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MELVIN BORDEN

June 29th, 2005


a thumbnail image of Gunnery Sergeant Melvin Borden Gunnery Sergeant Melvin BordenGunnery Sergeant Melvin Borden was raised on an Alabama farm and joined the Corps in 1948. Trained as a cook and steward, he worked in officers's clubs and with several generals, serving overseas in Japan, Okinawa, Korea, and other duty stations. He later was a supply instructor at Camp Lejeune, retiring from the Corps in 1968. He then obtained a civil service position at a warehouse on Camp Lejeune, where he worked for twenty-three years before making his retirement home in Jacksonville, North Carolina.


INTERVIEWER: I'd like you if you would please is to, for the record, just state your name and your date of birth.

MELVIN BORDEN: Ah, Melvin Borden. July the 24th, 1928.

INTERVIEWER: I'd like to begin by asking you to tell us just a little bit about your life before you joined the marines, and where your educational levels were once you joined the marines.

MELVIN BORDEN: Uh, my home in, uh, where I live is Alpine, Alabama. Uh, I would say Tally (SP?), Alabama because you don't where Alpine at. Well, I grew up with, there was 10 of us in the family, 5 boys and 5 girls. And uh, we had a lovely family. (STAMMERS) Mother and father, they cared. We were God-fearing people. They always sent us to church and Sunday school. And uh...

INTERVIEWER: What did the family do for a living?

MELVIN BORDEN: We were farmers. Uh huh. So, anyway, back in that time, when I come up, we farm. And as we farmed, so much that we made, we had to pay it out back to the owner of the property, even if you had the property owned by yourself, you owed, you still had to save that much you had to pay out. So, we would work out, farm, you know, pick cotton, corn, whatever, let's say cut wood and all, just try to make the end meet, we truly would. Uh huh.

INTERVIEWER: And your education?

MELVIN BORDEN: Ah, I would, I went, seventh grade. And I finished after I got in the Marine Corps.

INTERVIEWER: And you finished a high school...

MELVIN BORDEN: High school. Uh huh. And had three years in college, (STAMMERS) uh, uh, trained in college. You know, not a...

INTERVIEWER: So at the point in time you went into the Marines you had a seventh grade education.

MELVIN BORDEN: Seventh grade education.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Tell me a little bit about why you decided to join the Marines, Mr. Borden.

MELVIN BORDEN: Well, what had happened, you know by having a large family and I always wanted to do something to support my family. So, I went to, uh, Fort Bennett, Georgia, try to join the Army. Anyway, they put me in class, uh, put me in a class, class two, and said they would call me. So, before then, before I went then I went, I worked for, uh, on the railroad track and, uh, I was sort of young and they made me the water boy. And old man...

INTERVIEWER: Where was, where was this?

MELVIN BORDEN: Alabama. Sullivan, Alabama. And the old man would tell me, he'd say, hey, I'd look back, turn your head around so we know you coming back, you been going, you been going long enough. So, I left, and when I, when I left the railroad I went to the coalmine. I worked there.

INTERVIEWER: Where was this?

MELVIN BORDEN: That's all in Alabama. Every, everything I tell you now is in Alabama, that from Talladega to Addison, Alabama and then I went Gaston, Alabama. And I worked at a pipe shop. And I worked there, so the next place, went to work, I went to work on a farm down from where we live 'cause it helped out on the family. So, from then, I went to Birmingham, Alabama, started working at McWain Pipe Shop. After going through the coalmine and everything, it pretty good money there. I guess I was making something like, uh, $15 to $20 a week. So, that was good money then.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) And, uh, well the old man told me, this old guy, old Black guy, he told me, says, son, let me tell you something. He said, you see that little boy you breaking pipe with, the little boy I was breaking pipe with he was a White kid. I say, yes, sir. My parents always taught me, honor older people. So, he said, I start to breaking pipe with McWain, when the only pipe shop, just like that, years ago. So, I'm 74 years old and what I'm waiting on now, they going to let me work until the janitor retire. He get to 76 next year and he going to retire and I'm going to get his job as janitor. He said, so why don't you do something for yourself.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) 'Cause you going to be around here till that day, you'll still be working here. So, that night I left. My mother didn't know where I was going. I was staying with my aunt then in Birmingham, Alabama, went down to the recruiting station. And never will forget they was shooting dice, that what I call it then. And that they got $75 piece for me and another guy, Ezekiel Jones, in the Montford Point, say he want, I say yeah, we'll go ahead to Montford Point and they told how it was. They put us on the train that night, give us a ticket, it's a meal ticket. And that's where I started at.

INTERVIEWER: So you joined in Birmingham?

MELVIN BORDEN: Birmingham.

INTERVIEWER: And there was dice game going on?

MELVIN BORDEN: Well, I hear, there was a dice game, something going on between. It was a (STAMMERS) Navy chief, Air Force guy, an Army guy, they were recruiting people in the Marines, in the Marines then. That's how they got, that's right, they got in. I had a, a piece of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hit my leg and got a hole in it, and that's all and he asked what had happened and I told him what had happened. And they examined it and they said it ain't going to bother you.

INTERVIEWER: Now did you know you were going into the Marine Corps rather than the other services?

