• Have a question? Want to talk to someone involved in the Montford Point Marines project?

    Contact Us
  • Our online collection contains photographs, interview transcripts and other artifacts from the Montford Point Marines.

    See the Collection

This web site was supported by the Department of the Navy, Office of Naval Research, through a grant with South Carolina State University and developed by the University of North Carolina Wilmington, working in close cooperation with the Montford Point Marines Museum at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C.

ANTHONY CAPUTO

June 29th, 2004


a thumbnail image of Colonel Anthony Caputo - Portrait currently not available. Colonel Anthony Caputo Anthony Caputo, the only white officer at Montford Point interviewed for this project, is a native of Montclair, New Jersey. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, he joined the Corps in 1941. Caputo served with the 51st Defense Battalion on occupied Guam and Okinawa during World War II, fought in Korea, and served as a staff officer in Vietnam. Retired, he resides in Burgaw, North Carolina.


INTERVIEWER: Before I start the interview, I'd like you, if you would, to simply state your name and today's date for the record.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: Well, my name is Anthony Caputo, and today is June 14, 19, uh, 2004.

INTERVIEWER: Now, what I'd like you to do now is give me just a little bit of personal background. I'd like to know, you know, where you grew up, uh, how you came to join the Marine Corps, and a little bit about your career in the corps prior to, uh, your being stationed at, uh, Montford Point.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: Well, I grew up, I was born and, and raised in Montclair, New Jersey. Uh, born on May 22, 1919. I, uh, went through school at, and graduated from the high school in Montclair. Then I went, went to the University Of, uh, Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Graduated there in 1941. The draft had started in somewhere around the forties or so. And, uh, we had to either be drafted, or join the service of our choice. I decided to join the Marine Corps and not be drafted. So in May of 1941, before I graduated, I signed the enlistment contract with the Marine Corps, and, to, to enter the officer's school in, uh, at Quantico, Virginia, after I graduated.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) In June of 1941, I reported to Quantico, went through the officer, or the officer candidate school, was commissioned a second lieutenant on first of November, 1941, and about a month before Pearl Harbor. And then attended an abbreviated officer's school, because of the, the Pearl Harbor, which, uh, uh, sort of changed things. And, uh, then I graduated from the officer's school in February or so of 1942, and reported for active duty. Now, I went from there to recruiting of college students for the Marine Corps. And after I finished that recruiting assignment for two months, I reported to the Marine base at New River, North Carolina.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) I was a company commander there for about a month or so, and then was appointed aide to the Commanding General, General Turnage. And I stayed with him as his aide until Montford Point started in the, I believe it was the fall of '42. And I was assigned to the group that would, uh, start the camp and, uh, receive the recruits. I...

INTERVIEWER: Uh, let me ask several follow-up questions on that. You said New River. Uh, was New River what became Camp Lejeune?

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: Yes. Yeah. New River...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Which was still a new base at that time.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (OVERLAPPING) It was a new base, it was on the, uh, 17, it was on 17 highway, it was a tent camp. And very, uh, uh, well, it would, had no, no other, just all tents. We all lived in tents. Camp Lejeune, as it's known now, Hadnot and so forth was just beginning to be planned. And, uh, I think they had broken ground over there to, uh, start building some barracks, and so forth. But there was nothing else but this camp at New River.

INTERVIEWER: Now, you were assigned to the original Montford Point facility. So you were one of the very first officers there.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Uh, did you have any idea why you were picked for that assignment?

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (LAUGH) Well, (CLEARS THROAT) Colonel Woods was on the staff of the, uh...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Could you give me his first name (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ?

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (OVERLAPPING) Sam... (TECHNICAL)

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) Colonel Sam Woods, who was to become the Commanding Officer of, uh, Montford Point and the facilities, was on the staff of General Turnage's there at, uh, New River.

INTERVIEWER: And the general's first name, please?

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: General How Turnage. And, uh, he knew me, he got to know me, and I knew him. And he asked me if I would go over there with him, and, and help start this, this, uh, facility. And there was an executive officer, Colonel Holdor, Lieutenant Colonel Holdor. I don't remember his first name. He was on the same staff, and he was gonna be the executive officer. And there were several other officers there, uh, at, at the base that, uh, also were selected. But as far as I know, it was just a, a, Colonel Woods selected me, and asking for my release from General Turnage to go there and help him with, uh, get this thing started.

