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LAWRENCE DIGGS

July 23rd, 2004


a thumbnail image of Corporal Lawrence Diggs Corporal Lawrence DiggsCorporal Lawrence Diggs is from the delta country of Mississippi, but moved to Chicago as a young man. He joined the Corps in 1943, and went ashore with an ammunition company at Peleliu Island. After the war he returned to Chicago, where he worked for the United States Steel Corporation. He resides in Columbia, Missouri.


INTERVIEWER: Mr. Diggs, what I'd like you to do for us to begin the interview is giving your name...

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Mm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: ...and today's date, please.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (OVERLAPPING) Okay. My name is, uh, Lawrence Diggs and, uh, today's date is 7-23-04.

INTERVIEWER: Thank you very much. (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) If you would, please, just a little bit about your background before joining the Marine Corps, little bit about the family you grew up in, your mother and father, brothers or sisters...

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (OVERLAPPING) Mm hmm. Mm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: ...where you lived, and a little bit about your educational level, you know, what, (STAMMERS) had you gone to school, how much, before you went into the Corps. So will you tell a little bit about your personal background? Just anything you want to say.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CLEARS THROAT) Well, I, I, I'm talking about when I was a kid, evidently then. Um, my background, 'cause, uh, my grandfather, we lived on his land. He had leased or rented or whatever, but he had five boys and every time one of them got married, from what I understand, they'd build a little house.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) I was born in Mississippi, now, and, uh, (BACKGROUND NOISE) uh, the Delta. That's, that's down around um, Belzoni, that's a, that was, uh, I think the largest town of the county, see round there. Anyway, but, uh, I, you had to farm, I guess, because, uh, they raised a lot of cattle and pigs and whatever. (LAUGH)

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) But, uh, my father had six kids at the time and, uh, I don't think the farm evidently was producing enough money for him and (STAMMERS) and he took off and went to Chicago. And, uh, left the family there. So, uh, in thirty (CLEARS THROAT) seven, or '38, the fall, he sent back and got some of the kids (STAMMERS) my mother and some of the kids, but a few of them stayed later.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) Anyway, we end up in Chicago with a big family living with, uh, my uncle in his place. So, uh, we stayed there for a while and everybody got a job to do something, anyway. But, uh, I got drafted eight, I mean, six days after my 18th birthday. Now, I didn't finish high school, I got a high school diploma, uh, honorary, you know, as soon as I got in the Marine Corps, when I went back on my first, uh, uh, leave. So that's all the schooling I, I went to trade school, uh, after coming back out of the service. Uh.

INTERVIEWER: That's good, (STAMMERS) good background. Now, (CLEARS THROAT) just tell me a little bit about, very quickly, you know, two or three sentences, how you got in the Corps.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (LAUGH) Well, I was drafted and they had a group of us at the induction station down from the Industrial School on Van Buren, really, in Chicago, right at the river there. And, uh, I was going in the Army, this was where I originally thought I was going. And they, all the recruiters evidently in the back got their heads together and, uh, the Marine Corps wants some people, the Navy wants some people and the, uh, Army.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) So five or six of us, the guys say I want you, I want you, and I want you and whatever, you know. Anyway, that's how I end up in the Marine Corps. And, uh, then we, put us up in a hotel and stayed three or four days 'til they got another group of people and then they shipped us all down to North Carolina, Camp Lejeune.

INTERVIEWER: Did you know, uh, tell me if you knew a little bit about where you would be shipped. Did you know you were gonna be shipped to Montford Point or did you have any idea where you were gonna be trained?

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (OVERLAPPING) No, they just said (STAMMERS) ship us down to Camp Lejeune and I didn't know where it was. They say it's in North Carolina, I had no idea what the.

INTERVIEWER: Did you know that the Marine Corps at that time had segregated, uh, segregated training camps, a different camp for African Americans and, and, uh, Whites?