MELVIN BORDEN: Yeah, I volunteered to go into the Marine Corps 'cause I had wanted to go. I had heard a lot about the Marines. And one way out, one reason why I wanted to go into the Marines 'cause the Marines hadn't received no blacks in the Marine Corps. And I just wanted to see if I could make it. You, you know that time when you're young you want to see how proud and how strong you are. And I believed I could make it.

INTERVIEWER: And, and what year was this?

MELVIN BORDEN: That 1948.

INTERVIEWER: 1948?

MELVIN BORDEN: March 18.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

MELVIN BORDEN: Uh huh.

INTERVIEWER: Um, so when you, when you joined did you know that the Marine Corps had not admitted Blacks until 1942?

MELVIN BORDEN: (STAMMERS) Yes I did. I was told that they, (STAMMERS) at school, they were told us that in school. And they, uh, when I went to the recruiting in the Army place they try get, they told me that also, the recruiting sarge. They had put me in 1A and I didn't wait.

INTERVIEWER: You grew up in a segregated society. You were aware of all the rules...

MELVIN BORDEN: (OVERLAPPING) All the rules. Right.

INTERVIEWER: How about telling me a little bit about how you traveled to Montford Point? Just tell me about your journey from Birmingham to Montford Point.

MELVIN BORDEN: Okay, that's a story. Anyway we, me and that guy, they put us on a train that night, the Dixieland Hummingbird. Dixieland...

INTERVIEWER: Was the other guy a Black guy as well?

MELVIN BORDEN: The other guy was a Black guy, too. So, and, uh, they said we need you in there (UNINTELLIGIBLE) quarters or something, and I didn't know what they were talking about. And the Black guy said, well I don't know why that White guy, why he got to pick on them but they, they there was a quarter, I think what they were looking for. And we got to Florence, South Carolina, we were messing around, there were some, you know, like, kids messing around, you know, train left us. Had all our ticket, our clothes and everything on there.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) See it said to be there 2 hour. Before you knew it, we had messed around about 3 hours and the train was gone. So, we tried everywhere to try to, Red Cross, and the Navy Leaf and everything, you know, that night we couldn't get anywhere. So, the guy told us at the recruiting station down there that the best thing you ought to do is, see, you ever heard of Huff? No I ain't ever heard of no thing as Huff, who is Huff? Some buffalo or something? He said no. He said you'll find out when you get there, if you get there. So, we went down the road and started hitchhiking.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) So this guy was parked, he was tired. He said, well I'm going to Moorehead City, he said, if y'all, you know if, if anyone of you can drive, and no one we'll have no license, well when I wake up you can go onto Morehead City if you want to go. We said, no sir, that's the wrong way. We didn't know where we was. (LAUGH) You see, he had come right through there. So, the next day, the uh, Red Cross (STAMMERS) give us, put us on the train, give us a ticket. When we got to Wilmington, our clothes and everything in there. And then we caught the bus and come to Montford Point.

INTERVIEWER: Were all of these trains and buses segregated?

MELVIN BORDEN: Right.

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

MELVIN BORDEN: Okay, well, they had, uh, just, like, they had a separate place for the Blacks on the (STAMMERS), on the train. And when we got to Wilmington, he put a separate place on the bus for Blacks. Now he had another thing, they had a big sign up there said, do not get in front of White line. See, in other words, you couldn't get on the bus until all the Whites got on the bus, see. And once, all of them got on the bus, some of them were nice, and some of them when you walked by, some of them said, nigger don't you touch me. And that would kind of scare you but you had to go all the way back to the bus, go back.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Now the train cars, that the entire car would be segregated.

MELVIN BORDEN: Right. Segregated. Entire car. And your bathroom and everything, you could go anywhere in that car 'cause the whole car that you was in was segregated, was, was for.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me your early impressions of Montford Point. What did you think about Montford Point during your first two weeks?

MELVIN BORDEN: Well, the first two weeks when I got there, uh, I only feel sorry for the guy who was there 'cause I had come through enough of hard time, and trials and tribulations, it didn't bother me. And I thought, I was telling him, I said this will make a man out of you. I said, I think this is going to be very good for you 'cause I remember the first week we went on a hike. I carried a little kid for a while for a bar of candy, I like to eat. And I carried him. And he was behind the lines, so when the drill instructor find that out that guy caught a punch for that.

INTERVIEWER: What do you mean you carried him?

MELVIN BORDEN: I just put him on my back, he just give out we were going on a hike. And I just put him where I had packed, I just told him to climb on my back, I just put him on back. 'Cause I was used to hard work, I had, that's all I ever did in my life, see. So, there nothing they could do to, to, uh, bother me or hurt me or anything like that because I was used to running, I didn't have nothing, all I, all I did was ran all the time. And uh, you know, when you go to church in the country, your sister and thing get a ride back in the car. I would run my way all the way behind the car.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) The car light, the taillight never got out of my sight. And I was used to, you know, that. So, it didn't bother me, training, any, anything didn't bother me. What bothered me, the way, I think the most important thing, what hurt me so bad, was this. We had some food or something looked like with diarrhea or something, I don't know what it, what, a guy, he messed on himself in the bathroom, and he washed his short out. But when he washed his short, you know, like they have Clorox to put in your short to get them clean. They didn't get them clean. So when, Huff got his short that next morning...

