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JOHNNIE GIVIAN

August 17th, 2005


a thumbnail image of Corporal Johnnie Givian Corporal Johnnie GivianCorporal Johnnie Givian was born on a tenant farm near Selma, Alabama, and moved to Atlanta as a youth. He joined the Marines in 1946. A twenty year veteran, he served in Korea. After retirement he worked in a plywood factory and as a retail clerk. He has also served as pastor to a church for over thirty years. He resides in Jacksonville, North Carolina.


INTERVIEWER: What I'd like you to do first is state your full name and then spell your name and then give us today's date which is August 17th, of course of 2005. So if you would please sir?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: My name is Johnnie Givian, J-O-H-N-N-I-E last name G-I-V-I-A-N, uh, and this date is August the 17th 2005.

INTERVIEWER: Thank you sir, now I'd like you to tell us a little bit about, um, your background. That is, um, where were you born and raised what was your family like what did your, uh, parents do for a living. Uh, and what your educational background was up to the point that you joined the Marines, not after but at the point you joined the Marines, just tell me what your educational experience was?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: Uh, high school, and, uh, I did some college '30s in the Marine Corps and I got credit for those.

INTERVIEWER: Okay but tell me about your background and where you were born, where you were raised, your mom and your dad whether you had brothers or sisters that kind of stuff?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: I was born in a little tiny little place called Mempa , Alabama, just located, uh, south of Selma, Alabama, directly south of Selma Alabama about 79 miles south of Selma. And this place was a junction more or less than a town or city it was called Mempa, Alabama and, uh, we were farmers, we was raised on a farm. My mother was like a share cropper to someone else that had the farm and we were raised there.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) Our, uh, my siblings there was, uh, 13 of us, and, um, myself I'm one of the, uh, latter three out of that 13, uh, litter of children. I'm the third one from the last, uh, a lot of things that are about my mother and my father happened before I was born. And I heard a lot of talk about how they met, how things was, but by the time I was able to remember well, uh, my father wasn't, wasn't known.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) Uh, he wasn't there and I heard a lot of different, you know, tales about how he left or how they got along and everything. But I never knew him, but I knew my mother 'till the day she died.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, I want you, uh, to tell me a little bit about why you decided to join the Marines and then tell me the year that you went into the Marines. But first tell me why you decided to join then, when and where you, you actually joined?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: Yes I would do that and be glad to do that, but I need a free speech to tell you. Um, in 19 uh, 46 probably about April or May I was in Atlanta, Georgia and I was very young. My mother had passed away, um, a little over nine or 10 months earlier and that left me as a family with a, seven siblings that was, uh, living there and then I had two sisters there in Atlanta.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And, and I was living with one of them and I, I had done stopped going to school because of the condition of, uh, the need. And my sister had a couple children and I was trying to help her and that didn't last but about a couple months though. Okay and now, and I knew that the boys that I knew they was getting in trouble and I, I was trying to get out around them.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) I was trying to look I wanted to make something of my life and I just didn't want to go to jail and I was afraid that if I did, because, uh, they were getting in trouble. And if I hung with them then I felt that I'd be in trouble and I, I was worried I was had a big hurt on me because I'd just lost my mother. Didn't know where my daddy was so I was kind of like loose out there.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And a friend of mine and I was talking one day and, and, uh, we agreed that we'd go get in the military. Nothing about the Marine Corps, so, we agreed and, uh, we got together and went down to the post office in Atlanta, Georgia, 'cause that's where the recruiting officer was at that time. And, uh, all I knew really was navy and army you know, I didn't know about this thing called Marine Corps and which.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) So I went in and I sat down and went before the navy board and, and they and I took the test and they took me out and told me that I had passed to go into the navy but it will be, uh, like, uh, almost a year before I would go, you know. And I didn't want this I wanted to get out of Atlanta I wanted to get away from these people that I knew. And I just wanted to get somewhere where I felt safe.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) So coming back down the hall there was a marine standing in the door, he was standing in a door and he called us in and he said don't you young men want to go in the Marine Corps. And 'cause he literally just about had to let me know what the Marine Corps was all about showing me all these big pictures and everything.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And I was excited and I was glad to go I said I can't go in the Marine Corps I said I just I was accepted by the navy. And they told me they said uh, now you don't have to worry about that. I said yeah, but they said they was gonna put me on a list and when they get a, a opening they were gonna call me. And I, and I didn't want to you know violate the law again.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And he said I, let me tell you, you ain't gonna be in no trouble if you pass these tests then you can, I can send you away in the next two weeks. So I got excited and I sat down and took the test I passed the written test. I was, uh, too small I didn't weight enough for their weight test I was too short for their, their height because back then the Marine Corps had restrictions on whether you were small.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) Or whether you are high enough and tall enough, so I passed the test, the written tests there were two of them. And I passed them and, and, uh, he told me he said, uh, the recruiting officer is gonna be in at 1:00 you all come back up her at 1:00 and if he passes you than you can go in the Marine Corps. And he had guaranteed me that he would send me in the Marine Corps in 10 days.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) I was all excited went down to the lobby of the post office and waited about an hour. Before I left he said, you, you're too light to go in here, you're, you're gonna have to do something. I want you to buy, get yourself four pounds of bananas when you, before you come back here and you eat them. And, uh, we can get you in here.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) So this was a, a sergeant that was in, and I went down and I bought the four pounds of bananas and I eat, ate them, put I didn't eat the peelings see because I needed four pounds and I bought four pounds of bananas, 'cause the pound, the peeling weighing more than the inside of the banana. So I come back up and he juggled around and I'm sure that he put his toe on the scales and, and I, I passed.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) Uh, the, the man that was with me he passed so we was supposed to leave in 10 days in this Marine Corps. I saw all this stuff and I got so excited big trucks and guns everything. And, uh, he, uh, the only thing was holding us back was the birth certificate. And I didn't have a birth certificate and the man that was with me didn't have one but his mother had a birth certificate.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) Mine was down there lost in Alabama somewhere. So, uh, and he told me that if I didn't have a birth certificate I had to give my next of kin which was my sister so I went home and got her to sign a document. Document that, uh, that I was of age and everything and I took it back and they put me on a schedule to leave in 10 days I left Atlanta.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) He couldn't leave because his mother wouldn't give him the birth certificate and wouldn't sign him in there, so that's how it come about me getting into the Marine Corps. Uh, I was so excited about the Marine Corps because it was so, uh, exciting to see all the things was going on. I already know about the navy ships and stuff, you know, but I didn't know too much about the Marine Corps.

