, and that's where I, I ended up in the Marine Corps.

INTERVIEWER: How did you travel? Tell me about doling to Montford Point. You went to Raleigh for your physical, and then from Raleigh, just tell me that trip, and so forth, a little bit about it.

ADNER BATTS: Okay, from Wilmington, we, uh, they had me a ticket for a bus to, to Raleigh, from Wilmington, I had to come from of course Edgecombe into Wilmington, I, on my own, and, uh, after the physical, I got a bus ticket of course, to go to, uh, Camp Lejeune. Uh, Marine Corps Barracks Camp Lejeune, not Marine Corps Base. And, uh, that was at Hadnot Point, of course, that was nothing, there was no Blacks over there.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) Uh, they was at Montford Point. But stayed over the weekend, I, with them on the weekend, and over the weekend, the next morning is when they carried us by truck, from Hadnot Point to Montford Point. And, uh, the ride on the truck, everybody was talking about what was going to happen, and they got down there by a cemetery, it was right about, 11 of us on the truck, and, they stopped at the cemetery as you're going in the gate, which is now, uh, a national cemetery.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) Some of it is, of course, and all those tombstones, they made us all get out of the truck, and they gave us a little (SOUNDS LIKE) blah, blah, and so on, and where all of the Marines that didn't make it, that's where they were, and, and out in the cemetery, and of course, that put a little fright in me. Then they carried us on to Montford Point. And of course, from then on, uh, you was a, a nobody.

INTERVIEWER: Okay now, before we get into your training, on the trip down, you went from bus, by bus from Raleigh to, uh, uh, Camp Lejeune.

ADNER BATTS: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Would you tell, was that a bus of all-Black Marines? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Tell about that.

ADNER BATTS: (OVERLAPPING) No, no, no, it was, it was, it...the bus from Wilmington, as a matter of fact, yeah, there was a bus, they had a place on the back of the bus for Blacks to sit, five seats, that's where you sat. I sat on the back on the bus. And of course, from Raleigh to Camp Lejeune, on the back of the bus, yes.

INTERVIEWER: Now you're at Lejeune then, and they've ferried you past the graveyard, so you've answered a little bit of the next question, but what I want you to think about is just your impressions of Marine Corps life, the first two or three weeks when you got in from Montford Point, and you were actually beginning your training. Whether you had, uh, African American DIs, or just, a little bit about your, your, your initial experiences in Montford Point.

ADNER BATTS: Well, first thing I think they hit me, was I really going to make it, 'cause I saw the other recruits around there, and, uh, they seemed like they was going through some pretty tight training. I didn't know all the DIs there of course, was Black DIs. I didn't see a White guy, a White man on there, (STAMMERS) a warrant officer would come down there I guess every two weeks or whatnot, and say, anybody getting hurt?

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) You know, to see if everybody's physically fit. Uh, and the other thing that put a, a, a kind of fear in me is when they cut all the hair off my head. Uh, uh, I, I didn't expect that you, and I thought I told them, the barber asked what kind of hair trim I, I would like, and I told him, and, uh, he started on it, and I, (LAUGH) all the hair came off. Uh, and the next thing was, you ran everywhere you were going. There was no such thing, unless you was in formation, you ran wherever you went, unless you was in formation, it was on the double.

INTERVIEWER: What year did you, uh...

ADNER BATTS: (OVERLAPPING) April 1948.

INTERVIEWER: April of '48. Um, now, when you got into the camp, you had of course, all, all Black DIs.

ADNER BATTS: Uh-huh.

INTERVIEWER: When you were training at Montford Point, do you recall encountering any racism from White officers or others, or was it almost totally an African American experience while you were in boot camp?

ADNER BATTS: While in training at boot camp, you didn't' see any racism. Uh, uh, there was no racism, there wasn't nobody to be a racism, I mean, no, it was just Black troops there, training, and Black DIs. Of course, that was a different problem. When you were still at Montford Point, when you went for a first (SOUNDS LIKE) pro, after you finished boot camp.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, we're gonna talk about that next, (STAMMERS) so at the time you're in, in '48, uh, the, the whole drill corps, the drill instructor corps was, was African American, and...

ADNER BATTS: By the time, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Pretty much running the whole camp at Montford Point? (STAMMERS) Were there White officers on the camp? Do you recall any White officers on the camp?

