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LORENZO FELDER

August 30th, 2005


a thumbnail image of Lorenzo Felder Lorenzo FelderLorenzo Felder from Baltimore, Maryland, served with the 51st Defense Battalion in the South Pacific during World War II. Discharged after the war, he completed college and entered law school, only to be recalled to active duty during the Korean War. A stroke of luck gave him a duty assignment in Germany, rather than Korea. After the Korean War, Felder returned to the Baltimore area, where he resided until his death in 2006.


INTERVIEWER: These questions that I am going to ask you, then, are questions that we have asked of all of our Montford Point Marines we've interviewed. Um, and the first thing I would like you to do, sir, is to state your full name and spell it if you would, sir.

LORENZO FELDER: Lorenzo Felder, L-O-R-E-N-Z-O F-E-L-D-E-R. (TECHNICAL)

LORENZO FELDER: Today's date is August the 11th, 2005.

INTERVIEWER: All right sir, can you tell us a little about your background before you joined the Marines?

LORENZO FELDER: I just gotten out of high school and entered college. And uh, I was in my first semester and, and at the time I was working in the Post Office for the Christmas season.

INTERVIEWER: Okay sir, uh, little about your family, your, uh, mother, father, sisters and brothers if you have any?

LORENZO FELDER: Uh, I have, uh, two sisters and a brother who are both deceased. Uh, I'm the only one that uh, (STAMMERS) that uh, completed college, uh...

INTERVIEWER: Okay, a little about your education, where did you to school?

LORENZO FELDER: (OVERLAPPING) I went to school at Morgan State College, now Morgan State University. I majored in Political Science and I, after college I went to Law School for a while. In Law School, I was called on active duty, uh, for the, uh, for the Korea campaign and then uh, I went, I went to, instead of going to Korea, my Battalion went to Korea. I was in the youngest company, so we went to Fort Eustes for additional training and I end up going to Germany. And I stayed in Germany for a couple of years.

INTERVIEWER: Now you had the opportunity, uh, when you went in the Marine Corps, you joined and weren't drafted to go in the army or the navy, why did you join the Marines?

LORENZO FELDER: (LAUGH) I laugh because it was an unusual situation. I was working in the Marine, I was working in the Post Office at the time and the Recruiting Office for the Marine Corps was also in the Post Office building. Some of the guys and I started joking around and we made a 15 cent bet that I wouldn't go down and sign up. Well, that didn't bother me 'cause I, I knew that Blacks was not, were not, uh, uh, being taken in the Marine Corps. So I went in the office and the sergeant at desk said here, take this piece of paper and write me a paragraph why you want to be a Marine.

LORENZO FELDER: (CONTINUED) I did and passed it back to him, still thinking this is just a joke with him. So there was a line outside of a door and he said stand in that line, and as I stood in that line there were several White guys that came out that was rejected. And I said to myself, if they were rejected, I know I'm going to be rejected. So, I went in, and went through the exam, and when they finished they stopped, stamped an ok on my hand. Hey, what's this? They said you, you have passed the physical, you are now ready to become a Marine, and right on the spot I was sworn in. I left out of the office dumbfounded. What have I done to myself?

LORENZO FELDER: (CONTINUED) I went home and I called my girlfriend and I told her what had happened, and she said what have you done to yourself, and she really didn't believe me but I convinced her that this is what happened. I went out to the school and told them that I had to withdraw, I was going to the Marine Corps, and the Dean said boy get out of my office. So, he didn't believe me. Well several, a couple of weeks after then I got a call from the (STAMMERS) recruiting officer telling me to get a washcloth, toothbrush and report down to the B & O railroad station. I did, and I boarded the train and I headed for North Carolina.

INTERVIEWER: Tell, tell me about that trip down there, what, how was it, can you, anything that stands out in your mind about the trip?