INTERVIEWER: Okay so you're in the Corps you travel to, uh, to, uh, Montford Point what I want you to do is tell me a little bit about what you remember when you got to Montford Point. I mean when you first came in, your first experiences in Montford Point the first couple of days or so, get my hand out of that camera. Tell me your first impressions of Montford Point, just what, whatever you want to tell?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: Uh, I rode, I, I arrived in Jacksonville on a train got off the train and, uh, a Black Marine came out on a, on a truck it was, uh, a truck but it was a small truck and picked us up. Me and two other people from different locations. I, uh, got in the back of the truck and we went to the gate at Montford Point and, uh, that's where he put us out at.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) The gate was by the, by a four foot, about four foot wide that where he was. But in the back of that was a little, uh, hut type of thing up in there. So we was sent over into that building and that's when I found out what the Marine Corps was all about.

INTERVIEWER: And tell me how you found that out?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: I walked in the door feeling so good me being a Marine, I just felt like I was the President Of The United States. I walked in there and this guy you know can I use my own expression?

INTERVIEWER: Sure it's your story.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: He was about I guess he weighed about 250 pounds he, he was tall about a foot taller than me and his shoulders looked like they was belonged to a gorilla or something. And, and he walked up to me and I'm smiling 'cause I'm in the Marine Corps now and he said straighten up. I did the best I could to straighten up and he said jump up and I jumped up. And then he said who told you to come back down.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And he said jump up and I kept doing this I tell you 'till my feet felt like they were gonna fall off. But eventually he told me he said, you see them rafters 'cause up there you know they didn't have no ceiling and that's where they wanted me to jump and hold on to one of them. But they didn't tell me and that's when I found out about the Marine Corps and we were lead from there by walking down to the backside of Montford Point.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And that's over that side the water side like if you stand on the bank of it you'll probably see the bridge in Jacksonville. And we were lead down there and I was shown the place on my stay and, uh, for the next, uh, five or six days I was, uh, doctrinated on how that I should live from now on you know. It belongs to you, you don't belong to your mamma, you don't belong to your daddy, you don't belong, you belong to me.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And that was that big guy that I had to look up to see his face. And, uh, then after that, uh, finally we got some food that evening somewhere around 6:00 but that was it when I first walked into Montford Point.

