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July 21st, 2005

a thumbnail image of Master Sergeant Turner G.  Blount Master Sergeant Turner G. BlountMaster Sergeant Turner G. Blount was born in Keysville, Georgia and joined the Corps in 1943. During World War II he participated in the invasions of Tinian, Saipan and Okinawa. He remained in the Corps and served in a motor transport unit stationed at Camp Lejeune and Japan, where he was at the end of the Korean War. He saw action again in Vietnam, where he guarded a helicopter unit at Da Nang. Retiring from the Marines, Mr. Blount settled in Jacksonville, North Carolina, where he worked for Sears. Active in community affairs, Mr. Blount is a four term member of the Jacksonville City Council.

INTERVIEWER: Uh, Mr. Blount, could you please state your full name and today's date?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: My name is Turner G. Blount. Today's date's December the 17th, 2004.

INTERVIEWER: And Mr. Blount, will you tell me just a little bit about your, uh, background before you joined the Marines? That is where you're from, what your family was, what, what his occupation was, members of the family and so forth? And what your education level was when you entered the Marine Corps? (SOUNDS LIKE) Okay.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: I was born in Keysville, Georgia. I'm from a family of 12 childrens (SIC) I'm number 11 in the family. My father worked as a railroad employee on the railroad. And, uh, I attended, uh, school, uh, in Keysville. And, uh, and up until the 11th grade or junior, so to speak. Um, at that time, I decided I want to, uh, work, do some work to help the family out. So, in order for me to get a job, I had to apply for a Social Security Card. And said, you have to be 18 to get a Social Security Card.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: (CONTINUED) And so, well, I'm 18. So I got a Social Security Card. They said, well, once you get a Social Security Card, you're gonna have to join the draft, if you're 18. So I signed up for the draft, of course. I have no, uh, knowledge of, uh, being, uh, drafted into the military service. And within, I said, 30 days or more, uh, about 30 days afterward, I was Class 1A, of course. And shortly after that, I was, uh, ordered to, for examination into the military service.

INTERVIEWER: Were you drafted into the Marines? You didn't have any, any, it sounds to me as if they say this... (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) You, you were drafted into the Marines, you didn't choose to go into the Marines for any particular reason, is that correct? If that's so just say that.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: No, no. I had no knowledge of the Marine Corps at all. I was thinking of the Army and the Air Force or those. But at the, uh, Examination Center, a friend of mines, uh, from my town, Keysville, we, uh, was, uh, examined the same time. And as we was leaving the building, we had a choice of going into the Army or the Marine Corps or whatnot. So he said to me, he says, uh, let's join the Marines, he said. That's the toughest thing going up. I said, okay. And we joined the Marine Corps, that's how I got in the Marine Corps.

INTERVIEWER: So he joined the Marine Corps... (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) Did you have any knowledge of its past racial history, the fact that it did not (SOUNDS LIKE) admit Blacks prior to 1942?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: I had no knowledge at all of the Marine Corps, until, you know, after I, uh, had become a member of it. And, uh, at, um, Montford Point, uh, there is no White that I, uh, became involved with. It was all Afro Americans. Uh, my drill instructor was all Afro Americans.


INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) Um, I'd like to know if, while you were at Montford Point, in, in the training and while you were stationed at Montford Point, before you shipped out, um, did you have any racial experiences on the base? Or were things fairly smooth? (TECHNICAL)

TURNER G. BLOUNT: I had no racial problems at Camp Lejeune, at Montford Point because it's all, I said was Afro Americans that I was associated with. Um, the training there, uh, like about the drill instructor was all Afro Americans, uh, in my (SOUNDS LIKE) term.

INTERVIEWER: Did you ever come into contact with the White Officer Corps? And tell me.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: I had no contact with White officers at all. All the, uh, people, like I said, that I had contact with was Afro Americans. My time at (STAMMERS) at Montford Point was very short. I only spent my basic training there. And that was just, uh, about 10 weeks. And after that, I was, uh, shipped out. So.