INTERVIEWER: I, I wonder if I may, if I can ask a few relatively personal questions on this issue.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (OVERLAPPING) Yes.

INTERVIEWER: You were born and raised in the North.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Uh, had you traveled in the south prior to, uh, joining the Marine Corps?

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: Very limited. I, I've played, uh, sports at University Of Pennsylvania, and we would travel south to play the, uh, uh, Duke and, and Carolina, Wake Forest, and all. That was my only exposure to the south, uh, at that time.

INTERVIEWER: What did you think about this assignment? I mean, this, this is a brand new, at that time, uh, experiment, required by the federal government. This is required of the Marine Corps. Uh, did you have any, uh, concerns or qualms or trepidations about going into this particular assignment?

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: None whatsoever. I've, I just took it as another challenge, and, uh, something for me to do as a duty, and, uh, that I would do the very best I could. Uh, and no matter I was assigned there or some other, some other assignment. It was still a, an, uh, a responsibility of a Marine officer to do the best he could to, uh, under the circumstances.

INTERVIEWER: Well, let me, let me ask you if you had had any personal experiences with African Americans prior to being assigned there, or was this, this, this, was this totally unrelated? Was your assignment totally unrelated, as far as you can tell, with any prior experience with African Americans or other minorities?

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CAR NOISE) No. No, I grew up with, uh, African Americans in my school, during my school. Uh, played sports with them. (CAR NOISE) Uh, uh, I had no feelings whatsoever. They were just my friends, and, uh, and, uh, uh, that was it.

INTERVIEWER: And about the assignments, uh, could you tell me whether you think that, that anything in your background, in terms of relating to minorities, was a consideration in your assignment (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ?

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (OVERLAPPING) No, I don't think so. (TECHNICAL)

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) That assignment had no, no, uh, I don't think it had any influence on what, what I was, my, how I would do my job. And as a matter of fact, an interesting thing was that one of the recruits (LAUGH) was a young man from my hometown. Fella by the name of Chavez. (SP?) Who, uh, remembered, uh, stopping by to see my mother and, uh, talking to her while I was in the Marine Corps. And it might have influenced him to join the Marine Corps, because he knew that I was in the Marine Corps. And I had been playing baseball and so forth with his brother.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) And I think that, I think, frankly, he joined the Marine Corps because he knew I was in the Marine Corps. Not realizing that I would be here at Montford Point when he came down the recruit camp.

INTERVIEWER: Well, again, I wanna get, I'm, I'm trying to set you up, actually, because I've got a follow up question. What I want to know is specifically, but that's a wonderful story, and we'll use that story. But what I want to know specifically is do you think Colonel Woods picked you because of you, you had any prior, that he knew about, prior relationships you've had with African Americans or other minority populations. And again, I don't need a yes or no answer to that line.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: I don't think I was selected because of my prior experience with African Americans at all. I think I was just selected because, uh, Colonel Woods thought that I could do the job. And he asked, uh, the general if he could take me with him, and that's what happened.

INTERVIEWER: Well, now one of the reasons I wanted the, the answer to that question, um, is that in some of the printed materials about how Montford Point was staffed, particularly by, by the original, uh, drill instructors, who were White, and I'd like you to comment on this, um, it has been stated that drill instructors were picked by the corps who had had service in the Philippines and in some of the Latin American countries like Nicaragua. As you know, American service personnel were scattered around the, the American empire in, in, in the twenties and the thirties.

INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) Uh, that they were picked because they had had the experience with, quote, colored populations, unquote, do you know of any personal knowledge whether such a selection process was, was utilized, or it, does that seem a, a totally apocryphal, uh, tale for you?

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: I don't, I don't remember anything like that. Uh, I don't remember anything that, the DIs were selected because of their backgrounds of having dealt with, uh, other, uh, African Americans or other than that. No, I don't remember that. I know that they were selected because they were good men, and they were, they were experienced in training men. And actually, they were very good DIs. And, uh, they did a good job. And, uh, but I know nothing about the previous background, and how they were selected, other than the fact that they could, uh, train, they, they were good at training individuals.

INTERVIEWER: Could you tell me a little bit about Colonel Woods' background. So now, tell me who he was, too. I mean, tell me what his title was, too.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah, well, Colonel Sam Woods was a very fine, uh, officer. A kind gentleman. And, uh, uh, easy to work for. I don't remember what his, what his service was prior to, uh, uh, coming there to the staff. He was an older fellow, and, uh, he, I'm sure, had a, quite a background in serving the Marine Corps, in, in the many areas and places of, of the, around the world. But, uh, he was a good selection. He, uh, ran a good, good staff, and, uh, and was very, uh, aware of what was going on. And, uh, I think he did a good job.