INTERVIEWER: Okay now you're in there and you realize where you are, you're in boot, I want you to tell me a little bit about, um, what you did in boot camp. What kind of training you actually received, what did they teach you to do in boot camp. And, I, I don't, I get various responses from various interviewees. But you just tell me what your memories were of the things you did in boot camp?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: For the next (CLEARS THROAT) next, uh, four or six weeks nothing technical. Nothing about, you know, you're gonna be assigned here you do this you do this it's all about running, crawling and duck walking. And, uh, uh, trying to prove I think they was, they was doing to me trying to make me prove that I was somebody that I wasn't. I mean I had to change my character my thoughts.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) I had to just believe in what they said and, uh, that's what the training that was forced upon me for them first few weeks. It was either that I, I need to walk this way, I need to turn this way, I need to go this way. Nothing about nothing else you know like that, uh, recruiter showed me in that room down there. But it was all about my disposition, or my way of speaking, uh, my honoring the lease.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And, uh, stuff like this, this is what I was just pounded upon me for those weeks. And, and a couple months, 'cause we, I stayed in boot camp three months, and I mean I really was in boot camp. I wasn't, you know, like, uh, part time (WORD?). It was, uh, on demand for three months a little over three months. And it was like a dicatationship and it was all about you ain't good enough.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) You got to get better you got to do this, you got to do this, you know, and my disposition you know how I was living. Who I was before I got there and what I gonna be here after. And I thought maybe that's all the Marine Corps was about how I act, you know, so that's what happened.

INTERVIEWER: And what would you say was the spirit of the men that you were with then? Tell me the spirit of the men that I was in boot camp was?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: The, the my comrades like other boots, uh, yes, uh, there was fear set in there was a fear of, uh, I might, uh, do wrong. I might say wrong, I might disobey not knowing it. And it was a feel for all of us because at that time, you know, I had no experience with life you know too much. And, and most of the guys around me some of them was, uh, 20, 22 years old and they seemed (STAMMERS) denial within themselves as I was.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) Because the fear set in and I'm sure that's what it was it was a wave of fear set over all of us and we tried to do our best. And, uh, this was the way they lived they would talk to each other you know like if I would grin at the wrong time or something they'd be warning me. You know you could, uh, get in trouble here, 'cause everybody was on the fear.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, um, so you were in camp for three months then you got your first liberty after being in boot camp?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: Yeah we, uh, we graduated boot camp never saw the gate the only thing, place I saw in this boot camp out here was them woods down there. Scrubbing them floors duck walking from one place to another and coming over this side over here where Montford Point living quarters was. Right over in this area I believe this building or somewhere right in this area.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And we walked over here to eat and we walked back and then the rest of it was right inside of that boot camp which was about a 15 or 20 different huts down in there. And, and, and that's all I saw and then when I graduated I was just stagnated because I didn't know what to do, I, I didn't know where to go out here and try to be a man or not.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) You know or just do like that huff and whatever, cadet and he was the big old guy that I was telling you about that scared me to death, to death almost. But, and I, that day of, uh, recruiting, I mean the day of graduation, I, uh, finally got through the procedure they had there and the liberty would go the next day. And I didn't know where to go, uh, I didn't go, some of the, some of the guys went somewhere.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) They had, knew how to get the bus or something 'cause we didn't have no personal transportation. My, my kin wasn't there some of there's came a few of them, not all of them but a few came. And, uh, they took them in and put them in the car and they went to Jacksonville and stuff but I couldn't go 'cause I didn't know where to go. It was a couple three days later before I got out of that camp.

INTERVIEWER: Okay now I'm assuming that sometime you did go into Jacksonville or go into Wilmington or Kinston or whatever while you were still stationed at Montford Point. I want you to tell me about your experiences when you left the base, particularly did you encounter any racism from Whites. Any, any, uh, experience or, uh, because you were from the South did you pretty much know how, what to do, where to go and so forth.

INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) Jacksonville was still a very segregated town, can you tell me a little bit about what, what Jacksonville looked like to you or what your experiences where when you did go into Jacksonville?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: Yes Jacksonville was labeled uh anybody that didn't want any trouble then they, they followed the signs for the Blacks. And this is the way I looked at it, so I left Atlanta 'cause I didn't want to get in trouble. And when I got here I didn't want to get in trouble so I way, I wouldn't go in a place or go to a place unless I had the information on whether or not I was allowed there.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) It would be legal for me to go there, but all the labeling, I mean all the place with labels let's talk about the bus station at Jacksonville. Uh, we would go to the bus station and, and I left Jacksonville on a bus it was after that I had graduated maybe a month or so. Jacksonville had, had a bench on the outer little shack that they had that's where the Black would sit at, and it was marked.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) Uh, Jacksonville had a cafeteria inside the bus station and they had a sign up there White only. And then, uh, they had a little sign Colored this way and there was a little room about this big right on the back side that's where we went to get a hot dog or something. So all of Jacksonville was labeled everybody I talked to about, uh, Jacksonville, you know, you need to go here you go down South Court Street here in Jacksonville.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And of course we didn't have but one club down there or something like this. And this was the limitation down there I, I was concerned about going anywhere else. And you know that's why I asked you can I say freely what I'm, I want to say because this is the way it was. Uh, liberty you'd say you'd be on liberty but you know you got to be where you would be.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And, uh, and they as far as the racial slurs and things like this periodically you would hear somebody say, you know, there go the Black Marines or something. But, uh, I had more trouble with being a Marine than with being Black (LAUGH) . See I would, uh, by me being a Marine and there would refer to the Marine like, you know, think he's something 'cause he in the Marine Corps or something like this you know.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And, uh, I used to get into scraps, scraps you know not really fighting but getting into arguments about it 'cause they're kind of monkey with it. But that was the, the life around Jacksonville. I went to New Bern and the people didn't bug, uh, uh, tease me about being a Marine all that much but then we had that, still had that same limit that, you know where we could go at.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And like, like you say you know there was restricted we just couldn't do anything. So, this the way it was until I left here 'cause Atlanta, part of Atlanta was you know the same way. I knew about racism I know about being Black and, and being with White people you know. And, and being where White people's at and being where the Blacks supposed to be at.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) You know I was brought up that way I was down in Alabama remember and in Florida, Pensacola, Florida was just as worse. So I knew this, so I was trained before I got to Montford Point I tried to stay away from trouble you know by trying to infiltrate places that I know that the signs said for me not to go.

INTERVIEWER: Okay that's a, that's a good summary by the way I like, I like, I like that summary very much. Um, what were your experiences in the Corps after you left Montford Point. I'm gonna get you to Korea I understand you're a Korean War veteran. Were you a, were you a career, just, just off the cuff were you a career man or did you, did you stay in the Corps for any, for a career?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: I, uh, I went in the Marine Corps in, uh, in 1947 they was trying to cut back on their military so I signed up to get out because I just felt like somebody was choking me all the time. And, uh, and I got out of the Marine Corps and I went back to Atlanta and I was looking for a job, looking for this and, and I saw the same stuff I if you got out then you had to get in the reserve.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) So I went right back down to the reserves I think I stayed out 30 days and they infiltrated me back in the Marine Corps. So I came back I the Marine Corps and when I did that I met my wife and, uh, for me to spend 20 years in the Marine Corps now I blame her. 'Cause she just kept on you know insisting that I stay, but that was, uh, after 1949.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, now, now I want you to tell me you came back in the Corps I want you, when you say it I want you to say it you know I came back in the Corps whatever year it was. And then I want you to tell me did you come back into a, a segregated unit when you came back in the corps?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: Definitely.

INTERVIEWER: Then I want you to say I came back in the Corps in 1949 I went to this unit that it was a, still a segregated unit. And then I want you to think about when you went into your first integrated unit when that was and what circumstances, tell me about it. So just give me that sort of background?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: All right well, uh.