INTERVIEWER: That was Sergeant Huff?

MELVIN BORDEN: Sergeant Huff. Sergeant Huff. He got his short, he called all the, I think it was three, two or three, two drill team and they told us all to fill up a bucket full of sand. And that's what made me fall out with him from then on. I, I never didn't care too much because I figured what didn't have to be done. If the guy had ever did that on purpose but we couldn't help what we ate. And uh, they tied him up against a tree and had us give him a sand bath.

INTERVIEWER: Hmm.

MELVIN BORDEN: Uh huh. With that sand, do the wash, clean him up, see. So that's, that's, that's bothered me and that sort of took a little bit from him to me. I always feel that they were great and I feel about the good instructor have to be hard. You can't be easy. You've got to be hard 'cause I say if I go into the battlefield I'm going to need some good training. But anyway, I was put in 9th Platoon and I got put back to the 11th Platoon. But I graduated with the 9th. Training wasn't nothing to me, I was used to, to just training, it didn't even bother me.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) But anyway, the, the guy was crying that day and, you know, they, got hot out there, we had been marching for about four hours, no water, no anything, nothing like that. So, I told him, I said look here, I'll tell you what I'll do, I say, I'm going to fall out and y'all came over to the dispenser, you could get some water. So I fell out and Huff say, take that boy that's at the dispenser, you know, see we won't let him die if you were wondering. So when we got behind the barrier, they put me down, you know, (SOUNDS LIKE) we talking.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) So, I walked onto the dispenser, knowing that the dispenser, there was a private sitting on the step. I mistake a chief for a private, you know, the only way you can ever know, on one side, so the side facing upwards is bare, with nothing on it. So, he said, where you looking at going? I said, none of your damn business, what's it to you? And ever since then I caught hell. Running all the time. See, I, the other side he was a chief, so I think what I did, the most trouble was I wouldn't let them give me no shot 'cause I, wasn't nothing wrong with me. And I fought the shot, they give me one anyway. But I fought the shot.

INTERVIEWER: You didn't want to take the shot?

MELVIN BORDEN: (STAMMERS) Wasn't nothing wrong with me. And they put me back to the 11th Platoon, Platoon, came from the 9th to the 11th. But I, I, I just, I just worked, worked with recruiting thing, like that, see that they run and different things like that. But I graduated with my platoon and they graduated me with them. Uh huh.

INTERVIEWER: What about the feeling that existed with the men in the camp, when you were in boot camp? What was that like?

MELVIN BORDEN: Well, a lot of them when I went through didn't make it. They, they, they, they hadn't had the experience of going through hard time, I don't think. And uh, what you call, mama baby, they would, they men, they, they suffered a lot. And they worried a lot. And they, see when you in, when you, when you in training like that, you can't complain how them people treat you because that go, you don't know how you going to be treated. So, I would tell them, I said the worser (SIC) they treat you here the better off you will be. 'Cause I had been treated like that, and I had remembered, so it didn't bother me.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) But it bothered men, it bothered me too, you know. To see them, try to talk to them, try to encourage them and all. And most of them didn't make it, and some of them did. And uh, they had a thing that for the steward fear, they'd tell you, you either going to be a steward or you could go home. A lot of them went home. But I said, I'm going to serve in the Marine Corps (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

INTERVIEWER: But what do you mean, you either be a steward or go home?

MELVIN BORDEN: In other words, a steward working for officer, get like a, you know, a chef cook and uh, uh a steward, see. And, um, say, say now for an instance, for the, for the officer's medicine club, that's why they had been getting a lot of stewards that work in the club, you would serve club and hire work. So, anyway, a lot of them didn't make it. So, it didn't make me no difference or anyway, they would bus you over there, you would go in there, you would serve, you know, how you serve and all, so I got picked up for the gym and um, had to go serve in there.

INTERVIEWER: Now this was after you went through...

MELVIN BORDEN: Boot camp. After we got out of boot camp.

INTERVIEWER: But you're saying that a lot of people when they got out of boot camp, how were they allowed to go home?

MELVIN BORDEN: Well see, they couldn't make it, if you couldn't make it, couldn't do the training.

INTERVIEWER: Couldn't go through boot camp?

MELVIN BORDEN: If you couldn't go through boot camp, see, you, you, you were allowed to go, you, with your training, and you allowed to go home.

INTERVIEWER: And then when you came out of boot camp you were sent to either stewards or munitions handlers or something of that nature?

MELVIN BORDEN: Uh, right, when I, when I, when I got out of boot camp, right, you went to a steward school, a cook and baking school, you know, service school.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

MELVIN BORDEN: Mm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: After you get out of boot camp, did you ever get into Wilmington or Jacksonville or towns around Camp Lejeune?

MELVIN BORDEN: I went through Jacksonville, maybe three times, went through there a second time, I'd like to have got killed there.

INTERVIEWER: I want you to tell me like what was Jacksonville like when you went into Jacksonville?

MELVIN BORDEN: (OVERLAPPING) Well, when I went into Jacksonville I didn't have no conflict with no White at all, because, well we went down to the colored section.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me about that.

MELVIN BORDEN: Okay, we went down to the colored section, called the Little Dixie Café, and we were sitting there, I was with a guy named Wallace. And he, he, 'cause he feel he was a bad Marine he always liked to pull a knife on a person. So, three guys come in there, civilians, you know, and we were sitting on with these...