ADNER BATTS: I, no, not while in boot camp, except for this one warrant officer, that would come down and check on us.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, what was the spirit of the men at, uh, the camp like. Uh, that is, could you give me, some idea of, of the sense of the group while you were there?

ADNER BATTS: I think it was all, uh, mostly esprite de corps, everybody was, well, ready to go, you know, uh, they're, uh, uh, they, they felt like they was being made Marines, and thereby, they was, they're on their own, and, uh, they wanted to be Marines, whatever it would take, I think that's what it was. Uh, they were uplifted, they was enlightened, they're, uh, you didn't see anybody really griping, griping, not on a large scale, of course.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) In any place, you got some people that, if they can't take the training, you know, they fall out of course. We, or in my platoon, we fell out of, (STAMMERS) I guess, about less than three quarters of what we started with.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Um, what did, did you, let's say, after you get through your training, now obviously, when you got through your, (STAMMERS) when you were in your training, you didn't leave the base, you were right there, all the time, is that correct?

ADNER BATTS: Yes, except for when you go to the rifle range.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, but when you first got some liberty, after you got through the training there, and maybe before you got, uh, an assignment, did you ever go into Jacksonville, or Wilmington, or Kinston, or any of the towns while you were there?

ADNER BATTS: Yes, and all of them. All of the above.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) What I want you to do is tell me some of your experiences, and be as specific as you can, about going off base, into the, the southern world of Kinston, or, or, Wilmington, Jacksonville, and so forth, and what experiences you remember there.

ADNER BATTS: Well, uh, Wilmington, as a matter of fact, there's where, uh, I got my wife, and it was Wilmington, I'd come at liberty down in Wilmington. If you had, of course, a long weekend, that began at, uh, 13:00 Saturday until 05:00 Sunday, then. And, uh, you still, as far as riding the bus, you rode the same way. Uh, of course, this was nothing strange, because it was also on the base. Uh...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Meaning what was nothing strange?

ADNER BATTS: (OVERLAPPING) There was nothing strange, there was nothing strange to riding the back of the bus. Uh, that was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) You rode the back of the bus on the base?

ADNER BATTS: Of course you did, if it was (STAMMERS) if it was a commercial bus, yes. Well, the base, on the base, yeah, the bus stations also had segregated bathrooms, and, the cafeteria was segregated. If you were Black at that time, you didn't go, uh, in the cafeteria, you went around to the back of the cafeteria, at Camp Lejeune, that's on base.

INTERVIEWER: That's the bus station on base?

ADNER BATTS: Now, now on base. No, it didn't have one at the bus station, but the civilian cafeteria, just before the road there, if you wanted to get something to eat, what I'm speaking about.

INTERVIEWER: And that was on base in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ?

ADNER BATTS: (OVERLAPPING) On base, yes.

INTERVIEWER: And that was, uh, but that was Camp Lejeune, not Montford Point.

ADNER BATTS: Right. Right.

INTERVIEWER: So, the, the, you want to tell me a little bit more about that?

ADNER BATTS: What?

INTERVIEWER: What was the facility like? It was a cafeteria?

ADNER BATTS: Yeah, it was a (STAMMERS) civilian cafeteria, is what they call it, and that's what the people would come, uh, mostly civilians, what they would go and get their lunch there. And of course, they are, uh, served good food there, but, uh, Blacks wasn't permitted to go into the dining facility, except those that worked there. And if you wanted anything, you purchased it from the back.

INTERVIEWER: And what about Blacks who worked there? Were they in a separate area, in the cafeteria?

ADNER BATTS: Oh, no, they worked, no, they were waiting tables and things of this...

INTERVIEWER: Oh, I see what you're talking about. They couldn't go in, they, they, they'd just have to ask, and ask people working in the cafeteria. Okay, good. Um, what about Wilmington, then? I mean, uh, or Kinston, just give me some, what was it, what was it like coming into town?

ADNER BATTS: Well, well, well it, (STAMMERS) as far as discrimination was, it was, it was gross discrimination here, or, uh, the bus station here, for an example, uh, you had a little scoop coming out in the bus station about, and, that's where I'd met my wife, incidentally. It was a little scoop coming out of there, about that wide, and that's where Blacks went and bought their tickets at. They didn't go on the other side.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) Of course, on the other side, you had a place for you to buy your tickets, and of course, that was cafeteria over there. Uh, but, uh, you didn't run into much of a, you know, having racial conflict, 'cause mostly you was, uh, uh, with the Black community. Um, but...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Were you in uniform, most of the time? (TECHNICAL)

ADNER BATTS: No, not most of the time, no.