INTERVIEWER: Now so you were shipped out, tell us a little bit about where you were shipped to.


INTERVIEWER: And, and a little bit about that experience...


INTERVIEWER: ...of being shipped out.


TURNER G. BLOUNT: (CONTINUED)...uh, platoon that I went through with was 232, yeah, 232 and, and we formed another, uh, Company called the 19th Marine Depot Company there. And they put me in that. And that, uh, Company was shipped to, uh, Hawaii. And as we entered Hawaii there, we stayed there for about, uh, a couple of months. And on June, the May 30th, of course, uh, we were aboard ship and was sailing from Operation Unknown Destination.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. While you were in Hawaii, do you recall how you were treated? Were there any racial incidents while you were in Hawaii?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: Well, had none in Hawaii because that was a short stay. We were just there to form and get ready to move further.

INTERVIEWER: All right. So now you're shipped out of Hawaii, where, where did that Unknown Destination prove to be?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: Well, after we's at sea for about, uh, 10 days, uh, we were told that we was going to, uh, uh, take part in an invasion. And that invasion was the island of Saipan, in the Mariana Islands. And that took place on, uh, June the 15th of 1944.

INTERVIEWER: And do you wanna just go forward with that, just tell us what you did as a part of the invasion at Saipan?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: Well, actually being in the Montford, uh, Montford Point Marine, uh, Depot, Depot Company, uh, we was just in a supporting unit, who supports, uh, to make sure that supplies and everything is available. And, uh, that we would keep the front lines and whatnot, uh, supported with, uh, the proper supplies they needed.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. And what do you recall about being on Saipan?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: I recall, you know, air raids and things like that. We lived in a foxhole everywhere we went, we had to dig in and stay, uh, never lived in a, a hut, a tent or anything like that. We just in foxholes, as we moved. And I spent a lot of time and doing guard of supplies. For instance, supplies have to go to the front. (SOUNDS LIKE) I don't care what time of night it had, it would be, uh, you would have to be on the truck to guard the driver, so the driver wouldn't get ambushed. And you would be put, put on the, you would have to get on the truck on the supplies, sit on the outside, on the supplies. Just and guard supplies, as well as, the driver, as you take, uh, move forward with supplies.

INTERVIEWER: Mm hmm. And how long were you (STAMMERS) in Saipan?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: We's, I stayed in (STAMMERS) Saipan until the end of the Operation there. And after the Operation there, we, uh, went to another island, uh, called Tinian, which is in the Mariana Groups, as well. And, of course, we, uh, performed the same duties there. Mm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Um, what were some other specific assignments that you had?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: Well, I've guarding, uh, the prisoners or I had, uh, got, uh, prisoners on several occasions there.

INTERVIEWER: What, uh, what, where?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: In Saipan and, of course, Tinian.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. And after you left Tinian, you went to...


INTERVIEWER: And tell me a little bit about what you did in Okinawa. About how you first went in and what you did there.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: Well, Okinawa, we did the same thing that, uh, I (STAMMERS) mostly in a supporting group, of course. And make sure that all the supplies and everything was, uh, in the, moved to the front. And guard prisoners, as well.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Uh, do, are there any particular instance you recall in Okinawa or anything you wanna share with the audience about Okinawa (MUMBLES) ?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: Well, it just that, uh, went running for safety when there's air raids at night, uh, during any hour, trying to run for cover. And, of course, uh, stand, uh, duties at night, uh, for the enemies. Make sure that you're not ambushed or anything of that nature. Mm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. And after Okinawa...

TURNER G. BLOUNT: After Okinawa, I was, uh, was sent back to the states in the 1946, due in February of 1946. So I spent about two years, approximately two years in the, uh, during the war of the World War II and out in the Pacific area.