INTERVIEWER: These are Black guys?

MELVIN BORDEN: Black guys, everything in there, Black. So, uh, the guy said something. So, uh, this, this, this guy told him, none of your damn business, you know, and the girl was sitting (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I said, don't bother us, guy. We don't know what he is. So, he said, what you say, he told him, he pulled out a little gun, looked like it was that long (LAUGH) and uh, see we sat there and he talked, told that guy what he thought and beat him upside the head and told him everything he wanted to have, say, when I say scat I don't want to see nothing but the bottom of your feet. When that guy left there, he took off.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) And I was sitting there and then I moved, and he said, where you going, I said, nowhere, he said, no damn way you ain't going nowhere, sit there. I was eating a fish sandwich. It took me the longest to eat that fish sandwich (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they had sat down and had two gun, all them guys had gone. So, I remember then, don't mess with no civilian outside, unless you know them. So I, I, I didn't have no problem, out of town 'cause I went, you know. And I got on the bus, when I got on the bus I sit where I was supposed to sit. And uh, at the station I know I wasn't supposed to sit there, I didn't even bother with it.

INTERVIEWER: So you always obeyed the laws of segregation?

MELVIN BORDEN: Right. 'Cause see I was raised in segregation. I know what the punishment was when you violate them, see. And uh, like this, uh, this, this, this friend of mine, he talking about, I don't, he, what he wasn't going to do, what, the police took him down to the station. And his head was full of it when he come back. You did what they told you to do, he said yeah, yeah, actually, you got to did what they told you to do (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

INTERVIEWER: How about describing the Black area of Jacksonville at that time? What was the general feeling of the town?

MELVIN BORDEN: Well, the general, the general feeling was both they were glad to see Marines come in, the merchandising and the people, cause that's where they made the money at. And they had these places where you could go and get sandwich and different thing like that. And, though, go meet a girl, they had a movie where you go upstairs and the White downstairs. See, as long as you abide by the regulation they had, see, you didn't have no problem.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) And uh, so you come out there, they had a place where you, thing there, get on the bus, you go to the back of the bus and you sit down, whatever the bus driver tell you, that's what you do. But I, I, I, I never had any trouble out of uh, no one in Jacksonville 'cause I never went to a place where they didn't go. I had trouble on the base, though, Camp Lejeune.

INTERVIEWER: Well, well tell me about that. Was that racism you experienced?

MELVIN BORDEN: Well, it, it was definitely racism.

INTERVIEWER: Well, tell me a little about that.

MELVIN BORDEN: Okay. When you go it with a working party, my wife worked at a cafeteria, but that's after we got married.

INTERVIEWER: When did you get married?

MELVIN BORDEN: I got married in '53.

INTERVIEWER: This is after you've been out of boot camp.

MELVIN BORDEN: Out of boot camp.

INTERVIEWER: You're assigned to something in Lejeune.

MELVIN BORDEN: In Lejeune. I was assigned (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

INTERVIEWER: Tell me about that.

MELVIN BORDEN: Uh, anyway what happened when I, when I was, uh, they, they (STAMMERS), they would tell you, they say, you don't go in no barrack, you take one of the hole, pothole, if you want to go to the bathroom, go in there, you're on the working party. You put your feet in one of them barracks, you got to, you're discharged, you going home, see.

INTERVIEWER: What kind of barracks?

MELVIN BORDEN: The, the (STAMMERS), there wasn't nothing but White. See, we went on down working parties. But Black...

INTERVIEWER: Where were you stationed?

MELVIN BORDEN: I was at Montford Point.

INTERVIEWER: And this was '53?

MELVIN BORDEN: '50, well '53, '48, '50, '51.

INTERVIEWER: You were still in Montford Point?

MELVIN BORDEN: Right, '51, I was still in Montford Point. Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: And you're going into Lejeune with a working party?

MELVIN BORDEN: Right. Well, let me go back now, in '50, again '40, '40, I worked at the officer's club from '51, let me get myself straight, to '52. Then, they sent me to general quarters, I started working in general quarters. You see, and I worked in general quarters with the, I got, then that's when I was stationed, uh, back here on, on the main side. We were stationed on the main side, they stationed us down there at the officer's club. And they had a barracks behind there for all of us stewards to stay in, after you got out of boot camp, after, I stayed there.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) So, in other word, uh, I went to work for the general, uh, first time. General Hart, General Listenberg and, um, I worked for them, you know, for, with the other stewards. I was just a helper, when they need help I work for them. They would always tell me, you know, what to do in a say, length or so. It didn't, it didn't make me no difference 'cause (STAMMERS) I was raised up, under that law. So, that didn't hurt me to follow that law, see. And ah, I worked there, I got married working there, but.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me about the barracks thing. You were saying they wouldn't let you go into the White barracks?

MELVIN BORDEN: Right. You couldn't go into the White barracks. And uh, you had, you had to have your own, um, potty stool and for if to go to the bathroom, if you had to go to the bathroom, you had your water fountain, had your water, you know, your drinking water but you didn't go in the barracks.

INTERVIEWER: So you carried your water with you?

MELVIN BORDEN: They had a thing, you know, when go in the working party.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah.