INTERVIEWER: Were you in some of the time?

ADNER BATTS: Some of the time, yes.

INTERVIEWER: And what time would you normally be in uniform, when you would come into a, to a kind of like, Wilmington or Jacksonville?

ADNER BATTS: When I wanted to show off my uniform, and get girls looking at me.

INTERVIEWER: What about when you were riding the bus into Wilmington or, or a Jacksonville? Would you be in your uniform?

ADNER BATTS: (OVERLAPPING) Most of the time, in civilian clothes.

INTERVIEWER: Did you see that, that the uniform changed in any way, the treatment you received from the White community?

ADNER BATTS: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me about that.

ADNER BATTS: Yes, uh, and in Rocky Mountain, I can say this in particular, I was up to see my brother, and, uh, I was, uh, kind of standing on the corner, waiting for him to pick me up. I was in my dress blues. And you know, and, uh, there was two White girls, and one of them said, that's a nice uniform he's got on, you know? (STAMMERS) And of course, uh, I kind of picked a conversation, you know, just casual conversation with them.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) Where if I hadn't been in that uniform, I know they'd have been a mile away. And people in the station watches (STAMMERS) watched it all, so it was a blue uniform, the dress blues, everybody went for that. Uh, it's interesting, to (STAMMERS) I would like to put this in here, though, we were issued dress blues. Later on, people had to buy those. You was issued dress blues, but no dress shoes.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) Your shoes was boondock (SP?) shoes, and they was hairy, had a lot of fuzz on them. And we would take the razor and wet them, and shave that off, and shine them up. You could put a spit shine on them things, and make it look real good, make those boots look, (STAMMERS) real good. But we find out later, that we was breaking the law, you couldn't do that. They said, the shoes couldn't breathe when you do that.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) See, I didn't know the shoes had lungs to start with. (INTERVIEWER LAUGHS) But, but what it was, it would cut off the pores in the shoes, and so, so, uh, it, it was a beautiful uniform.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me, something about what kind of recreation, and what kind of facilities you had, when you went to Wilmington, or Kinston and Jacksonville.

ADNER BATTS: I can't remember, uh, no recreation facilities over here. I remember, over on the north side of town, there was (STAMMERS) they was in progress of getting a Boys Club together, that's a boys place, they built a big facility over there, I don't know if it was ever for the place of recreation, for anybody out of town or not. Uh, I don't remember. I, (STAMMERS) went to the place where back in those days, were the, the clubs.

INTERVIEWER: Well that, I was going to say, I was going to replace (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and say, tell me what you did.

ADNER BATTS: (OVERLAPPING) I went to club, I went to, to Del Morocco's, I went to the Silver Rail, and Cotton Club, and, it was, some other, I can't remember them all now, but...

INTERVIEWER: And what kind of entertainment and so forth were at the clubs?

ADNER BATTS: Um, once in a while you have a live band, but other than that, you had the piccolo. And, they had about anything you wanted to hear on the piccolo. Uh, plenty of beer, and, you know, little bit of booze, too, if you was able to buy it.

INTERVIEWER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Did you ever experience racism particularly, I mean, you yourself, while you were on leave, in, in these communities?

ADNER BATTS: I don't think I ever experienced any blatant racism. Uh, my, I had little things, like people riding the (WORD?) because I hitchhiked here, from down here, and back to Camp Lejeune, about three years, people call out at you, you know, and say things, and whatnot. Uh, uh, once in a while, you got a N-word, but, uh, it's mostly people just riding out a high.

INTERVIEWER: Did you experience any acceptance from Whites that you didn't' expect?

ADNER BATTS: Uh, while in uniform?

INTERVIEWER: Yeah.

ADNER BATTS: I think so. I think so, yeah, they was more receptive when, when, once they find out what you, as a matter of fact, they were, if, if you were with someone that was another GI, and you had on uniforms, you would get a little more respect than the guy that was out of uniform.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Now what about the White Marines that came in. Was that a totally separate world, they just followed the normal segregation patterns that were still in place (STAMMERS) in the South at that time?