LAWRENCE DIGGS: No, well, you know, the Marine...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Tell, tell us, tell me.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: ...the Marine, the Marine, the Marine Corps was new and uh, uh, I had no idea what and how they trained them, you know, but, before I got there. But I found out as soon as I got there. I, uh, Sergeants was White, I mean, the Gunner Sergeant. We had pretty good Sergeants, too. Uh, I can remember those guys' names, Childritch (SP?) , and he was a Gunner.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) What, what year did you get, what year did you?

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (OVERLAPPING) (STAMMERS) 1943.

INTERVIEWER: (STAMMERS) Tell me in a full sentence...

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Well, I...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) ...when you got to Montford Point.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: ...I got to Montford Point in 1943, uh, and, uh, went down there on the train and got picked up by the bus and dropped us off in a little town called Jacksonville, North Carolina. And the base was right outside of the camp.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Took us on in the camp, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: I, I'd like you, if you would now, you're, you're at Montford Point, you go through boot training with these guys, um, I'm, we've done 25 of the interviews, as you know. I know you guys got thorough training, they ran you all the time, worked like dogs...

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: ...you've got all the stories that Marines tell about your boot camp.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Yeah, it's (STAMMERS) monstrous, you know.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) So why don't you give me that, what I want you to tell me is something about the men you went through basic training with and your assignments with, what you did, how you related to one another, what you did in your leisure time. Anything that you can remember about the sort of, the spirit of the men and, and how they related to one another and whatever you might, might come to mind in that area.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Well, uh, I'm sure that somebody told you this, but in the Marine Corps, uh, you were never alone, even when, when you leave boot camp, you've got to have somebody at your back. I mean, you are trained to make sure that you go ride with some guys and, uh, if they get in a fight, you fight too. (STAMMERS) It was (LAUGH) if you're not a Marine, you're, you're not gonna be with them there too long.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) But, uh, uh, they tried to protect each other and when we would leave out on buses and whatever and go to the towns and different places, uh, you were sitting in the back of the bus. So, we, we, uh, we all came from the same camp, so we knew each other. We might not been in the same platoon, but when you got on the bus and if was a Sergeant on the bus, he was, and you all were privates, he's, he's really in charge.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) I mean, you know, he'd give you the nod and you (STAMMERS) you respond, I mean, you do what he wanted you to do. And, uh, (CLEARS THROAT) but I think mostly, uh, the guys enjoyed (STAMMERS) going out. But we also had the, uh, busloads of ladies that they'd bring in the camp. They made sure that we (LAUGH) I mean, you, you didn't have to go too far.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) Once you finished basic training, they, they had a, you know, a place where they'd, uh, uh, we had recreation and whatever and they had dances and, uh, they'd bring in a, they have college towns out there and they'd bring in (STAMMERS) busloads of girls, women.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Tell me a little bit about that. Where was that? What was the facility like? Was it located on base or was it in town?

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (OVERLAPPING) It was located on base, yeah. We had, we had, uh, uh, um, I guess they call it a recreation area. Uh, we had a movie theater and what have you and then when they, when they bring them in, we had, you know, a, a men's club. (STAMMERS) It wasn't NCO, it was just for the, for the regular guys, you know, and they also had NCO clubs that were there, where the Sergeants and, uh, all the others would go.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) But, um, yeah, I didn't stay at the base very long. Now I was at the base long enough to finish my basic training and, uh, then they shipped us out to Guadalcanal and that's where we finished our, what they call, uh, (CLEARS THROAT) jungle warfare training. So I went to special weapons school over there and, for, you know, different (STAMMERS) machine guns and motors and what have you.

INTERVIEWER: What Unit were you associated with, then?

LAWRENCE DIGGS: I was, uh, uh, the 7th Ammo. I was with, (STAMMERS) that was my Unit. We were, we got attached.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Now, when you, when you say, when, when you say the 7th Ammo, again, you're talking to somebody who's 40 years old in back of me. Tell me (STAMMERS) 7th Ammo is to somebody who doesn't know.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Okay, the 7th Ammo, I, I guess it, I mean, in, in my view it was a (CLEARS THROAT) Supply Company for a division. Anyway, we got attached to the 1st Marine Division and the 3rd Battalion. Anyway, but, uh, (CLEARS THROAT) I guess, well, we were replacing evidently some other Unit that they had lost during the, they were fighting out there before I got there, you know. (LAUGH) So, I was just one of the replacements, evidently.