INTERVIEWER: Um, can you tell me a little bit about your, uh, perception, how long were you at Montford Point, let me ask you that question.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (OVERLAPPING) Well, I imagine I was there about a year. I was there at Montford Point about a year, and I, uh, uh, transferred from, after the first recruits went through, and all that, and then they started to form up a, a 51st Defense Battalion. And I was selected to go with that group over and start the 51st Defense department. Uh, Battalion. So I'd say it was about maybe a year or so.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Now, and you were a, uh, a year at Montford Point from the original, um, inception of the base, inception of the base. In that year, uh, most of the drill instructors were White, is that, is that, is that correct?

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: Most of the, yes, they were all White, all the drill instructors were White, all of the officers were White. I had, I had the first company. I was the captain, I was promoted captain, and I had the first company of, of Marines that came into the service. And, uh, then they, uh, I had lieutenants as platoon commanders, and platoon sergeants. These were all White. And, uh, so I took that first company through. And I also had in that company, uh, Sgt Johnson, Sgt Major Johnson, Sgt Major Huff, and several of the others.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) And one of the things that we did is we, we not only worked with them every day, and trained them, and put them through the, all of the training procedures, but we were looking for individuals who would make good DIs. And we would sort of keep tabs on them. And of course, two of them were Johnson and Huff. And there were others. And as soon as we could graduate them, then we'd try, we'd transfer them into a, a DI in the DI, DI program. And then they started taking over. And this is how we phased it in. We phased some of these Marines into that, and made them assistant DIs, and then DIs, and then they took over.

INTERVIEWER: You were there for a year, you were there with the original recruits, you were there when they were, when there was a White officer corps, and also a White drill instructor corps. Um, did you, um, during that period of time, uh, witness anything that you would consider racial incidents on the part of, uh, the drill instructor corps or the officer corps in relationship with their men? Or do you, did, did you see a, a purely professional relationship?

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: It was purely professional. I was very careful about that. (LAUGH) I, I, uh, sort of was there all the time, and kept my eye on everything. And that, uh, I'd say that there were no, no, no racial discrimination, or nothing going on. Now, the one thing I can point out, that after Huff and Johnson took over, they were rougher on the recruits than our regular White DIs. And (STAMMERS) they were not, uh, anything out of line, but they, they made them toe the mark.

INTERVIEWER: Uh, we, I, I've heard that before. (LAUGH)

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah. Yeah, well, and I think this was a, this was great. And that's the kind of people they were. They, Sgt Major Huff and Johnson were, were, they were outstanding individuals. And, uh, I have a relationship with Huff that goes all through the Marine Corps. (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: How do you perceive the training that the Marines of Montford Point got? These are the, the training that Marines at Parris Island got, and I'd like you to tell me that again. (TECHNICAL)

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: Well, the, the Marines that were trained here at Montford Point, and the ones at Parris Island, followed the same schedule. Same training schedule. And I believe, firmly believe, that they were equal. That the Marines at Montford Point were receiving the same kind of treatment as they were at, uh, at, uh, Parris Island. Or San Diego recruit depot. And it turned out some very fine young men.

INTERVIEWER: Let me ask you another question, now this is, this is a political question. Um, why do you think the corps established separate training facilities for African American recruits?

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah. I think the corps separated, uh, or, or wanted separate facilities, now, uh, I, I'm not, uh, I don't know what went on in Washington. I was (LAUGH) a captain, a lieutenant down here, and, uh, but I think that they did this, one of the reasons they did it was that we could handle this much better than they could at Parris Island. Because we, we had a, a, an area there that we had all the Marines there together. And we could concentrate on training them properly.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) And if they were assimilated into Parris Island, it would have been a little bit more difficult, because you would have had two different types of individuals being trained. Here, we could concentrate on one facet, one, one group. And I think, personally, it was a good thing to start to do. And I think they turned out better than if they had gone to Parris Island.

INTERVIEWER: Um, let's see if I can think of anything other than the training. Uh, we have plenty of details about the rigor of the training from the testimony of our first people who went through it. But, uh, you were saying that you feel that the training was, uh, as rigorous, um, as anything that would have been received at Parris Island.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: Definitely. I do think that it was a rigorous, and it was, uh, and just as good as anything that they could have gotten at Parris Island.