ADNER BATTS: Yeah, they followed the same thing. Uh, we had on the base something for recreation. They had, uh, a place that they call Marshall Pavilion, which is still there, which was a big club kind of place, you have parties, and whatnot. And they would have dances there, and so they would have dances for White Marines, and whatnot, out of one week, and then for the Black, the next night. We'd have buses coming to Wilmington, Kinston, and Newberne, picking up the girls, bringing them down there, letting them dance, and, you know.

INTERVIEWER: And what was the name of the place?

ADNER BATTS: Marshall Pavilion, it still stands, that's where we still have some of our meetings.

INTERVIEWER: And is that at Montford Point, or is that at...

ADNER BATTS: (OVERLAPPING) No, no, that's at, no, that's over at, uh, Hadnot Point.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

ADNER BATTS: Camp Lejeune.

INTERVIEWER: What do you remember most about your off base experiences?

ADNER BATTS: My off base experiences.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Other than meeting your wife. (LAUGH)

ADNER BATTS: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah, I better remember that. I, uh, hmm. I, I think transportation was the biggest thing I remember most about it, standing there on the corner of 17th and Market, uh...

INTERVIEWER: In Wilmington.

ADNER BATTS: In Wilmington. And of course, trying to get a ride. You know, you might have a, a, a, a White guy down below you, trying to get a ride to you, wouldn't get a ride, you know, normally, and, uh, and, uh, but that worked both ways, too, you know? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Depend upon who was driving the car, what race was in the car. But that was something I remember, 'cause I'd done that for about three years, hitch-hiking. Um, uh, blatant racism, I don't remember anything, anything about that.

INTERVIEWER: So in terms of hitch-hiking, you're saying that, that, Whites would tend to pick up Whites, and Blacks would tend to pick up Blacks.

ADNER BATTS: (OVERLAPPING) Yes, yes, yes. (TECHNICAL)

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) Yes, well, normally, uh, they are, there, there was Black drivers in the car, they'd normally pick up the Black, and the White would only pick up the White. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Okay, were you picked up by a White driver?

ADNER BATTS: Yes, I've been picked up by a White driver. But the White drivers was just like me, they wanted somebody, to pick up somebody, 'cause that was the gas, they didn't have any money, you know, you had to get some gas you know? If you had, (STAMMERS) if you had 75 cent to help with the gas, that was it. I would imagine that, uh, even if some of those White guys knew that I had 75 cent, and the White guy didn't have it, they would probably pick me up, you know? The money was, I think the...

INTERVIEWER: The money was green.

ADNER BATTS: The money was green, still green, yes. Uh-huh.

INTERVIEWER: Um, what were your experiences in the corps, after you left Montford Point? (STAMMERS) You, uh, tell me a little bit. I, I understand your career, and I'd like you to tell me that you were a career, (STAMMERS) you know, personnel, and tell me some of, (STAMMERS) your duty stations, over a period of time, would you take me through your career.

ADNER BATTS: Okay, after we left Montford Point, I came in as a, a steward. It was at the steward branch, which a lot of the Blacks was going to. We were either depot company, or steward duty. And I was a steward cook, or I got them at least to let me (STAMMERS) show that I could (STAMMERS) cook a little bit.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Let me stop you right there. Would you say that, that this is the way almost all Montford Pointers went, in, in other words, were, at that time, Montford Pointers going into, uh, combat infantry units, or gunnery units, or were they all going into the missions, and, and stewards units by and large?

ADNER BATTS: Most of them, by and large, was depot companies, and stewards. That's what they was. Most of the guys, uh, depot company, and steward. Depot companies, of course, meaning moving equipment, (STAMMERS) ammunition, that kind of. But the school, uh, the steward school, or this where I got a chance to go to school, what, it was (SOUNDS LIKE) of we three, or, a Black guys, and about 18 White guys, and we were at Hadnot Point with the Supply School Battalion.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) And, uh, and, uh, I was the tallest one out of the three of us, Archer, Stowalt (SP?) and myself, and, uh, I was in charge of three, on our way from the barracks to school. And, it was another guy, uh, there was about 18 Whites, so one guy in charge of 18 Whites, he would drill them. And I'd drill my two behind him. Can you see, can you imagine that? Huh? It's kind of comical, when I think about it today. But he...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) What rank were you then?