MELVIN BORDEN: They had a tank of water that you can go for Black and then they had a, a, you know, they, they...

INTERVIEWER: Toilet facility.

MELVIN BORDEN: Toilet facility.

INTERVIEWER: For Blacks.

MELVIN BORDEN: For Black.

INTERVIEWER: And this was in the early '50s?

MELVIN BORDEN: Early '50s.

INTERVIEWER: And this was on Camp Lejeune?

MELVIN BORDEN: On Camp Lejeune. Mm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

MELVIN BORDEN: And ah, but anyway, we should go over there and I, I, ah, I just go into the icehouse over there, you, you know, to pick up ice for bringing back to the officer's club. I worked at the officer's club. But anytime, that's when they integrated the bus, I believe, I can't think of the year that they integrated the bus.

INTERVIEWER: Now was this a Marine bus?

MELVIN BORDEN: The, ah, the Marine bus into Jacksonville bus area. I don't remember, uh, either riding on the Marine bus integrated until the buses was integrated in Jacksonville coming off the base. Until the bus was, bus was integrated in Jacksonville coming off the base. But ah, you know, we always catch the bus when they, when you got on the working party, they would send you the, send you in a truck or something, you didn't have to worry about it, cause you'd be out of the group.

INTERVIEWER: Now by buses, you're talking about civilian buses?

MELVIN BORDEN: Civilian buses. Mm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: And the working parties were transported by the Marine Corps vehicles?

MELVIN BORDEN: Ah, right.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, and that was transported from Montford Point over to Camp Lejeune.

MELVIN BORDEN: (OVERLAPPING) Camp Lejeune. If you go, yeah, from Montford Point to Camp Lejeune. I think we rode a bus, couple of times, over there for a parade. We were in a parade, but that was all Montford Point, they were all Black.

INTERVIEWER: Mm hmm.

MELVIN BORDEN: And then you, he had a White guy on there, officer in charge of the group or something like that, that's alright.

INTERVIEWER: Now, how long did you stay in the Corps?

MELVIN BORDEN: I stayed in 20 years and about 6 month. About 20 years.

INTERVIEWER: Well, so you were still in a Black unit in the early 1950s?

MELVIN BORDEN: Right.

INTERVIEWER: When did you first go into an integrated unit?

MELVIN BORDEN: I think, uh, '51. I think when I went to Parris Island. It was integrated, integrated there. And ah, hmm, let's see, trying to figure when they first integrated that base there. My mind, I forget sometime.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, yeah, it's okay.

MELVIN BORDEN: But, uh, I didn't, when I went to work for a gym, well, when I remember when we first went into integrated was '52, I believe. It could've been '49, but that's when they had, '52, '53, we had White also join in the steward, they would join in the steward for you. They, they had Whites coming in then.

INTERVIEWER: Before that, was the steward's branch all Black?

MELVIN BORDEN: All Black.

INTERVIEWER: In the early '50s, Whites were admitted into the steward?

MELVIN BORDEN: Right, the early '50, or either right after '50, White was, ah, entered then because I went overseas, let me see, went over about '56, or '57, or one of the, yeah, about '52, when the, uh, the, uh, White told to come in, they start integrating the steward. And then they started integrating everything, then right about the same time everything else was integrated.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

MELVIN BORDEN: Uh huh.

INTERVIEWER: Now so you were serving primarily stateside in the early '50s. And you were cooking for a general?

MELVIN BORDEN: General. Cooking and steward.

INTERVIEWER: And steward?

MELVIN BORDEN: And steward. But you had, just like you had ah, what I would do they would use me for like a handyman. 'Cause I can cook, I can steward, too. So, I went in as a (STAMMERS), well, there were three guys working there. So they would use me when one take... (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: So you worked a cook and a steward for these generals in the early '50s.

MELVIN BORDEN: In the early '50s.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me about your assignments after that. Did you go to Korea?

MELVIN BORDEN: Well, uh, in '50, let me, let me go back, when working for these generals I was assigned at the last point, I was assigned a general, General Lucky. And uh, he went overseas, he asked me to go with him. But my wife had to go in the hospital, he said you stay here until your wife, uh, come out the hospital. And then we'll send your order back, so you can come on the plane 'cause you had to go on the ship you'd be a troop handler by your gunnery sergeant, see.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) So, he sent the, he sent the, uh, letter back. And uh, when, when my wife got out of the hospital, so in our (STAMMERS), I got a plane ticket, you know, going overseas to go to work for him. He lived in Okinawa.

INTERVIEWER: And who was this?

MELVIN BORDEN: General Lucky.

INTERVIEWER: General Lucky?

MELVIN BORDEN: Uh huh. Lucky. And uh, his wife, (SOUNDS LIKE) Theria, now they send me, uh, Christmas bonus. People laughed when I worked for him. So I went over there to Okinawa to work with him and I stayed in the same quarters he stayed in. See, I was his personal steward. And he had a General (UNINTELLIGIBLE), which he told me I didn't have to work then at all, just take of him and the house, he his guest see. So, uh, that's all I did. But the, the, the fact, I would like to tell you this, for you to put what you want to, then you can just take it out, okay.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) On my way overseas, his uh, his uh, how would, how would I say it. People in Mississippi were mean, you know. And I had a, kind uh, Alabama habit kind ah, a bad feeling for him, you know, a hateful feeling. So, when I got, he, he caught the plane with me, but the, but the General sent me a special order and, you know, and I told him, probably I knew him and all 'cause see anyway the General, when I rode the plane with him wanted me to cook for him and, you know, did a thing and that.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) So we got to Hawaii and uh, we went in there and took a bath, change clothes. And he say, he say let's go downtown to Liberty, Tachikawa, Japan. I'll never forget the bar.