INTERVIEWER: Now you said after the, um, training at Montford Point, uh, and I want you to give me the question back in your response, so remember what I'm asking. You went with the 51st Defense Battalion. Could you tell me a little bit about the formation of the 51st Defense Battalion, and, uh, your role in that. And how long you served there.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: Well, the, (CLEARS THROAT) the 51st Defense Battalion was established at Montford Point. And the graduates from the Montford Point recruit training were assigned to this 51st Defense Battalion, which was an anti-aircraft and, and seacoast, uh, unit, outfit. It was, uh, it was made up of, uh, of, uh, 90 millimeter anti-aircraft guns, 155 millimeter seacoast artillery guns, 40 millimeter, uh, uh, anti-aircraft, uh, guns, 20 millimeter anti-aircraft guns, 50 caliber machine guns, and along with the radar. The radar to, to, uh, uh, track targets, and so forth.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) It was a very, uh, large organization. It had, uh, a, uh, I think it had three or four separate groups of, uh, according to the weapons, it was organized that way. We were moved from, we, we moved over to what is now camp, well, it was Camp Knox, I don't know what it's called now. I think it's in the, it's right adjacent to Montford Point. And these recruits were brought into that organization, and the officers were assigned from different units around the Marine Corps. Artillery officers. And we trained them in these various weapons.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) Uh, we did a lot of firing off of the coast of, uh, Camp Davis at, uh, aerial targets. Sea, uh, targets. And, uh, I think after about a year or so, or maybe six months or so of training, uh, they were ready to go. I was, uh, assigned to the 40 millimeter anti-aircraft, uh, group. And, uh, they did very well. They, they, uh, uh, learned the, the use of, uh, radar, uh, the radar, which is very complicated. Uh, the Marine, the, they also learned firing the weapons. Uh, and, uh, we were at a point where it was determined that we were at a stage they were, they were proficient to then be assigned overseas. Uh, I believe it was in February of, uh, '44, '43? (TECHNICAL)

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) January of '44 that, uh, the word came to, uh, uh, pack up and move overseas. So, we, uh, loaded on, uh, uh, a car, fake cars, and railroad cars, and left, uh, Fort Knox, or, or Camp Knox, there, right outside on, uh, on, uh, the, adjacent to, uh, the highway there. And went across country to San Diego. And we left, uh, on a ship, we loaded on the ship, and left, uh, and sailed for the Ellice Islands (SP?) in, uh, the South Pacific. Which are located south of Tarawa and set up positions on that, those islands.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) Uh, to, uh, protect against, uh, uh, there was an airfield (UNINTELLIGIBLE) where they were used, uh, the Navy and the, and the Marine planes were, were used in the engagements in the different island, uh, battles. And set up there, and then, uh, uh, moved from there to Eenewaok. And then I don't know, I left, uh, I was reassigned. But that, that's just about a brief of what, uh, what happened there.

INTERVIEWER: Now, I'd like to ask a question about there were, there were two defense battalions, I think, 51st and 52nd that were established. And later on, there was a, a third, uh, anti-aircraft, uh, battalion, (STAMMERS) battalion may not be the right word, but unit, uh, established. Um, I don't know how such units were normally deployed, but I have frequently heard it said that, um, many of the, of the people who served there felt that these units were never put, uh, in forward positions where they would be a major chance of engaging the enemy.

INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) Uh, that they tended to be put in situations after, uh, an, an objective was already obtained, very well controlled, and so forth. And then they were, were brought in. Whereas they felt other, uh, gunnery units, uh, had more forward positioning. Would you care to comment on that?

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: I really don't know much about (LAUGH), uh, that. I think that was, uh, uh, something above my head. All I know is that we, we were given the mission, and we, we accomplished the mission. And...