ADNER BATTS: Uh, nothing, I was, I was a private, (STAMMERS) I'd come into that, (STAMMERS) because that's the way it was made. I was a private, and, and, and, uh, after school, we'd come back the same way. But then we had a, uh, uh, a general's inspection, out on the parade ground, and the only person, only two or three Black people out there was Archer, Stowalt and myself, on this front rank of Headquarters Company Supply Battalion.

INTERVIEWER: Where was this?

ADNER BATTS: This is at Camp Lejeune, parade ground. Oh, we had, (STAMMERS) 500, or 600 people out there, or better, and, uh, it was General's Inspection, and we're on the front, and, uh, this general came by, when he inspected us, he looked up and down, he said, why aren't these guys PFCs? He said, uh, they look just as good as the fellows down at Parris Island. And I remember my colonel's name was Colonel Cloud, he said, sir, it was just an oversight.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) He said, well, I think if a man has got enough, have enough to break boot camp, they should be at least a PFC. And so, after we got back to the barracks and put down our gear, the battalion officer called, and we went down there, and they made us PFCs, so it took a general to promote we three to PFC, kind of like a battlefield commission. So I'd already been in the corps a year or so, uh, (STAMMERS) normally, when you (STAMMERS) broke with PI, uh, you were coming out of PFC. Unless you was a mess-up, you know?

INTERVIEWER: So, (STAMMERS) was it standard practice, for people who left boot camp, at, uh, Montford Point, to come out and simply, as privates?

ADNER BATTS: (OVERLAPPING) Privates, yes, that, that was (SOUNDS LIKE) an accepted practice.

INTERVIEWER: And, but, Paris Island, you came out at PFCs?

ADNER BATTS: Uh, apparently so. I had never been to Parris Island, matter of fact, I was out of the Marine Corps before I went to Parris Island. But, apparently so, that's everybody that came out of there, and that's what the general said to me. So.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, um, so tell me a little bit more about where you were assigned, uh..

ADNER BATTS: (STAMMERS) Okay, after that, I was assigned to one of the very places I worked as a civilian, with people that I didn't know at the time were stewards, as a cook, I was assigned as a cook. They were stewards' attendants, they were steward attendants, or, uh, I, uh, was cooking, and some of the same guys that I knew before was there, (STAMMERS) you know, telling me, you was crazy to come into the steward branch. (LAUGH) But that was..

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) And where, where was it?

ADNER BATTS: Commission Officers' Mess, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. I worked there, as a civilian, as a janitor, on the bar, remember in 1946, '47.

INTERVIEWER: Right.

ADNER BATTS: And when I came into the Marine Corps, I went right back there.

INTERVIEWER: And, uh, you served there for a while, but you also...

ADNER BATTS: (OVERLAPPING) And then, I was tired of the steward branch, uh, I, uh, felt that I could, I knew I could do something, you know, that I would like more, and especially during this time, um, the general commander and officer of the base wanted a cook. And, his aide came down to the officer's club, and, (STAMMERS) officer in charge of the, of, uh, the officer's club, called me down and wanted for the general's, uh, uh, general wanted a cook.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) Would I like to cook for him? Everybody here say, you a good cook. And I said, no, sir, I'd rather not, and, uh, and, (STAMMERS) I remember the general's aide said, well, you'll cook for him if, if you he wants you to. I said, yes sir, I know that, it's no doubt about it. But I don't feel that I'm qualified to cook for a general. I don't cook that well. I, I didn't want to go cook. And, uh, one, my friend of mine, had got out of the steward branch.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) Uh, about that time, I was a sergeant, E-4, you see, there was no pay grades higher than E-7 back then. And, uh, and on the way to getting out of there then, you had to get, go back to PFC, if you got out. So one of my friends went back to PFC, but it, I'd heard about the Marine Corps Institute, (STAMMERS) and so I started taking, uh, I took, uh, MCI course, at the Marine Corps Institute, in, uh, engineers.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) International, diesel crawler, or tractor repair maintenance, and then I put in, (STAMMERS) for the, uh, change of MOS, and I got it that way. But I was in Quantico when I got it, Quantico, Virginia, I had been there about a year.

INTERVIEWER: And what, (STAMMERS) what was your new MOS?

ADNER BATTS: My new MOS was engineer, (STAMMERS) 1345, engineer equipment operator. Um, what I went up through the line, of engineer operations chief, and, uh, show-body chief.