INTERVIEWER: Now, now I want you to tell me where you went from Guadalcanal, tell me where you went and, uh, I want you to tell me, I know it's gonna be Peleliu...

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: ...but, Peleliu, but you tell me about being assigned there and remember that you're talking to that 40 year old...

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: ...about where you're, where you're going...

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: ...and then I want you to just tell me what you did there and I want you to tell me what comes to your mind when you, on, on the ship going out there, what you did, how you went to the beach, what happened on the beach, anything that comes to your mind that your remember about your (STAMMERS) experience and get into and all Peleliu. You just talk.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Yeah. Uh, well, I was (CLEARS THROAT) as you said, I guess when we boarded the ship at Guadalcanal, we really didn't know where we were going until after they, we'd been out to sea for, oh, maybe a day. I think they set out in the water maybe a day or two before that, they told the truth where we were headed to.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) And, uh, then they briefed us as, about what you were supposed to do when you get there, or go to the island. Because we set out there in the (CLEARS THROAT) even when our Navy bombarded the island we could see the island, but they (STAMMERS) smoked it over and cut down most of the trees. (LAUGH)

INTERVIEWER: What island?

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Peleliu, yeah, okay, uh, and, uh, when we got ready to go shore now, they, what they, what they do, they assign you to whatever duties you're going to have and they sent my crew, I was with 7th Ammo, over toward ammunition ship to start unloading as the first few waves of troops went ashore. And, uh, well, after we worked on the ship on, in different sets. We were working about seven or eight hours and then the crew would relieve you.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) But you wouldn't go ashore, you'd, you'd go back on, a rest area on the ship and then the next morning, if your crew had to work there, (STAMMERS) you'd start all over again. But, uh, (CLEARS THROAT) it was taking so long to take the island, they came over and, uh, boy, I just, took the people that they knew had been trained to go ashore, you know.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) And picked them up in amphibious ducts and took them ashore. I was one of the groups that they took ashore and, well, when we got ashore, first thing they do, (STAMMERS) you dig yourself a fox hole, you, you dig, try to get in the sand deep enough to where you wouldn't get hit, you know.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) And they just move you up as a, as a group then, I mean, as you could move up. Now, the only thing that was keeping us down, they had mortars that would come out on a track, come out to the, and they just, just drop mortars all over the place. And you just, you, you, you got your fox hole dug, now when we dug the fox hole, we sit back to back, two guys in a hole and you sit with your back to each other.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) On that island, now they had land crabs as big as your hand, them (LAUGH) land crabs. And, uh, at night, the land crabs crawled over and fall in that hole, he's crawling all over the sand, he'd fall in that hole with, in you, you, you don't dare jump up or do anything, you just, you just grab him and stab him, throw him back out of the hole.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) Anyway, but, uh, you would, I mean, I thought I was pretty well protected 'cause I had a guy at my back and I'm facing this way and I, you could sit in that hole (CLEARS THROAT) just about all night and wouldn't, you, you wouldn't fall asleep, I mean, (STAMMERS) it just, it's just, uh, too much going on for you to fall asleep.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) Uh, the only way that we were able to get the enemy out of those caves up there was that we had (CLEARS THROAT) different groups that, oh, I was, uh, trained to scale a mountain, the sides. They would go up the mountainside with a tank on their back, with a flamethrower, you know, with the gelatin? And (CLEARS THROAT) we would, uh, start firing on the cave just to arouse those people that was back in there, you know.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) To keep them from coming out and they would come down the side and that took two or three days. And when they come down the side and got next to the hole, they'd shoot that flame in the hole and if they didn't have an out on the other side, it'd burn up all the oxygen in it, in the hole. And that, that, that gun would be silenced, I mean (LAUGH) you were.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) But that happened on several occasions in that particular, on that particular island. And, uh, I think we only had three prisoners that, uh, was taken. But since I (CLEARS THROAT) was, since I know now that the Japanese had a policy that they don't surrender, I mean, they, (STAMMERS) they'd rather die than surrender or kill themselves rather than surrender.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) It's the same now, from what I understand, on this last cruise, the reason why they did surrender, I wonder all, all the time why they didn't surrender. But, um.