INTERVIEWER: Would, would you say that that perception would be that, that many African Americans hold, was, would, would you care to comment on that in any way? I don't wanna put any, any (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah, well, I, I don't think I have much comment on that, because I really don't know too much about, uh, what the strategy was at that time.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: We were at a forward base. We were just south of Tarawa when, uh, before that engagement. And, uh, there was a threat that, uh, with the, uh, the airfield there and all that, uh, that the Japanese could have bombed us, and, uh, they could have, uh, uh, tried landings, landing troops there. But, uh, and we were all prepared for that. As a matter of fact, we had one engagement that, uh, uh, I happened to be the, at the time, on Anameya, (SP?) the island commander.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) And, uh, we had a real scare one night when a, a radar turned up these, uh, craft out, uh, off the island. Uh, that, uh, uh, we couldn't get any signal from. And so, we had to alert everybody, because we, it could have been the Japanese trying to make a landing on our. Well, it turned out on the, in the next morning, it was a Navy ship that, uh, didn't turn her radar on. (LAUGH) And, and we, uh, we were ready all night, uh, and we were in alert status. But that's the kind of situations that we were faced with.

INTERVIEWER: Um, when you left the 51st, the, was that the end of your, uh, official contact with, uh, people who were trained at Montford Point?

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: Yes. Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: And that would have been when? (TECHNICAL)

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (OVERLAPPING) I think I left, I left the, uh, uh, 51st around sometime in, uh, 1945. And was reassigned. And, uh.

INTERVIEWER: So you were with them throughout the war.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: No, no. I went into Okinawa with another outfit.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, well, it was early, early '45 that you were...

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah, it's the early '45, must have been the end of '44.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: That, uh, I was reassigned, and, uh, and, uh, I'm, I was with a recon outfit that went into Okinawa on that invasion.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Um, I'd like to ask you a little more questions about life on base. Um, when most of the guys were in boot camp, or when the guys were in boot camp, they had no liberty. They were on the base, and totally under the control of the corps. Did you ever hear about problems that they encountered, um, on, on liberties, or going into towns, or, uh, with transportation, or any of the problems that were, uh, associated with, uh, a segregated society in, in the 1940s? Were, were those problems that were brought to your attention, or did you ever hear about them?

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (OVERLAPPING) As, as long as I was with them at Montford Point, I don't think I ever had any, uh, experience (STAMMERS) with any of this kind of treatment on the base or off the base, really. Uh, the, the, no problems were ever brought to me as (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Well, one of the things that you hear frequently from them, and, and of course this is complementary to, uh, I believe it Colonel Woods at the time, was they had major problems with transportation, trying to get to and from Jacksonville and so forth. And, uh, he evidently implemented a series of shuttles using Marine Corps vehicles to, to move them. Uh, and I've heard, oh, probably six or seven of them comment, uh, on that, because they had, I mean, they had all the problems that were inherent in the system.

INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) When they tried to use private transport back and, back and forth from, from the base. It may not have been something that was, that would come to you.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah. I, I would say that, uh, it, it's something that I didn't know about. Uh, it didn't reach my level. That might have been something that, that Colonel Woods arranged up there with his staff. But there was one thing about it. There was no way, there were very few private vehicles. Uh, the rationing, the tires, and the gas and all, people didn't, there weren't many vehicles around. And, uh, there wasn't any bus transportation, or anything like that from in town that would come in and pick up people. So something like that had to be done. Of course, we were, Montford Point was, was not very far from the town of Jacksonville.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) And, uh, you could almost walk into town. But, uh, no, I would say that, uh, as far as I'm concerned, uh, I didn't, don't remember any of these problems. I'm not saying there weren't any there. But, uh, I don't remember them.