INTERVIEWER: Start off when you came back into the corps.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: And this was in 1947 the month, I'm not sure but it was about May or somewhere along in there when I infiltrated back 'cause I didn't stay out for about 30 days. Then I came back I came right back to Montford Point and Montford Point hadn't changed no kind of way. They still haven't change no kind of way so I went back to Montford Point the only difference was that when I was, got out of the Marine Corps I was, uh, labeled as a steward.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) I was waiting on tables and, uh, you know, and stuff like that, and then, uh, when I went back they put me in what we called the motor transport AAA Motor Transport Company and that's what the Black, uh, right there at Montford Point, here in Montford Point. So I was in there and stood guard duties and everything.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And they put up a, a sign that they was looking for people to go on a detachment, they mean you know like leave Montford Point and go somewhere else for a certain length of time. And, and my name appeared on there to go to California and, uh, I was happy about that 'cause I had heard a lot of good stuff about California. But we got on a train one day and rode out there and they put us in a barrack, uh, 52 of us.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And they put us in a barracks it was an all White barracks, 'cause matter of fact, all everything was out there was White, the whole base was except us now as a unit. We was the Montford Point Detachment Unit I believe it was. But they put us in a, a one wing in the corner of that, uh, barracks where the, you know if you've been there it's the oldest building out there it's Hughes building.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) But we was on one wing and, and we was in there and that's where we supposed to lodge at. Uh, went to the, the, the mess hall to eat they had an area roped off for us. We'd go in there, they were segregated they weren't as nasty as some of the people around down in this area. But they was segregated we had to go to the furthest row we couldn't go up there and eat over here.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) We just had to eat in that one place where they had it roped off and the same way in the barracks sleeping. The theater was roped off at a certain area where we would go.

INTERVIEWER: And this was in California?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: It was in Camp Pendleton, California. And I stayed there about seven or eight months. And, uh, they, uh, it wasn't, unless we get in a confrontation with somebody you know. As long as I'm minding my business I pretty well stayed out of trouble you know because I minded my business I didn't try to be something that I know I wasn't.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) Okay but anyway we stayed there about seven or eight months and, uh, it came out for a shipment, a draft to go to Guam the Island of Guam and I volunteered to go I hadn't met my wife yet. But I volunteered to go and we went to Guam and they had a rotation every 24 months and that was on the island that you couldn't go nowhere but on the Base.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) You know Guam is a small island, but military was, uh, outlawed on everything but the Base. And, and I stayed there about 18 months.

INTERVIEWER: Now was that, tell me if that was a segregated unit and say yeah it, it was segregated in Guam if that's your answer. But, uh, let me know what, what the situation was in Guam?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: It was segregated, uh, at that time they was starting to integrate the Marine Corps there was a lot of negotiating going on with the President and everybody and, and when I got to Guam they was in the early stage of (STAMMERS) I mean integrating the military. And, uh, we, we were put in the barracks with everybody else. We was, I was in the Fire Department over there, and, uh, 35 percent of us, about half and half White and Black.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And we had a scraps here and there but nothing major so, 'cause they was integrating the military then, there was the Black and the Whites were coming together.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: Okay, it's like, uh, the Korean War started the unit I was with over there they were sent back to the States. So I came back to the States and when I got back to Camp Lejeune here and I found a lot of racial in peoples, I mean the Marines. You know they was some but not all of them you know, 'cause even when there was segregated, you know only when throwing something at you.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) But I was stopped at Pendleton I left there and come back to Camp Lejeune and everybody was the same racial on it as, uh, you run into it, you run into it. You know you get out there now and get to close you run into now but (LAUGH) , but see back then you would run in to it. And, um, that's where I met my wife, Korea War was just getting heated up over there and beginning to fight.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And people were being shipped out and everything and I came back into the base and, and I got in our motor transport and, uh, at that time and I met my wife she wouldn't marry me. So I got mad with her and anyways that's not part of the story but I, I volunteered to go to Korea.

INTERVIEWER: Okay now I want you to tell me a little bit about your experiences in Korea and I'm just gonna let you, uh, were you in Inchon?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: I was, no I went over there when I got there they had invaded Inchon, uh, probably about, uh, three to four months or something like this it wasn't long after. Because they were still talking about it and everything but I, I moved in up on, uh, uh, about 30 miles north of Inchon and, um, and that's where the DMZ was set up in that's where I went up in there.

INTERVIEWER: Can't say DMZ got to tell that audience what that is?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: That's the main line of resistance (LAUGH) that's the main line of resistance.