INTERVIEWER: Now what were you doing during this time? Tell me what you were doing.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Well, (CLEARS THROAT) I was a rifleman and, uh, well, I've had hand to hand combat with people. One of, one of the people, once we got tents, once we got a beach head on the island and moved in far enough where they, they could start the putting up tents for you to sleep in. You'd slept in that hole for weeks.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) Uh, the Japanese would come down looking for food. The island was in pretty good hands then, and, uh, we had a game named (CLEARS THROAT) big, great big guy from North Carolina named Oliver, and the Japanese came down and stumbled and fell in the tent (LAUGH) on him. He tried to, and they didn't make a sound, it's just (STAMMERS) Oliver, Dillihan (SP?) , and myself was in the tent.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) So when they fell in there, he just grabbed him and just, just choked him to death, just laid there with him all the rest of the night. And they had to give him a shot in his arm to get his hands loose from the (LAUGH) from the man's (STAMMERS) throat the next morning, you know. Anyway, but, uh, there was a lot of things that happened on the island that, uh, uh, is not I don't think you'd tell on TV.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED)(LAUGH) But, uh, um, we finally got it secure. And, uh, the Japanese had a great big bull dozer that we couldn't get started or to move. I mean, this, one of the guys that (STAMMERS) like I said, the guy named Dillihan, he was a mechanic, his father and, in North Carolina had a logging outfit, trucks and what have you, so he was a pretty good mechanic.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) He went out there one day, we had to bury the dead around there in order to put up the mess hall. He, he went out there one day and it was a air driven, uh, motor, to start up the big motor. So he got, finally got it started, anyway, uh, then he drove it, leveled that ground off, buried all those bodies and then we put a mess hall up, I mean, that 's where we put our mess hall up is right on the edge of the, corner of the island.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) And they, had a corpsman and we got a rubber boat and sent four or five guys out fishing with concussion grenades and they'd drop them in the water and paddle like hell to get off, off them. And when it blow up, you know, the fish is numb, so they'd go by there and pick up a lot of different fish and take them up here and the doctor would tell you whether that you could eat these fish or not, you know. But we started eating pretty good after that. All the other time we was eating C ration before that, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Let me go back to something and, and again, you just talk. You respond as you ought to respond...

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: ...if you don't want to respond, that's fine.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: You said you were, you were in almost hand to hand combat situations. I'd like you to tell me, not so much about the hand to hand combat, but I'd like you, how old were you at that time?

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Well, I was 19. I married and then by the end I was 19 years old, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) I want you to try to tell me what you felt as a 19 year old boy raised in Mississippi, spent some time in Chicago, here you are on Peleliu, what did you feel? (STAMMERS) Give, give this audience out there, (LAUGH) if you would, some sense of how you felt during, during this time? What, what, what are you thinking about? What are you thinking, you know, (STAMMERS) just what were you feeling?