INTERVIEWER: Now you were in Korea?

ADNER BATTS: I was in Korea, but when I was in Korea, remember I was...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Can you tell me when you went over to Korea?

ADNER BATTS: I went over to Korea (STAMMERS) in '52. Came back '53. I was over there when the war ended, as a matter of fact, of, uh, around '53, but I was in the steward branch then, and that's something else, see? It's something that you wasn't trained for. Uh, I was a (SOUNDS LIKE) a buck sergeant E-4 then, but I had to set up perimeter with, uh, uh, to put up for grazing machine gun fire there.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) Because I was a sergeant, but I was actually a cook. I, I hadn't had no military, no machine gun training, and that kind of thing. (STAMMERS) Well, you had to, you had to qualify with the M1, and other weapons you had was the .45, the Carbine, and, the, uh, BAR, Browning automatic weapons. Other than that, that's all you got, had been training with.

INTERVIEWER: And how long were you in Korea for, uh, a little over a year?

ADNER BATTS: I was (STAMMERS) I was in Korea about, uh, probably about 16 months.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...

ADNER BATTS: It was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) like it was in Vietnam.

INTERVIEWER: And what were you doing there?

ADNER BATTS: I was cooking. And just like I said, when time come to me, when time comes, I was manning the machine position, or, uh, setting up machine gun positions, you know, setting up perimeter, pulling out, getting out the standing guard and that kind of thing.

INTERVIEWER: Well, now in Korea, were you in integrated units at that time?

ADNER BATTS: Yes, I was, an integrated unit.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember when you did your first unit that, (STAMMERS) your first integrated unit?

ADNER BATTS: Well, the first integrated unit of course, was when I went to, (STAMMERS) when I went to cook school, at, at Hadnot Point, when, uh...

INTERVIEWER: What year was that?

ADNER BATTS: Uh, that was in 1948, late 1948, uh, and, and, and, and, we, we got along good in the barracks, but scuttlebutt, of, of course Marine Corps called them scuttlebutt the water fountain, and it was the older guys around there, I kept, (STAMMERS) I think they kept we younger guys from really getting together, you know, because we were getting along good as, in the barracks and whatnot, and thinking like that.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) But the older fellas were, were, (STAMMERS) I remember (STAMMERS) staff sergeant, now when you color boys are around here, you White boys stay down there, and it sounded like that, you know, and, uh, it was, it was stupid.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, uh, so you spent most of your time in, in Korea, as a cook.

ADNER BATTS: (OVERLAPPING) That's right.

INTERVIEWER: And in, in a totally integrated unit.

ADNER BATTS: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: And, uh, after Korea, where did you serve?

ADNER BATTS: After Korea, I came back to Quantico, by then, my letter was in, you know, whatnot, and I stayed up there. I stayed up there, uh, I guess about a year or so, and, uh, I got a change of MOS. And I came back to Camp Lejeune as an engineer man.

INTERVIEWER: And you spent a lot of time at Camp Lejeune then?

ADNER BATTS: Well, I, I was, I, yes, I spent a lot of time at Camp Lejeune as my home base, but I was an FMF, see, I was...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Wait, which is?

ADNER BATTS: Fleet Marine Force. Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, of course, Southern Pacific, too, but I was out here. And, about every division has only one shooting party battalion. And you were either in the Med, or you were in the Carrib, or preparing for Med, or preparing for Carib. If you were not on a Carib you were on a Med cruise.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) So every year, while they're at Camp Lejeune, I was either out on a Med, out on a care, because, you've got full letter companies in the battalion, uh, and, uh, so you've got, (STAMMERS) and you've got to have a team, with, uh, each one of these BLTs, battalion landing teams, that go around.

INTERVIEWER: Did you enjoy that service?

ADNER BATTS: Oh, I, I, (STAMMERS) first, at (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Lejeune, back then, first of all, I didn't start taking it, or advantage of it, but later on, all that touring through out, throughout Europe, and, (STAMMERS) oh, yes, sir.

INTERVIEWER: Where did you serve in Europe?

ADNER BATTS: Well, I was in, (STAMMERS) that's, that's just it, I was on the BLT, I just went to these, we would hit these ports. See, we'd hit about six different countries, on every cruise, in the Med. You know, uh, Italy, Sicily, Spain, Greece, you know, places like that. (STAMMERS) France.