INTERVIEWER: Did you leave service in '46?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: I left service in '46. I had a very short stay and Montford Point, I didn't return until 1950, when I was ordered back to active duty in 1950.

INTERVIEWER: And is that a result of the Korean War?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: That was a result of the Korean War, the reason I was ordered back to duty. Mm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: I want you to think about this. I want you to tell the audience what kind of unit you went into when you were ordered back to, to duty in 1950. I wanna know, did you go into a unit that was still a segregated unit? Or had it already become an integrated unit when it went in, in 1950? Because this a crucial point and this is something that I wanna make clear to, to people in, uh, in, in the, um, documentary. And that is, the, the change from segregated units to a, a really integrated Marine Corps, which happened in the Korean War. So tell us a little bit about the process of coming back in, when you came back in 1950. What kind of unit you went to? And, and what you did from there.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: Well, it was a big surprise, I, it was, (LAUGH) when I came back in, there was, in, a integrated unit. It was, uh, a surprise to me, 'cause I was expecting, uh, what I'd left, uh, (STAMMERS) segregated units. But it was a big surprise, because it, that time integration was at hand.

INTERVIEWER: And what kind of unit was that? Tell us what it was like then.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: The unit that I entered in there was a, in a Motor Transport section, where you deliver supplies and things like that, though, out in the field. And we had combat type vehicles, so it was mostly, uh, combat units.

INTERVIEWER: And where was this?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: Camp Lejeune, at Camp Lejeune (MUMBLES) .

INTERVIEWER: Did you go off base any, at all while you were there?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: I did not, uh, have the opportunity, like I said, because of my short stay at Camp, at Montford Point to go on liberty in the City of Jacksonville.

INTERVIEWER: And, uh, where did you go from, from (STAMMERS) from Montford Point? What was your next assignment?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: My next (STAMMERS) assignment from (STAMMERS) Montford Point was, um, then to Vietnam.

INTERVIEWER: Now, late in the '50s, you said, you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...


INTERVIEWER: ...again in 1950, right?


INTERVIEWER: So where did you go in, uh, uh, what, what were you doing after you left Montford Point in 1950...

TURNER G. BLOUNT: (OVERLAPPING) Oh, yeah, okay. When I, uh, I was at Camp Lejeune, came back to Camp Lejeune...


TURNER G. BLOUNT: ...in 1950.

INTERVIEWER: ...came back to Camp Lejeune.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: Mm hmm. Well, I was, uh, in like I said, the Motor Transport Unit, where we, uh, hauled supplies, you know, backs and forth to, in the field, units like that. And, uh, I went to varied schools, uh, like the, uh, Embarkation School in the Little Creek, Virginia and the other Motor Transport courses like.

INTERVIEWER: Now I want you to, I wanna ask you a question and I just want you to think aback and answer anyway you want to.


INTERVIEWER: At this point, you're in an integrated Marine Corps.


INTERVIEWER: But if you're stationed in the South...


INTERVIEWER: ...you're in a segregated society.


INTERVIEWER: I want you to think about that. And see, if you can give the audience an, and I don't know what your background was. Did you have any experiences that reflected that fact when you went off the Base?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: Riding in the transportation, public transportation...


TURNER G. BLOUNT: ...the buses, it's, it's...

INTERVIEWER: ...what it was like.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: ...uh...

INTERVIEWER: Tell us what it was like. Come off the base, which was fully integrated into a segregated Southern society.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: Coming off the Base into the City of Jacksonville, uh, when I had one place to go across the tracks to restaurants, uh, things of that nature or the USO, once you crossed the tracks that you was in a sort of another world. And they had MPs to be at the railroad line to where the separation between the White and Blacks was, so if you hesitated a little bit on the White side of the track, then, of course, you was told to move on.

INTERVIEWER: And this was in Jacksonville of what year?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: This was in Jackson, this was in the '50s, as well.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. And how long did you stay in the Corps, uh, there in the '50s? Did you stay all the way through the...