LORENZO FELDER: (OVERLAPPING) Yes, yes, yes. Uh, when we left Baltimore the train was integrated, when we got to Richmond the train became segregated. And we got to Wilson, North Carolina, we boarded buses, and one thing that stuck in my mind is when we stopped to get food, the White guys were allowed to go in to the restaurant, the Black guys had to go around the back and be served from a cubby hole. And the disgraceful part, when we got ready to pay, the lady said you have to put the money on the counter and I'll pick it up. I can't take it out of your hand. Now I, I'm going into the service that serves my country and this is what I'm confronted with. And from there we went on down Montford Point.

INTERVIEWER: Did you know uh, that when you joined, when you came into the Marine Corps, that the Marine Corps never admitted African Americans, and if so, did that have anything to do with your decision to join the Marine Corps? (MUMBLES) Come into the Marines?

LORENZO FELDER: If you remember how I got in the Marine Corps.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah, yeah, yeah.

LORENZO FELDER: That had nothing to do with it.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Okay, okay, okay, good. And then uh, because that was a fact that had no bearing on your wanting or not wanting to go into the Marine Corps. Okay, just wanted to make that clear. Now, when you, when you got to, okay, you completed the journey and you got to the, Montford Point, can you give me an idea or give us a picture, a word picture of what your feelings were when you got off the bus and boom, there it was, Montford Point.

LORENZO FELDER: We got off the bus, we had on (STAMMERS) we still had on civilian clothes, of course, it was raining. No time was wasted, we went straight to the clothing warehouse and were issued uniforms, and then from there we went to what they used as barracks, which were corrugated, not corrugated but pasteboard huts and uh, we were assigned a bunk and, and, and along with uh, ten other people. (TECHNICAL)

LORENZO FELDER: (CONTINUED) I reported to Montford (STAMMERS) Point December the 15th, 1942. (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: Uh, now uh, if, if, when, when you were there and this is, this is a point Milton asked me to, to stress with you. You, you were one of the few people that were interviewed that when you went to get White drill instructors, okay, uh, were you there for the transition?

LORENZO FELDER: (OVERLAPPING) No.

INTERVIEWER: ...to Black, okay, so you had all White instructors. Uh, can you talk about their relationship with the African American Marines and how they treated you uh, did you (STAMMERS) encounter any racism and...

LORENZO FELDER: It was evident that most of the White drill instructors were southerners. But I must say they would never ask you to do anything that they didn't do first. That they were all career Marines. We had no problems as far as racism was concerned, it was all-military it was all training.

INTERVIEWER: Do you believe that these, these men prepared you for what you might have had to encounter had you gone into to combat? Did you feel like you were ready as a result of that training, so tell us about it?

LORENZO FELDER: Well, I had nothing to compare it to but I, I, I felt that I was ready to the point that we all that went under the training felt that we could take on a person three times our size and come out on top. And incidentally we tried it.

INTERVIEWER: Can you tell us about that?

LORENZO FELDER: When we got, when we finished our boot camp training, we went into a little town in North Carolina called New Bern, North Carolina. That evening, a fight broke out and it was just like the old west. Windows were crashed and tables were thrown and they finally had to send for the (STAMMERS) for the for the... (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) I want you to stop there 'cause I wanna hear about this, I lived in New Bern, so I know...

LORENZO FELDER: Oh, you do?

INTERVIEWER: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I did live there.

LORENZO FELDER: Ok, so they had to call in the 1st Marine Division. (TECHNICAL)

LORENZO FELDER: Well, after we finished, after we graduated from boot camp we all went in the New Bern, North Carolina on a, on a, on a, on a pass, and we got hooked up with what is known as White Lightning and guys just, just lost it. Windows was broken out, chairs were thrown, and they had end up sending for the 1st Marine Division who had had just returned from the Guadalcanal to quiet things down. Nobody, nobody was sent to the brig, we were all sent back to camp to sleep it off.

INTERVIEWER: (STAMMERS) Despite uh, what, what was the opposing sides, was it Montford Point Marines against Montford Point Marines?

LORENZO FELDER: Right. The fight was between Marines against Marines. It was just the idea (STAMMERS) we had to let off steam and that's the way we did it.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Did, so, when you left Montford Point uh, you went overseas?