INTERVIEWER: Um, did you, did you enjoy that duty?

ADNER BATTS: Did I?

INTERVIEWER: Yeah.

ADNER BATTS: Well, you know, I really enjoyed it.

INTERVIEWER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Um, did you develop uh, tell me a little bit after Korea, did you, how long did you stay in after Korea?

ADNER BATTS: Uh, in the Corps?

INTERVIEWER: Uh-huh.

ADNER BATTS: After Korea, I stayed in , probably about 27 years. I stayed in the Marine Corps 28 years, 10 months, and one day.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, so you, were you in Vietnam?

ADNER BATTS: I was, did two tours in Vietnam, I didn't ask for either one of them, but I did them. (LAUGH)

INTERVIEWER: Well, tell me a little about both of them.

ADNER BATTS: Well, I, by that time, I, I was a, (STAMMERS) an engineer operations chief, and I was a, and by that time, unlike Korea, we, we, had, uh, vertical envelopment, we was using helicopters then, so everything, everything from all of the logistics, as far as off loading ships, and, and helicopters, moving troops, setting up LA, LSA, logistical support areas, and things like that.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) That came under you. And so, uh, at, at just about, uh, (STAMMERS) and sending out companies, to their different, or fighting areas, from the LSA, you was moving troops and, uh, supervising lifts. So, 105s, and 155 howitzers, that was out of different far, support bases, that came under you, as a, as an engineer, uh, support man.

INTERVIEWER: So you were, what was your rank, at that point?

ADNER BATTS: My, my rank, my rank at that point was a gunnery sergeant.

INTERVIEWER: And that's, (STAMMERS) engineering support?

ADNER BATTS: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, uh, and how long (STAMMERS) were your tours in Vietnam?

ADNER BATTS: Uh, both of them was 12 months a piece.

INTERVIEWER: And, and what years were they?

ADNER BATTS: Uh, '66, that was when the (SOUNDS LIKE) NVA first came down, in the first big operation, Operation Hastings. And I think the other one must have been about '69, (STAMMERS) back in the States about a year, and back over there.

INTERVIEWER: Now in, in your operations, you were not involved in combat, you were bringing things into the, the, combat area?

ADNER BATTS: We was in, I was at Caisson, I was at (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that's Caisson, you were right up there, on the DMC. We, we didn't have anything, (STAMMERS) above, uh, ground up there. You had, you had to live on the ground, you, it was, it was called Rocket Alley. We got incoming, there wasn't a day passing we didn't probably get incoming. But as far, (STAMMERS) if you're speaking out, going out and meeting, meeting the enemy with a rifle, no, no I didn't do that.

INTERVIEWER: But you were, you were constantly being shelled, the base was constantly (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the base was constantly being shelled.

ADNER BATTS: (OVERLAPPING) Yes, yes, yes, yes, it's, it's recorded history, yes.

INTERVIEWER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) And of course, there were casualties, as a result.

ADNER BATTS: Oh, yes, I remember, (STAMMERS) yes, I remember, (STAMMERS) Hastings, that, that, we was getting ready to go for Europe, and I would hear about the NVA, when they first come down from, (STAMMERS) if it would end up it was a Vietcong, but we got, now hardcore, northern soldiers. That came up on waves, and fell down, you know, and, uh, and fired just like a, you know, they had protection in front of them. And, uh, he'd radioed from Europe that was saying, uh, how heavy their casualties was. But ours was very light.

INTERVIEWER: Mm-hmm.

ADNER BATTS: In our LSA, then we had over 40, Ks.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) (STAMMERS) LSA would be?

ADNER BATTS: Logistical support area. (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: Did you develop any White friends when you were in the Marine Corps?

ADNER BATTS: (OVERLAPPING) Oh, plenty of them, oh, plenty of them are, are, I, I, more than I can even tell, of White friends. Um...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...

ADNER BATTS: Um, that lasted long.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Well tell me, tell me a little bit about, uh, the difference, lets say, before the Civil Rights Movement, in terms of being able to socialize with White friends in the States, and after the Civil Rights Movement. Can you speak to that, a little bit? Especially in the, in the South, if you were (STAMMERS) if you were based somewhere like Camp Lejeune.