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Well, actually, mainly, but I was thinking about was survival. I, I, um, that was my constant (STAMMERS) thought, is try to be able to survive. Now, uh, (CLEARS THROAT) this was a journey that I never thought I'd take, I mean, going out on an island in the Pacific or some place, I mean, it just looks like it was out of this world. I mean, (LAUGH) it's, it's somewhere that I never even dreamed of going.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) And, uh, once I'm out there and I, the group that I'm with I had been taught that if we work together, we could survive and, uh, this was something that I thought about all the time. I mean, of course, uh, being able to survive. Now, the fear I guess wasn't any worse than it was any other time, I mean, as far as man to man, I tell you, I was capable of, uh, handling just about any hand to hand combat fight if I got into it.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) 'Cause (STAMMERS) my life was at stake and I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm fighting dearly for dying. (LAUGH) So, I, I wasn't the, I guess I wasn't afraid that it, that, uh, but, uh, I just was looking for the unexpected all the time anyway. So, I don't know (STAMMERS) what other way I can put. I tell you one incident that (CLEARS THROAT) that happened that, uh, (CLEARS THROAT) shouldn't have happened.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) We all had on colored underwear, you know, green for the jungle warfare and, uh, we had a scout, he was from New Jersey somewhere, named Douglas (SP?) , and he (CLEARS THROAT) he could speak some Japanese, he was a Black kid. But, uh, (CLEARS THROAT) he was a scout for the Company. He went out and scout all around the island and went to the Japanese, uh, where they soldiers were and told us about where to engage, where the mess hall and all that other stuff were.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) And he stole a bike, come back on the (LAUGH) on the Japanese bike. And, uh, when he came into camp around dusk, he, you know, just went back to his, where he, he and his buddy was in the fox hole together, this is before we had tents. So now, (CLEARS THROAT) that night, a land crab crawled in the hole where he were, but he had on white underwear, you know, irregular Marine Corps supply.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) He didn't have on the dark underwear. We got all of that stuff just before we got on the ship and he evidently didn't change. (STAMMERS) Anyway, but, uh, and when he hollered, they shot a flare up, the Japanese did and you could see that white underwear. (LAUGH) So they start shooting all across there, you know, he, in fact, uh, he's lucky that some of our people didn't kill him, (LAUGH) because.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Did he survive?

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Yeah, he survived. He gave our position away, though, but (LAUGH) but it was funny enough (LAUGH) just all over. But, it wasn't funny that night 'cause for about 45 minutes to an hour they just, it was raked all over. But you just, you'd get down in that hole and get out of the way, you know. Anyway, go ahead.

INTERVIEWER: Now how long were you on Peleliu?

LAWRENCE DIGGS: I think it was around 27, 28 days or more and I, I really didn't keep track of the days. Uh, once the island got half way secured, we start, uh, uh, we had clean up, we had to bury all the dead and all this different days, you know, because it was, it was horrible, I mean, as far as the stench, stink was concerned.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) So we, and after we got that done, we, uh, you know, start trying to migrate around the island, but you, you, you went in five, six at a time, you know, together.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, and where did you go after Peleliu?

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Went back to Guam, went to Guam. Now...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Tell me a little bit about that.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: ...see, the CB built us a base camp on Guam and we had launderers and (STAMMERS) showers and what have you. They built a nice camp on Guam, they called it our base camp. And we'd go back there, we had a movie theater and, uh, uh, well, we had a Motor Pool. I was a Buck Sergeant at the time and I was Motor Pool.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) And, uh, we had patrols, uh, well, I guess this is not (STAMMERS) well, it may be important. Uh, the Marine Corps, there was still Japanese on Guam in different pockets of Guam. And, uh, whenever they'd spot somebody, they'd send out a patrol and we'd had patrols that was going around (CLEARS THROAT) back, trying to root them all out.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) And, uh, I was in the patrol for my camp, our Unit down there up on the island. And a Captain was in charge of it and, uh, he went up there. Anyway, I got my, took my stripes off. I took a guard up, they called for a gun up there and, uh, the island command at that time, I don't know, it was a Brigadier General, I don't remember what his name was.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) But they called on the motor vehicle, where he had all the, the recons and all our stuff down there and somebody to bring a guard up. And they just told me to take it up and I took it up and (CLEARS THROAT) we met a Jeep, I met a Jeep on the road going up and it's around dusk, uh, so you only have on the little night lights.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) And I couldn't afford to get off the edge of that little road, it was just a little road, one way. And, uh, the Jeep had to get over on the edge, let me pass, you know. And I didn't ask him, I just kept going towards him and he had to move over. So, uh, next three or four days, I find out it was a man that was running the island like the Governor, you know, island command.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) Anyways, but, uh, he called the unit down there and took a stripe from me, got me busted. (LAUGH) But, I, I'm tell you this, I thought my Captain should've took care of that. I had, today, I really fought him for not saying that I told him to bring the gun, you know, you know, on the double, that's what he said, bring it on the double.