LORENZO FELDER: No, well, (STAMMERS) well, not exactly. We moved across a creek to a C.C.C. Camp to complete our training and I'm not sure where that was considered a Montford Point or not. But, but, that's where we went and we left from that site to go to California to go overseas. We left out of San Diego.

INTERVIEWER: How did you get to San Diego?

LORENZO FELDER: By, by train

INTERVIEWER: Tell us a little bit about the trip out there.

LORENZO FELDER: The trip out there was uneventful uh, in that uh, I (STAMMERS) , I guess the only thing that was a little different was, every so often the train was stopped and we would put another set of dining cars. But other than that the guys just played cards all the way out to the coast. Every now and then we would get off the train, do some exercises, and get back on the train.

INTERVIEWER: The, the, was this a troop train or was it all Montford Pointers or...

LORENZO FELDER: (OVERLAPPING) All 51st Defense Battalion. And to answer your question, yes, Montford Pointers.

INTERVIEWER: Did you uh, when you got to California what did you do there?

LORENZO FELDER: (CLEARS THROAT) When we got to California we, we (STAMMERS) turned in the equipment that we took out and prepared to board ship to go overseas.

INTERVIEWER: When you, when you, but where did you go when you went overseas?

LORENZO FELDER: We, the first place we went was an island called (SOUNDS LIKE) Funafuti. And the big thing there that we would relieve the White outfit who had been caught there when the war started. So they were very glad to see us. And just about hugged us and of course when we took over their gun position they departed.

INTERVIEWER: When you were there on Funafuti, did you did you see any action or did anything happen uh, that could have considered combat?

LORENZO FELDER: It's hard to say. A, a sub was supposedly been sighted and we fired on it but there was no result of whether we hit anything or not, and that was all that happened on that island as far as combat was concerned.

INTERVIEWER: How long were you there, what did you do while you were there?

LORENZO FELDER: We were we were on Funafuti for approximately three months, maybe four months, and the only thing we did was train, and of course we hit the monsoon season and then it was all rain there for maybe 30 days, but that was just about it there.

INTERVIEWER: Did you interact at all with the people uh, who lived there?

LORENZO FELDER: With the natives?

INTERVIEWER: Sure.

LORENZO FELDER: No. The only thing, the natives worked in the chow hall an, and uh, they, they hadn't reached a point of when uh, clothes were just around the waist and, and, and that was it, and were restricted from having anything to do with them.

INTERVIEWER: And you (STAMMERS) say you stayed there for three months, is that it?

LORENZO FELDER: Mm Hmm.

INTERVIEWER: And then after you left there, where did you go?

LORENZO FELDER: We went to uh, hmm, (SOUNDS LIKE) Eniwetok in the marshes. And my particular battery went to Parry, which was a small island off of uh, Eniwetok.

INTERVIEWER: How long did you stay there?

LORENZO FELDER: We, we stayed there for about three months and then we moved over to Eniwetok.

INTERVIEWER: And then you faced, what did you do while you were there, basically the same thing?

LORENZO FELDER: Basically the same thing, training, training, training.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, and when you left uh, Eniwetok, where did you go?

LORENZO FELDER: Back to the states.

INTERVIEWER: And did you, did you stay in the Marine Corps after that? Or did you...

LORENZO FELDER: (OVERLAPPING) Got out as soon as I possibly could.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, okay. While you were in did you develop what you would consider to be, you know, some lesser relationship with Whites, any Whites you might have met while you were in the Marine Corps?

LORENZO FELDER: No.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Did, you really didn't see any, I guess, other than the drill instructors, am I correct about that, that you came in contact with?

LORENZO FELDER: (OVERLAPPING) Well, not exactly. When we got to Eniwetok, my gun battery was right next to CB outfit and we became friendly with some of those guys because they had a way of getting things, for an example, they had refrigerators under the tent floor and late at night we could smell bacon and eggs and we would follow the scent and they would welcome us to eat with them, but that was it.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Well the, the fact that you were, um, you know one of the Marines that broke down the color barrier is significant to me. I mean, I retired as a Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel but there ain't no way that could have happened without, uh, folks like yourself breaking down that color barrier, and to me that's significant. And I, I just want to know what you think is the historical significance of your service and all the other 20,000 plus marines were there at Montford Point. What you think is the historical significance of that service?