ADNER BATTS: Well, before the Civil Rights Movement, uh you would catch very few or, (STAMMERS) White and Blacks, on liberty together, uh, going to the same places. And even though there were some places on the outside that didn't want you congregating together, but that was permissible, and we took advantage of it. Uh, it seemed as though were was, uh, something like we've got license to do this now, regardless of what, (STAMMERS) especially among the young people.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) Older heads are, are, they, they seemed to be pretty well set in what they was. Uh, uh, after the Civil Rights. I, I, (STAMMERS) that was a , a great change, I think. Uh, on base, and off base. And, I think one thing that brings up what, especially in Vietnam, but of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) close together, when your life depends on somebody else, you don't care what color he is. (STAMMERS) You, you, there's a bond set there.

INTERVIEWER: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Well, what do you think is the historical significance of the Montford Point Marines? Have you ever thought about that?

ADNER BATTS: Uh, not as much, uh, before until you're up here the last few months, I guess, uh, uh, I look around, (STAMMERS) was up to Raleigh, Durham at this, basketball game, not long ago, and, uh, and I, (STAMMERS) quite frankly, except for General Peterson, I'd never seen a Black general before. And, uh, as a matter of fact, uh, during my time, the only thing I saw was a, I saw one second lieutenant, of course, uh, there was one, uh, uh, around before then.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) But that, you didn't see any officers, you didn't see any Black officers. But now, uh, there, there are Black officers, uh, who (STAMMERS) positions of command, and uh, and, and, that's the big, the big difference, I see now. Or that, we didn't previously have. Uh.

INTERVIEWER: How do you think the Marine Corps experience affected your life? What do you think were the most important influences that came as a result of the program?

ADNER BATTS: Well, first it made a man out of me. First of all, by giving me a, discipline, I was able to get some education. I was able to see the world, I've seen the world, and there is, uh, uh, it made me feel more like I was a part of what was going on around me. But, that was a time that this, I didn't feel that way. But a White captain, I'll never forget his name, first name, but I don't know what his, or his last name, I don't know what his first name was.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) J.R. Green. He made me his company gunny. Now, I, you, you didn't, too many Blacks wasn't getting any positions of telling White people what to do back then.

INTERVIEWER: And when was this?

ADNER BATTS: This was back at Camp Lejeune, this was back in '60, somewhere in the '60s, or, or the '60s. Uh, but anyway, uh, he made me his company gunny, you know, and, uh, he, I, he had confidence in me, and I think, what may have built that confidence in me, he was doing something. He was on the major's list, to pick, be picked up for major, and he was doing something for the general, I don't know, significant part, anyway, he was over that part, I think.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) And he told me, he said he was going down, and, uh, what, (STAMMERS) pull some, do some things for the, for the general, and he said, I'll talk, (STAMMERS) something I want to talk to you when I get, when I get back, uh, something I'm going to talk to you about when I get back. And, uh, 4:00 he wasn't back, when everybody left about 5:30, he wasn't back, 9:00 he wasn't back.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) About 10:00 something, he showed up, and while he was coming, he was coming from (STAMMERS) to pick up something, and he was startled to know that I was still sitting in the office, waiting for him to come back and everybody else was home. I think that's what started it. And I could see the expression on his face, and he saw the loyalty that I had there, and from then on, there was a, he gave me responsibilities, and that's what I wanted. And, uh, I ran that company.

INTERVIEWER: What are your feelings now about having been a Montford Point Marine?

ADNER BATTS: I feel good to know that I was, some of the Black, (STAMMERS) one of the first Blacks that came in the Marine Corps. Uh, because we Marine Corps, it wasn't Black back then, you know, we was Negroes, and we changed to colored, and, finally we, finally we got Black. Took some time, but we got Black. (LAUGH) And, uh, I, I, I'm proud to have been, (STAMMERS) in the Marine Corps.

ADNER BATTS: (CONTINUED) I couldn't get any of my sons to go in the Marine Corps, they were all in the Army, (LAUGH) but, I, I'm glad, I mean, until this day, when I hear that Marine Corps Hymn, something, (BACKGROUND NOISE) started going in here. It's, it's true, once a Marine, always a Marine, there's no doubt about it. It's something about the Marine Corps that you just don't put off, once you put it on. And I don't care who you see, whether he's White, Black or polka dot, if he's in trouble, and you're a Marine, you're gonna go through and rescue him.


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