INTERVIEWER: ...Fifties?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: ...in the Corps, Corps until 1969.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. So there were also, of the experiences in the South, were, were you stationed in the South the entire time?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: Uh, from overseas back and yes, most of the time because Parris Island, South Carolina, that's South.


TURNER G. BLOUNT: But I like to go back a little bit to doing Basic Training, if I might. (LAUGH)


TURNER G. BLOUNT: I, uh, one of the worst experiences I've had was, uh, going to, back and forth, I suppose, to the rifle range to fire. (BACKGROUND NOISE) The city of Jacksonville, uh, and Watson County would not allow Black Marines to travel aboard trucks with weapons. And the only way to get to the rifle range, we had to board a barge on the river and travel from the Montford Point to the rifle range with weapons and fire and, uh, then come back aboard a barge. Not travel the highways. And that's, uh, experiences that have been with me for many, many years.

INTERVIEWER: That's (WORD?) . I knew they had been loaded on barges to go (LAUGH) across, but I never heard the reason why. That's really (MUMBLES) (INTERVIEWER LAUGHS). I've heard the story about getting a warning from several people, but nobody ever said, well, they had to use barges 'cause we couldn't use trucks.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: That's right.

INTERVIEWER: Um, you, uh, (STAMMERS) served, you didn't serve in Korea.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: No, not in Korea.

INTERVIEWER: Not in Korea, itself...


INTERVIEWER: You did the service, but you were not stationed there...

TURNER G. BLOUNT: (OVERLAPPING) Uh, I was, uh, ordered to Korea. And I got as far as, uh, Camp Pendleton, California. And we, uh, was, was waiting on the Opstc, see what, whether the Opstc would be signed or not. And fortunately, it was signed. And I was, uh, assigned then to the Third Marine Division and we were shipped to Japan, instead of going (MUMBLES) .

INTERVIEWER: But before I move on to Vietnam, I wanna ask you one more question about the '50s and the segregation here, with an integrated service.


INTERVIEWER: Obviously, and tell me a little bit how you felt, if you would, about how you felt you were perceived and treated by the, by the community outside the base, once you went outside the base? When you were stationed at Camp Lejeune in the '50s, uh, what did it feel like to you, going into Jacksonville, uh, what were your, your feelings and emotions and so forth, if you, if you would?


TURNER G. BLOUNT: (CONTINUED) When I left the base in the 1950s in downtown Jacksonville visiting that city, uh, you wasn't really as an individual, if you were in the White part of town, if you visit the theaters or you had to go upstairs some place to, uh, watch a movie, you couldn't be in the same audience with the, with the White, um, people, of course. And, of course, if you'se tried to get in a restaurant, you were stopped at the door, turn around and told you're not wanted there and those kind of things.

INTERVIEWER: Now I wanna ask you another question about that...


INTERVIEWER: ...and I'm asking you to think about this. How do you feel that your fellow White Marines adapted to that? That is you, you were all based in an integrated unit, you lived together and so forth and so on, while you were on base.


INTERVIEWER: Then you went off base, was this just something that, that both the African American Marines and the Caucasian Marines accepted as just the reality on the, in the world? Or was there ever any discussion of that dichotomy, the difference between being in an integrated society on base and, and having to go back to (WORD?) rules and regulations off base? Just give me some idea of how that felt and how you felt about that and how you felt your White colleagues in the Marine Corps felt.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: Well, that's one of the reasons I didn't like to leave base that much, because it was as different as night and day. On base, you were with friends, treated properly, once you leave base, you have to go in your separate ways. And that was real touchy.