INTERVIEWER: Mm hmm, okay. Um, let me, uh, I just wanna ask a couple more questions, and I think we can wrap this. I'd like to know, again briefly, uh, about the remainder of your career, uh, in the service, after you left, uh, the 51st.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: Mm hmm. Well, as I say, I, I, uh, went into Okinawa. And at, at the end of Okinawa I was with the Ist Marine Division on Guam. Uh, and we were getting ready for the, uh, landing in Japan. The, the mainland. I believe it was, I don't remember the name of the operation. But anyway, we were rehearsing for that operation, which was gonna be the largest amphibious, uh, operation in the Pacific. And a very dangerous one, 'cause it was the homeland, and, uh, we knew from intelligence that it was going to be well defended, and we were gonna, uh, we were gonna receive a lot of casualties. We were, we, we were, uh, expecting that.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) And then we sailed, after the rehearsal, we sailed for Japan. And the, I imagine the whole task force was on its way. And about halfway there, we received word that the atomic bomb had, had, uh, dropped, uh, on, what's it, Nagasaki. And, uh, and that the war, the war was over. That the Japanese surrendered. Well, we were one happy group of people. I never saw so many happy men jumping around and, and, uh, excited, the fact that we were not gonna have to make a landing. And the ships turned around, and we went back to Guam.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) And, uh, then we came home from Guam, and, uh, I was assigned to the, uh, second, to the 2nd Marine Division in, uh, at Camp Lejeune here. And after a tour with them, I went over and became the camp Legal, Legal Officer at, uh, Camp Lejeune. Marine, Marine base there. And we left there and went to Quantico, and I went to the, uh, I, I was a student, or teacher on the staff of the Basics School, the Lieutenant Training School. And then I went to the senior course, amphibious warfare course. And then was assigned to Korea, and, and had a battalion, uh, in the Ist Marine Division in Korea, in that war for about a year.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) Then I came back and had, uh, was duty at, uh, uh, Fleet Marine Force Pacific. I was a training officer for all the Marines in the Pacific. And then I came back to Headquarters, Marine Corps, and, uh, was, uh, (WORD?) officer for the, uh, Department Of Information at headquarters of the Marine Corps. Then I was assigned to, uh, Stockholm, Sweden, as a Naval attaché, Marine attaché for three years. Came back from that assignment, and, uh, reported to the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune and became the camp, uh, Commanding Officer of the, uh, uh, 8th Marine Regiment in the 2nd Marine Division.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) And we went to, we took part in the Cuban missile crisis, and were afloat for three or four months off of Cuba, waiting to land, until Khrushchev and Kennedy decided what they were gonna do. Then we came back from that, and I, uh, I went to, from there, the Headquarters of the Marine Corps, and I was the, uh, Deputy Inspector General of the Marine Corps. Then I left there and went to, uh, serve on General Westmoreland staff in, uh, at, uh, in Vietnam. Then I came back, and from a year at Vietnam, and was the Commanding Officer of the Officer School at, uh, Quantico. And then I retired.

INTERVIEWER: Well, particularly in Korea, and in Vietnam, of course, particularly in Vietnam, you would have been at such a high level that you, you may not have come into contact with a lot of regular troops. But, um, did you ever come into contact with, uh, men who had gone through Montford Point? In your subsequent Marine career.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: None of them were, were at Montford Point when I was there. But a lot, a lot of the, that were in my outfit, they were very good NCOs and corporals and so forth in my outfit there in, in, uh, Korea. And, uh, they were very, very good Marines. And, uh, some of them were of high rank. There were sergeant, there was first sergeants and gunnery sergeants, and, uh, excellent Marines, along with the other Marines. They were just one, I had a real fine battalion.

INTERVIEWER: Well, one of the reasons I ask this is that the, uh, that the men who went through Montford Point really did sort of a double duty. They, that is, they were the first African Americans to come into the Marine Corps. But they were also the African Americans who integrated the corps at unit level, particularly in Korea. I mean, after the 1948 (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . Um, executive, the executive order that, uh, called for the desegregation of the military. It, it really was Korea that saw the implementation (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) Um, and that's why I ask if, if, uh, you were able to stay in contact with them, or if they, (STAMMERS) or ran into them, or had any contact with, with people who came from Montford Point, uh, in your subsequent, uh, assignments. And particularly in Korea.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: Yeah. They may have come through Montford Point after I left. (TECHNICAL)

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) Yeah, I'm sure they were, but, uh, and they, uh, they integrated right into the outfit, uh, they were Marines. Everybody was a Marine, as far as, uh, we were concerned. We, we all engaged the enemy, whether we were Black, White, Yellow, or anything. We were just, uh, all Marines.

INTERVIEWER: Well, tell me just a little bit more about Korea. What you, you said you were there for a year. Uh, were you in any major campaigns?

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (OVERLAPPING) Well, we, we were, uh, in, assigned, uh, to the area of, uh, the, I don't know if you know, remember these, but there was Vegas and, and, uh, Reno, and, uh, all these outposts. And, uh, we were faced the, facing the Chinese on the, let's see, it was the western, uh, front. And we battled with them every day and every night. And, uh, uh, it was a very tough situation.

INTERVIEWER: Did you come into Korea after the Chinese had moved out across Yalu?