INTERVIEWER: You were where?

MELVIN BORDEN: Tachikawa, Japan.

INTERVIEWER: About what year was this?

MELVIN BORDEN: It was '54, I believe. '53 or '54, when I went over there, I can't, I didn't, I can't remember when I...

INTERVIEWER: That's okay, that's okay.

MELVIN BORDEN: But anyway, when I, if, if you, either one of y'all been overseas? Have you ever been overseas?

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, not to Japan, but...

MELVIN BORDEN: Okay, well you know when, you walk in the bar, the girl will run up to you? Okay, well, when him and I walked in the bar, they ran from me. (LAUGH) See, and, uh, he went on back there got a table, he back there. So, I went over to the bar, to get me a beer, so mama san just crying all more, she be just telling, I didn't know what she was talking about, no papa san can come in there, he would talk. And she wouldn't sell me no beer, so papa san got sake. I couldn't drink, you know, take the beer. And uh, I don't know, what they were talking about but mama san went in the back in the kitchen somewhere.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) I don't know where she went. And when I looked around, Air Force, Navy, Marine, all of them said, nigger, you know where you at? Said, this is your life. And see, a Black kid just had got his head cut off and they couldn't find out who cut his head. But they tell you about going in a mixed bar, see. And so it, it, it, it (UNINTELLIGIBLE) scared me that I know they were serious, they were going to kill me. And so, I had this, guess what then, but the White guy that rode the plane with me. He got him, he got a .38, he said you might get two of us, but I'll damn sure get five of you, see.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) And I always love Mississippi. He from Mississippi, and I just hate the guy from Mississippi but that, that'll show you, you don't know where your friends at. You know what I mean?

INTERVIEWER: This is a White guy from Mississippi...

MELVIN BORDEN: From Mississippi.

INTERVIEWER: Standing up for you.

MELVIN BORDEN: Sticking up for me. And by that time, here come along the MP, the OD came in there with five MPs. And, uh, he, uh, he told him about the other thing, and all the MP was White. Now, where the White go, they didn't have no Black MP, but where the Black go, they have a White and a Black MP, see. And, uh, he told me, and, uh, he told the guy about the pistol, they going to rack him up. I told him we were going to the general's quarter. So he said, I'm going to tell y'all why don't you all go back with that bag, sleep in that bag and catch the plane tomorrow and leave here.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) See 'cause we have enough trouble anyway. And that's, I say, that's the closest time I've ever been to my death. I've been on, in the storm on the sea, in a storm in there but that's the closest time I ever looked like I saw death.

INTERVIEWER: And that was, you were stopping in Japan on your way to home?

MELVIN BORDEN: On my way overseas, I was going overseas.

INTERVIEWER: And where were you going overseas?

MELVIN BORDEN: To Okinawa.

INTERVIEWER: To Okinawa.

MELVIN BORDEN: Uh huh.

INTERVIEWER: So you stopped in Japan...

MELVIN BORDEN: (OVERLAPPING) Stopped in Japan.

INTERVIEWER: On your way to Okinawa?

MELVIN BORDEN: Mm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: So you served in Okinawa?

MELVIN BORDEN: Right.

INTERVIEWER: Ah, were you ever in Korea proper?

MELVIN BORDEN: Well, I, I say yes and no, but when your with the General, you travel with him on the plane, he go everywhere, you go everywhere but you not stationed at (WORD?), stationed with him. He was a, like a base, when I was stationed in Okinawa, that's where he was stationed at. But when he go to Japan or (STAMMERS), 'cause, you know, wherever he go, you go, you, you preparing to go with him. Before be stationed at...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) How long did you do that kind of work?

MELVIN BORDEN: I did that kind of work, three, just about four years.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, and then what did you do after that?

MELVIN BORDEN: Okay, then he sent me to school. He told me that he got ready to retire, maybe, he be retiring Quantico. He went up to Quantico. And he told me, he said when I leave Quantico I'm going to (STAMMERS), not, yeah Quantico, (STAMMERS), no, Norfolk. He said when I leave Norfolk I'm going to retire. I said what you want to do? So, he said I want you to train the stewards, you know, train the guys. And tell them what they need and everything like that. So, I went over to the school there. And, uh, they, and he, he wrote a letter for me.

INTERVIEWER: What, what school did you go to?

MELVIN BORDEN: Marine Corps supply school. Just where I left that steward school at.

INTERVIEWER: And where was that?

MELVIN BORDEN: Ah, Montford Point.

INTERVIEWER: Montford Point?

MELVIN BORDEN: Okay. Meanwhile, they had put White also in the steward field then they would integrate. So, in other word, they had, they didn't have no officer for a steward for, you know, this special MOS 361936, 36, 3611. So, what they did, they send, uh, the new White guy, sent four of them up and sent me up, and another Black guy. See, 'cause you've got to have (STAMMERS) a officer and since I qualify, I guess I qualify for all that. But when I went up there, the other three White guy made it. I never did. So, I come working for them in a way.