INTERVIEWER: Uh, uh, after your service in the states, you were, you went to Vietnam. So I want you tell me when you first went over to Vietnam, uh, under what circumstances? And then just go on with your story and tell me a little bit about your duties in Vietnam.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: Okay. I was stationed at Camp Lejeune and I was ordered to Okinawa, as a Duty Station. When I reached Okinawa, they reassigned me to, uh, a aircraft unit, uh, helicopters, of course, Mag-16. And said, instead of you being as a personnel here at Okinawa, you'll be going to Vietnam. And I really didn't understand what was going on, why I...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) What year was that, tell us?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: That was in '50, uh, four, '65, '65. And they said, we rotate our squad, our aircraft from every six, spend six months in Vietnam and they come back for six months. But this time they were going until, you know, the war's over. So I spent about three weeks, maybe a month, in, on Okinawa. And from there, I was shipped out to, uh, I flew to Vietnam. And we landed at, uh, uh, in Vietnam. And we took up boarding, uh, on, uh, in a little, in a place that the French had when they were in Vietnam, some buildings, their old buildings that they had there.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: (CONTINUED) And we used those for our billeting there for a while. And, uh, I was in Vietnam where the, there was very little contact with the Vietcongs, wasn't at first, America was considered at that time. 'Cause we was free to go just about anywhere we wanted to in Vietnam. DaNang, itself, I could walk down the streets of DaNang just like I could in Japan, I mean in, uh, Jacksonville, when we first got there. But...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) And tell me, tell me what your role was, your (STAMMERS) what were you doing there in, in DaNang?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: In DaNang, I was with a helicopter squadron and, uh, my duties there to make sure that the, the helicopters was protected, especially at night, with security and, uh, supporting the, make sure that they had the proper, uh, equipment, fuel, whatnot to fly. Um, we, after Vietnam for about, uh, oh five or six months, uh, the fighting still escalated and we couldn't go off base, like we used to. And we just had to, um, fight at night, be it attack each night.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: (CONTINUED) We build, it was building, moved to a camp called (STAMMERS) Marble Mountain. And that's where this, uh, helicopter squadron was to, uh, stay. And, of course, we were attacked nightly. They'd be trying to destroy our equipment and our helicopters. And, of course, that mean that, uh, a lot of Vietcongs was killed in, within the camp area because of that, uh, attacking us on a nightly basis.

INTERVIEWER: And what kind of, what kind of weaponry were they using in these attacks? Give us a description of how they attacked you.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: We had, uh, our camp area up front with our, uh, machine guns position set up and of course, in our rear was a little river, so we didn't worry too much about the river. But just the front. There's a lot of sand dunes and things out front, too. So they would try to slip through the sand dunes and, to avoid our machine guns. And, of course, um, they would come in with their satchel chargers and, uh, with their weapons. Their weapons was, uh, attached to their arms with a hand to be free, where they could use the hands.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: (CONTINUED) And they would drop satchel chargers down the smoke stacks of our helicopters. And (PHONE RINGS) this, this, this only happened, uh... (TECHNICAL)

TURNER G. BLOUNT: (CONTINUED) Oh, they would, they would, they would attack us each night because they was trying to get to the helicopters, of course. And this particular night, they had an opportunity, uh, to find a, we had the sand dunes was pretty high to come through. And, of course, they came in. And that was almost like hand to hand combat because they were so close, you know, at night. And they was able to destroy several helicopters and, and we was killed about maybe 30 or 40, uh, uh, Vietnamese within their camp area that particular night, so that's a night to remember, always remember.

INTERVIEWER: And how long were you in that base, Marble Mountain?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: Uh, from the, I spent a year in, uh, Korea, in Vietnam there. And, uh, we was there, I would say about, uh, eight months. Now after those, uh, Vietcongs, uh, and well, the Vietnamese, we call them Vietcongs 'cause it's (MUMBLES) . They were, bodies, uh, had to be destroyed. And I, it was left up to me, with my men, to have all those bodies picked up. And the ones that was still alive, they was, they wanted to interview them, of course, then see what kind of information they could get from them.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: (CONTINUED) And I had seen that those was disposed of. And, of course, that was a sort of (STAMMERS) part of my (LAUGH) tour that I never will forget.