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (OVERLAPPING) Oh yes, yes, yeah. This was after that. And, uh...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) guys were there when they (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (OVERLAPPING) I know it, yeah, yeah. Although, you know, you're in and out. (LAUGH)

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Right. (LAUGH)

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: But we spent, uh, uh, a lot of time engaged with the Chinese, and some of the North Koreans. But the Chinese were the, our real, uh, enemy, more or less. But, you know, the funny thing is, uh, talking about the Marines from Montford Point and so forth, um, I didn't mention that while I was at, uh, Camp Lejeune after I got back from, uh, uh, Sweden, I came down to Camp Lejeune and I was with the 2nd, uh, the 2nd Division. I had the 8th Marines there. After my tour there, about a year, I was transferred to the infantry training regiment.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) I was the commanding officer of the infantry training regiment at Camp Geiger. And, uh, when I reported in, (BACKGROUND NOISE) who was standing there waiting for me but Sgt Major Huff. And he was my sergeant major for the infantry training regiment. So I started with him (LAUGH) at Montford Point, as a, as a private. (BACKGROUND NOISE) And here was Sgt Major Huff, now my sergeant major at, uh, at, uh, infantry training regiment at camp, at Camp Geiger.

INTERVIEWER: And Camp Geiger is located?

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: Where the New River base was when we first started, uh, the, uh, Camp Lejeune complex there. And (BACKGROUND NOISE) he was a, he was one of the best men I ever served with. And we had a mutual respect and, uh, (LAUGH) he was really something. He would sit out there in front of my office, and, uh, (BACKGROUND NOISE) and, uh, not let anybody in there unless they had some real business. And I told, (LAUGH) I was talking to Mary about it, my wife, that, uh, he'd always refer to me as the old man.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) When these Marines would come by. Uh, you can't see the old man, he's busy. Or you can't do this, the old man is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . One day, I walked out there and I said, sergeant major, who is this old man you're talking to? You're talking about? And he kind of looked at me, and I said, look, I'm not an old man. And I, uh, (LAUGH) I'm not gonna be for a long time, so don't ever mention that to, to these people. Don't refer to me as an old man again. At least where I can't hear it. So anyway, that was a, that was something between the two of us that, uh, but he was really a fine, fine young, um, man.

INTERVIEWER: Well, is there anything that you'd like to add as sort of a summary statement? Uh, I think I've asked, uh, most of the pertinent questions that, uh, or questions that I feel are pertinent. But, uh, things that you would like to add to this statement? You, um, you, if you wanna say on camera anything that we've talked about off camera, for example, or anything that you'd like to add?

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: I really can't add very much. I think I've talked too much now. (LAUGH) But, uh, I can say one thing, though, is that, uh, I think that, uh, that was a good, good experience, a good training, uh, uh, uh, effort by the Marine Corps, once we, we had these recruits. And I think that they were good Marines. They were good men. They were on the caliber of any, any individual that you could take into the service. And they were all volunteers. And they all worked hard. And, uh, I think that, uh, you can see the results today of what has happened to the, the, uh, African American, uh, in the, in the Marine Corps.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: (CONTINUED) They've gone up to high rank, all the way up to three or four star generals, generals. And all the way from that first, first Marine that walked through that Montford Point, uh, entrance, they've gone all the way up that far in our, throughout the ranks of the Marine Corps. And I think that's a, I think that's a, a very fine testament to what, what happened back then.

INTERVIEWER: I got one more question for you. I did think of one. And, um, it's, it's a similar question. I asked this to most of the other interviewees. Um, did you think at the time that you were given this assignment to go with Colonel Woods to Montford Point, did you think that this was something that had great historical significance, or was this just something that you thought of as a duty assignment that you were doing because your colonel that you obviously had a good relationship with asked you to do it? Did you think, well, this is, this is really a historic event? I'm taking part in American history here? Did, did that occur to you? I just wonder.

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: It didn't occur to me that this would be a historical event or anything. I just, just took it as an assignment, a duty. After all, I was a young lieutenant at that time, and, uh, wet behind the ears. And I didn't know what, uh, I didn't have all these implications or ramifications of what was happening. All I knew is it was an assignment that I'd been asked to do, and, uh, that I do it to the very best of my ability. And it proved to be a very interesting one. And, uh, uh, but no, I, uh, I had no idea (LAUGH) that, uh, what, what would be, uh, in the future, as far as this was concerned. (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: Heidi wants you to, uh, again, end the interview by giving us your name and spelling your name. (TECHNICAL)

COL. ANTHONY CAPUTO: I'm Anthony Caputo, uh, C-A-P-U-T-O is my last name. Anthony, A-N-T-H-O-N-Y, my first name.


Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the web site developers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Naval Research.