INTERVIEWER: Now, would you tell me just a little bit about, um, let's go back to your experiences in, in the States before you left the States. You were, you were in a segregated Unit, obviously.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Mm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: Um, when you went in, did you ever go in for liberty or go off base into Wilmington or Jacksonville or Kinston?

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Oh yeah. Mm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me a little bit about that, just tell me what the places were like that you went to. Did you ever have any run-ins with the local Whites? Or.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (STAMMERS) I went to the police, now the police, uh, uh, uh, sometimes, well, right in town there, it's a.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) In, in what town are you talking about?

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (OVERLAPPING) In Jacksonville, North Carolina, right in town. You know, the, the bus is, it's at our base now, what I mean by that, the town is right at the mouth of our base, which is Montford Point right there, and when we, when you get on liberty, you got maybe three, four hundred men coming out of camp who, to get on these buses.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) And if there were White on the bus, they, if they had most of the seats, and you (STAMMERS) you started in the back and you get up to where the Whites were sitting, you were not supposed to, wasn't supposed to sit forward in front of them, you know what I'm saying, what I mean?

INTERVIEWER: Yes.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: So we had asked some of the White people to move up, there was some vacant seats up there, you know. And, uh, some would and some wouldn't, I mean, you know, you understand what I mean. And, uh, a discussion would ensue, I mean, and, and, uh, if they didn't want to move up, well, naturally, we wanted to sit down and if, if there was one or two people that said, now, you should move up and this, I mean, you know. So some people that was just hard hearted, they, they'd say, oh, you can sit in the back, (MUMBLES) .

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) And you would be in uniform at that time?

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (OVERLAPPING) Oh yeah, yeah. And, uh.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Tell that audience.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Okay. Now, now, so we, he would, uh, the White person would come...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Tell, tell the young, 'cause their parents.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: ...the White person would call the police because, say we're gonna, we're gonna sit in front of him unless he gonna move, you understand what I mean? And I think he was just being defiant, that's what, uh, it happened once with me. And, uh, they, uh, there was about six or seven Marines on the back there and, uh, they just moved him, just picked him up and took him on up front, I mean, up further, whether we've had some seats.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) And it, he called the police, the police got on the bus and, uh, uh, one of the Sergeants spoke up, he said, uh, (STAMMERS) yeah, we moved him and, uh, you don't want us to sit in front of him, so we'll push him up further, we'll push him up further, you know, anyway. But the police sometime would, would, he'd raise a lot of hell, but he, he (STAMMERS) I don't think he took anybody off the bus.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED)'Cause if he took the Sergeant, he had to take eight more Marines with him, he wasn't gonna go alone, you know. So, that was that. And New Bern, I went to New Bern, I (STAMMERS) went to uh, uh, several different towns where they had, Wilmington, I went to Wilmington. Uh, but, uh, we'd sleep in the cemetery at night.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) When the USO closed, you know, you only get so many people in the USO. They maybe, (STAMMERS) have 40, 50 beds, okay. Whether you know it or not, uh, nobody's coming out in the cemetery (LAUGH) that they don't (STAMMERS) I mean, people just don't come out there. So we knew that and, uh, we just, uh, you know, five, six guys just take them big overcoats, go out there and lay them down and lay on them, you know.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) They've been sleeping, uh, if you wait 'til you, you've got to get in the USO at least about 11:30 or 12:00, and if you were somewhere and didn't get back to the USO in time where you would get yourself a bed, you're just there, you, you guys got a bed? No, no, no, so, well, let's go to the cemetery, you know.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me a little bit of what you, about what you remember about USO's. Did you go to USO's in both Jacksonville and Wilmington?