INTERVIEWER: They know that the other three White guys made...

MELVIN BORDEN: Made, they, they, they had made officer.

INTERVIEWER: And you did not?

MELVIN BORDEN: I did not. And, uh, so anyway, I stayed there and worked. So, I would go in, uh, before I left, uh, General, General Mason and things. He sent me a promotion there. (STAMMERS) That's when I picked up gunnery.

INTERVIEWER: You became a gunnery sergeant?

MELVIN BORDEN: Gunnery Sergeant, yeah. He sent promotion to my OC. He told the general what I had did and what (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And, uh, so, he told me if I go to Norfolk with him, he said I'm retiring though but I leave you in the good hands of a good man. So, my wife said, you done been overseas, all over everywhere with them, all of them storms and everything, see. You back home, say, see if he let you stay at home. She say yeah, somebody's changed your school. So, I went to the school and I (STAMMERS), I stayed, that's where I retired at so. This guy told me we were going back overseas.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) I had orders and things, we are going back to Korea. And, uh, they told me, say I could make E8. See, you just go back over there, you, you know, you'll make the E8. He said to me, cause but I said Lord didn't bless me, you know, I've been through so much so I put in my letter to get out. And they let me out.

INTERVIEWER: And when did you leave the Corps?

MELVIN BORDEN: In, uh, '68.

INTERVIEWER: In '68.

MELVIN BORDEN: Mm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: Did you go to Vietnam? Or were you stateside after you came back from Okinawa?

MELVIN BORDEN: Well, after I came back from Okinawa I put my, I, I still, when I came back, I still worked for this gentleman, see 'cause he didn't get out until late. 'Cause we be coming back...

INTERVIEWER: When did he retire?

MELVIN BORDEN: He retired, uh, in ah, Norfolk, Virginia. I (STAMMERS) forget what year he retired now. But anyway he told me that he was going to retire. And if I want to stay at the school I could stay there with my wife. And, uh, he, he told me he'd fix it for me so he fixed for me. He said, you going to become an instructor. Before he died.

INTERVIEWER: So you became an instructor at that school?

MELVIN BORDEN: Yeah, I had all, I was already instructor before I left and when I got back I was the instructor.

INTERVIEWER: And the instructor at the school was at Montford Point?

MELVIN BORDEN: At Montford Point.

INTERVIEWER: So you stayed there until you retired?

MELVIN BORDEN: Till I retired.

INTERVIEWER: And you retired in?

MELVIN BORDEN: In, uh, '68.

INTERVIEWER: So you didn't go to Vietnam?

MELVIN BORDEN: No, well, I, they say unless you put your feet on the ground, they often say you never been there. See that...

INTERVIEWER: You just go with the General wherever he went?

MELVIN BORDEN: Wherever he get, he might, go and stop and take two hour and be gone. But I prepared food and things for him. And that's that.

INTERVIEWER: I, I understand. So you were based in Montford Point until you retired?

MELVIN BORDEN: Until I retired I was based in Montford Point. Mm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: And you retired in '68?

MELVIN BORDEN: '68.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Um, so you, you've given me some examples of, of a White friend, the guy from Mississippi, who was a very good friend indeed.

MELVIN BORDEN: Right.

INTERVIEWER: But did you develop some White friends or semi-close relationships?

MELVIN BORDEN: Oh yeah, yeah I had. See and, and what, what happened before I, before I left Alabama I had developed some White friend in Alabama. And see, one thing what I tell the people all White ain't bad and all Black ain't good. And my parents taught me that when I was little. And I had been, I'll never forget when I was in Talladega, Alabama I had the dress blues. And I had the strap hanging across here, round here. And this White man must have called me back in the store. I said, yes, sir, what do you want? He said, I was a colonel in the Marine Corps. He said how far you think you'll get to going in the gate with the strap like that?

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) I looked at him. He said, put that strap around you, be a Marine, he said don't mess it up. I said, thank you, sir. He patted me on the back and told me to go ahead on. But I had, had a lot of help from a lot of White, in, in, and I learned too, by being in the service with White, all them ain't bad and all Black ain't good. I need to, I, I learned to weigh out people, who they really was.

INTERVIEWER: As individuals.

MELVIN BORDEN: As individuals, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Now what is that ah, decoration you're wearing in the lapel?

MELVIN BORDEN: Oh, this the VFW. I hadn't even got my military retire pin...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Oh, okay, I just wondering what you had on there.

MELVIN BORDEN: Yeah, a lifetime in the VFW. And, uh, when I (STAMMERS), when I got out, I was so (STAMMERS) glad to got out I just threw away everything I had.

INTERVIEWER: You were ready to get out?

MELVIN BORDEN: I ready, I let it, went.

INTERVIEWER: Well, what do you think is, or have you thought about the historical significance of being a Montford Point Marine or the Montford Point Marines as a group?