INTERVIEWER: Now when you say disposed of, you're talking about the, the bodies that were already dead?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: The bodies that was already dead, yes.

INTERVIEWER: Um, now when you left that assignment, did you go back to the states?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: I came back to the states, after that assignment. And, uh, I was assigned at Camp Lejeune at that, this particular time.

INTERVIEWER: And then within, and how long did you stay in after you came back to the states?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: I stayed in the Marine Corps from the time I, 1966, when I came back from Vietnam and I retired in 1969.

INTERVIEWER: And after you retired, what did you do, pretty much?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: After I retired, I started working for, uh, Sears. And, you know, in addition to Sears, I joined the, the Church, uh, in the Community Center on Missioner Baptist Church. And we decided that we need to help provide housing for low (STAMMERS) income families. So we build a project complex. And I managed this complex, as well as, uh, working at Sears, at the same time.

INTERVIEWER: And now, I assume, you're retired from working at Sears.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: Oh, yes, I'm retired now from Sears and I'm a, a politician, uh, so to speak. (LAUGH)

INTERVIEWER: Okay. And what do you mean by that?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: I'm a member of the Jacksonville City Council. I've been elected four times to, uh, serve two year terms each time.


TURNER G. BLOUNT: And what's so unique, unique, I would say about that is that, as I look back, when I first arrived in the city, I wasn't, uh, allowed to go in any of the White establishments. Uh, wouldn't have me, wasn't treated as a, I would say as a, we was treated as a first, we wasn't treated as a first class citizen, I put it like that. But now I'm able to help make decisions over the whole city. And it is really, uh, it's interesting and then I (SOUNDS LIKE) really, I love to do that.

INTERVIEWER: Let me ask you, as to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) questions in, (LAUGH) um, well, I'm gonna ask you three. What do you think is the historical significance of the Montford Point Marines?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: I, the Marine, uh, Montford Point Marine is, is just that, uh, well, organization that, uh, will always be there because it's sort of a beginning. You know, you look back where you've come from. And it means so much to let people know that, uh, the opportunities like there are now was, was different than what they were during those particular times.

INTERVIEWER: Um, do you think the Montford Point Marines contributed to that difference?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: Oh, yes. The Montford Point Marines, uh, because, when you first join, uh, it seemed like no one wanted to recognize you as a Marine, you know, wearing the uniform. And the pride that was bestowed upon the individuals that were, we will make it. I don't care what we have to go up against, but we will make it. We will be Marines and we can show the, the country or the public that we can do the same that any other Marine, regardless of the color or creed.

INTERVIEWER: And how do you think the Marine Corps has, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it's affected your life? What do you say would be the most important influence that the (WORD?) had on you, personally?

TURNER G. BLOUNT: The discipline that you received in the Marine Corps... (TECHNICAL)

TURNER G. BLOUNT: (CONTINUED) I think the most important affects that, to me, was the discipline that is, was, is it's still upon me being a Marine. And as I carry that through civilian life, I feel like it, uh, if it wasn't for the Marine Corps, I don't know whether I could have be what I am today. (LAUGH)

INTERVIEWER: And, um, what are your feelings now about having an... (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) But what are your feelings now about having been a Montford Point Marine? (TECHNICAL)

TURNER G. BLOUNT: I feel like, about being a Montford Point Marine is that I have contributed something to this society. Um, Marines, Montford Point Black Marines of today, uh, a lot of them have no knowledge of what took place back in the '50s, the '40s. And why we had to, I say suffer in a lot of respects, and today they have the same opportunities as the White have.

INTERVIEWER: And you got a few minutes to say whatever you wanna say or if you don't wanna say anything, the interview's over. So I, if, if you, something you wanna say, then I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) if you really feel like you wanna say whatever statement you wanna make.

TURNER G. BLOUNT: I feel like it's over.

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