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Well, we didn't go in Jacksonville that much, but, uh, we went in New Bern and, uh, I mean, away from camp, uh, uh, I'm trying to think of some of them little towns. Yeah, we went to Durham, we went up to Durham and, um, uh, they had seven, several, uh, uh, all women colleges out there in North Carolina and we'd go to those towns where they had a lot of females, you know. Anyway, but, uh, uh.

INTERVIEWER: I'm very surprised that you would do that.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah, yeah. (LAUGH)

INTERVIEWER: Okay, uh, I want you to tell me just now, a little bit about your life after the Corps. Give me the year that you got out of the Corps, tell me what year you got out of the Corps, and tell me a little bit about your life after the Corps. We'll wrap it up.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (OVERLAPPING) Well, I, I, uh.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me when you got out.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Yeah, I got out in, uh, I, I hope you remember this, now 'cause it was on my discharge, my wife's say, oh, you don't, your, your memory is, is not very god anymore. (LAUGH) So, I think I got in late '46, I think. I was shipped back from Japan, I went from Okinawa to Sasebo to pick up a ship. That's what they did to us, (STAMMERS) took us around.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) And, uh, I waited there first couple of days and we all, we was just sleeping on the beach. And, uh, with your sea bag and what have you and laying on the beach. Anyway, (CLEARS THROAT) the ship didn't come so they brought a beer truck down there and, uh, you know, and that's the first time I ever been drunk in my life.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) I drink beer, lots of beer and got drunk and got sick, getting ready to come home. (LAUGH) And, and so, uh, uh, they shipped me all the way back to San Francisco. Now, that's, (STAMMERS) That wasn't, I'm from the East, uh, uh, you know, I figured they'd come back in Norfolk, but you'd have to come through the Panama Canal, you know, to back in at Norfolk.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) So they shipped it back to Treasure Island at San Francisco. Now we stayed out there, oh, must have been about two or three weeks before we got a troop train, I guess that's what they were waiting on, to ship us all the way back across the country. Uh, it took the, on the troop train, they shipped me back to North Carolina, Camp Lejeune.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) So I thought that was a hell of a long way because the troop train took us five days, you know, but it was pulling off evidently on the sides different places anywhere, ended up coming all the way back through Mississippi, all the way back round through, um, what's that camp down there in Mississippi, little bit past Jackson?

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (CONTINUED) Anyway, and then it came on up to Camp Lejeune. They had Army, Navy, whatever people on, soldiers on there, you know. And, uh, they asked just about everybody to reenlist when you got back to your home base there, you know, they want you to reenlist, but, uh, I was happy to get home and I was, I was gonna go home, so I. (LAUGH)

INTERVIEWER: And where did you go to when you left the Corps?

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Well, I went on to Chicago, yeah, I went on to Chicago. I went back home. Anyway.

INTERVIEWER: And what did you do in, in, in your life there, in Chicago?

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (OVERLAPPING) Well, in Chicago, now (CLEARS THROAT) like I said, I, I started work, two minutes? I started work at U.S. Steel at night and that's in, out in south Chicago, and then I raised rabbits during the day, I had some (CLEARS THROAT) I had a rabbit for a pet, pet rabbit. And they would get, he just multiplied so fast 'til I had to start building cages and then I raised rabbits there and I just kept raising them. Now we didn't eat them, but I finally sold them to this county for women rabbit, for, they did pregnant tests for women's, for the.

INTERVIEWER: Let me get you to finish by telling me, what do you think, what do you think about having been a Montford Point Marine? Just tell me anything....

LAWRENCE DIGGS: (OVERLAPPING) Oh, I.

INTERVIEWER: ...that you want to say.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: I think being a, a military person, especially a Marine, uh, teaches you how to survive. Now I have never been without a job in, uh, Chicago, and, uh, now, well, I, I just think it's, it was the best training I ever had for life, not just for the Marine Corps. I wasn't planning on staying in the Marine Corps.


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