LORENZO FELDER: Well, I, first of all I, I, I think the breakdown of color barrier made the Marine Corps a more (STAMMERS) military minded organization, rather than wrought with discrimination. They got all could come together and operate as, as, as, as one unit. I guess the Marine Corps said they looking for one good man and that was one of the ways to achieve that goal.

INTERVIEWER: How do you think the Marine Corps experience, uh, affected your life, in what way? Did it do anything for you?

LORENZO FELDER: Not really, because I left the Marine Corps, not with a bitter feeling, but with a disappointed feeling. I was in a organization that sat on an island for a year, almost two years, with action all around us and we saw nothing. And when you train and train and train, you get to the point said what's the use?

INTERVIEWER: I understand. But the, but the discipline training the regimentation, do you think that did anything for helping you develop as a, as a father, as a strong citizen strong person?

LORENZO FELDER: It would be hard for me to distinguish, you see, I went right into, while in college, I went (STAMMERS) into a National Guard organization which I ended up returning as lieutenant colonel. And I, I ,I can't separate the two.

INTERVIEWER: Understand. Okay. So it's, it's, you really can't, I guess, you say you really can't respond to that, to the effect because it, it may have been the National Guard experience.

LORENZO FELDER: (OVERLAPPING) Or a combination of both.

INTERVIEWER: ...or a combination of both. Understand, understand. Okay. What are your feelings then? Your general feelings about being a Montford Point marine?

LORENZO FELDER: Are we separating (STAMMERS) Montford Point marines from the 51st Defense Battalion or are, is it inclusive?

INTERVIEWER: It's inclusive.

LORENZO FELDER: Okay. As I said, I departed from from the Marine Corps with, with, with a feeling that I accomplished nothing. And I also will have to say I wouldn't trade that experience for nothing in the world.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Okay. Good. And do you believe that having been through it all, you, you, were it was not your choice to go into the Marine Corps in the beginning. But having gone through it all knowing what you know right now and it ended up, up 1942 all over again. Would you, would you join the marines?

LORENZO FELDER: (STAMMERS) Are we saying that if it's 1942 again and things were different? Or things were the same?

INTERVIEWER: Things were the same. Would you, would you, would you join the Marine Corps again. Or, would you go off and do something else?

LORENZO FELDER: I would go off and do something else. And, and I, I would be honest with you, if things were different and I had an opportunity to move up in the ranks, I would love to stayed in the Marine Corps.

INTERVIEWER: Understand. Is there anything else you would like to tell us, sir, about your service, about your experience? Uh, or just anything else you would like to tell us, period, relative to this Montford Point marine experience?

LORENZO FELDER: Yes. After, after we finished boot camp and before the (STAMMERS) the organization of the 51st Defense Battalion, the Marine Corps didn't know what to do with us. At one time we were trained on 75 millimeter howitzers, and the next time we had tanks, and then finally in the 52nd Marine, the 52nd Defense Battalion was organized. And it is my firm belief that the 52nd Defense Battalion and the 51st Defense Battalion was formed as blinders while they organized labor companies, the ammunition companies. And then (STAMMERS) they, they, they, they were sent out just, to do just that, uh, to supply ammunition to the line.

INTERVIEWER: Is there anything else you would like to say sir?

LORENZO FELDER: I think that is sufficient. (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: Okay, Sir, can you tell me any other instances of segregation that you can remember?

LORENZO FELDER: Yes. Uh, (CLEARS THROAT) both on post and off post. Theater, for an example, was segregated. Whites sat in one section and Blacks sat in another section. And when were going on pass, or leave at the bus station the Black marines stood aside, had to stand aside by orders of the MPs while the White Marines boarded the bus. And (STAMMERS) and then the Black marines were allowed to get on, uh, for standing in many cases for standing room only. (TECHNICAL)


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