MELVIN BORDEN: Well, what the, what the, what the Montford Point did for me, it learned me something. It learned me how to be a man. And it learned me that everybody ain't your enemy. It learned me that when a person want to help you, you going to reject a lot of things what he tell you. But he learned, but that everything your drill instructor tell you, rake it in, that it's good. And ask questions, what you don't rake in, 'cause it might be to save your life. And I always learned that ask the person that been up the road 'cause I never been up there, he can tell before you get up there what's going to happen. And you can chew on all of that. And I, I, I believe that.

INTERVIEWER: When did you start seeing White officers at Montford Point? Or did you ever see White officers?

MELVIN BORDEN: Oh, yeah, I see them. Now when, when, when I was first recruited at Montford Point, when I, when I went, I was still in, in (STAMMERS) camp when I, when we went out on a drill field, the commanding officer, he was White. Okay, the executive officer was White, I saw a lot of White officers. Now, I saw a lot of White sergeants things, see.

INTERVIEWER: You're sure there were White sergeants there in '48?

MELVIN BORDEN: Well they were, they, they sort of like in charge of different things, where you go, you know, you might go to the library, you might go to different place.

INTERVIEWER: They weren't DIs.

MELVIN BORDEN: They wasn't DIs. They wasn't DIs and they wasn't, they wasn't stationed there. See, just like the colonel, he wasn't stationed there. Only thing you did with a DI in your training was Black.

INTERVIEWER: Were there White officers stationed at Montford Point when you were there?

MELVIN BORDEN: Yeah, I believe so. Yeah, definitely 'cause the White officers (UNINTELLIGIBLE) didn't have no Black doctors. And the executive office didn't have no Black executive officer. And the, uh, and the steward branch office, they had to have an officer for that, didn't have no Black.

INTERVIEWER: So, so the officer corps was still all White?

MELVIN BORDEN: Right.

INTERVIEWER: All the DIs were Black?

MELVIN BORDEN: Black. That's all I ever seen was Black. When we went to the range, the, what?

INTERVIEWER: How, what are your feelings now about having been a Montford Point Marine?

MELVIN BORDEN: Well, my feeling that I'm, I'm satisfied with myself that I went through something that I thought I couldn't go through. And I'll tell anybody this, you don't know what you can go through until you put (STAMMERS) your mind in it, and put yourself in it and go on through it. Now we, uh, we are the nation under God, and we believe in God. If you scared of going through something, you don't believe in God. And I don't care what happened to you, you ain't going to die until your time come, you can't rush your time. 'Cause a gun been at my head four or five time and it ain't went off yet.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) And uh, that's the way I've always thought and believed that. Nothing can happen to you, unless you make it happen to you. And then if you make it happen to you, you going to know what happen to you. But I don't think a man can kill his self, unless he go out alive.

INTERVIEWER: Mm hmm.

MELVIN BORDEN: You know, so. Oh yeah, Montford Point made a, a man out of me and also made a believer. And that guy come now with that pistol, I hated all the Mississippi that's White, period. But I don't care how you look at it, there's some good and bad in all of us, you know. And he, he, he, he stood a chance with that gun of getting a court martial, you see. And If I hadn't had them general orders when the OD put that cap on there, he let both of us went, he understand, he just told me, don't go in there no more.

INTERVIEWER: Mm hmm.

MELVIN BORDEN: And I say, this a miracle, boy, he say, son let me tell you one thing, go where you going, and abide by the law that they tell you to abide by. And when I got done, the general, he tell you a place you could go and you know it would be okay and all like that. But ah, I enjoyed the (SOUNDS LIKE) fire.

INTERVIEWER: Did you enjoy your service in the Marine Corps?

MELVIN BORDEN: Yeah, I enjoyed my service. I wouldn't, I wouldn't have got out of the Marine Corps. I had started running the beach down in (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And I had taken a lot of time, and so my wife say, well, and the guy that going to Korea, or we going back to Korea, I was, I'm free to go back because I signed up 'cause they had given me, they had told me I could make a promotion by going back. He went back and I started going to Coastal Carolina Community College. And about three weeks I saw him and he had one of his arms off. I asked him what had happened, and he said, lost it in Korea, over there two weeks and they sent him back. Lost his arm.

INTERVIEWER: What did you do after you got out of the corps? Did you continue to work?

MELVIN BORDEN: Yeah, I work for civil service, (STAMMERS) well, when I, when I, (STAMMERS) when I first got out of the Corps I worked for C-Cab. And that was taking care of people that need home and everything, you know, this, this government program come out. So they transfer me up to (STAMMERS) Greensboro, so I didn't want to go there 'cause I just had got back home out of the service, so I stopped. So I put in for the base and the base came over with the warehouse, so I worked at the warehouse. And from the warehouse I made supervisor in the, my section that I worked in. I worked there, um, 23 years. And I retired from there.

MELVIN BORDEN: (CONTINUED) Then after I worked there 23 years then I wanted to work for the nursing home. And I worked for the nursing home two and a half year, but I was doing that volunteer work for people in need. And I was saying that's what am I doing here with my work and then I wanted to work for JCPenny. Now I work for them about seven years. Then went on a contract. Now I'm working for a contract.

INTERVIEWER: You're still working?

MELVIN BORDEN: I'm still working. Going on 76 and I'm still working. (LAUGH)

INTERVIEWER: Well okay, you have always found something to do. I want to thank you very much for giving us that interview and...

MELVIN BORDEN: (OVERLAPPING) I want to thank y'all, too.


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