INTERVIEWER: Militarize it, uh, now what I want you to do is tell the audience what you did when you were in Korea. What were, what were your duties there in Korea and?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: I, I went to Korea I was, uh, in the Marine Corps they have, uh, classification like, uh, like 1251 was, uh, uh, a type of work like you do ordinance work around, you know work in the office and stuff like that. And that's what I was and, and I had worked in the Fire Department at Camp Lejeune a little bit and when I got over there they sent me to Poson, that's right on the tip of Korea.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And I went there and, uh, and, and there was a fire department wasn't no fire department it was a truck with a hose on it that's it. But that's what they call a fire department that's where I was at and I was just bored, uh, I, I was upset with my wife 'cause she wouldn't marry me and I and everything was going through my mind so.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And, and, I volunteered 'cause they had a list there at the camp everyday they put a list on the board anybody want to group to the front sign here and I signed. And I went up where they were fighting up.

INTERVIEWER: And where did you go up to?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: Uh, it was, uh, it was about 30 some miles northwest I believe from Inchon and it was about a, a mile from Bunker Hill up in there 'cause it's always on the line up there you know (STAMMERS) the DMZ which is the line of resistance. And, uh, I, I was sent up there and I, they put me in a company called Item Company 3rd Batch 5th, Battalion 5th Battalion and that's where I was in.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And I, this was a, this was a rifle company now this was a fighting unit. I would die in Pusan and I would just die in that back water and, but now I'm on the line where they're fighting at, that's what we call the DMZ. Up there where that line was where the, the Korean, North Koreans stopped and where the Americans stop at that's where the line of resistance was.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) So now I got in the item company up there and now I'm a fighting marine all together. And that's where, I spent the rest of the time which was about, uh, 14 months. I fought there and, and from here it's called (WORD?) , um, let's see what the other one, uh, name was. And, and, and Bunker Hill I ended up on Bunker Hill.

INTERVIEWER: And can you tell me anything about the combat experiences there. Did you go up to the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) were you in that campaign?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: No.

INTERVIEWER: You were just down around the, the Inchon area?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: Now see we went, see when they invaded Inchon they went on inland.

INTERVIEWER: Right.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: Okay and, uh, when I got there they was about 20 miles inland like you know west. Okay going this on lateral like and that's where I was in this area. And that's where the bulk of the fighting was at this time. Uh, It was, uh, south of Manchurian border coming out of China. Okay, and, and, but it's we was in that area right in there it was about, oh if I want to use, uh, understand it was laterally about middle way of Korea from this side to that side.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) You know okay and, and it went all the way across Korea this line did and, uh, if you go five miles that way you can be 10 miles north of me. Because it's, you know, like this, but, that's where I was and that's where most of the fighting was and the, all the Marines was. The Army was down towards, uh, Bunker Hill.

INTERVIEWER: Can you tell me a little bit about the fighting? (TECHNICAL).

INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) Life on the line up in, in the demilitarized zone in a fighting unit this is what we did and tell me?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: Uh, this is what we did when I was up there when I first got there, we, uh, were put into a, a defense force, uh, we were at the, the line of resistance. And, uh, what we did, uh, daily for two, three or four months we would go out at night as a patrol. Uh, it was squad like, uh, platoons set up and they was, uh, squads would go out.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) One would go in one direction one would go in another and this was because if they just did, uh, they were trying to keep the surprise of an attack, you know, from coming up on us. So we go out and search out and find out what's going on out there at night. And then in the daytime, uh, we would, uh, try to catch some sleep or get something to eat or try to do a little shower, bathing or something.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And then we worked getting ourselves ready to go again at night and we went this just every night. We would go out and leave and go out and come back at the dawn of day on tomorrow. And we would go check out what they call outposts in between our line of resistance and their lines of resistances. Sometimes it would be 30 feet and sometimes it would be 300 yards.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And sometimes it would be a half a mile over there you know and the distance between the two lines and, and that's where we'd be doing over to see if they're camping up on some of these little knolls and hills out there. And taking them out at night and that's what we would do. And this come routine this, uh, combat, uh, people would die. And, and, uh, they would get killed and, and the next morning we'd find out their squad had two, uh, deaths.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) Because they, they ran into an ambush or something and, and fear was there yeah but you, you got to brave yourself for that. And I, and, and if I must say I grew up during that time, I grew up to be a man, all that stuff at Montford Point was tough and bad and ugly but I grew up because I had to face death and really did. We ran into gunfire we got ambushed out there in the squad that I was in.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) We had a man by the name of Freak he was a, a student at Penn State College and he was drafted in, uh, he voluntarily went into the service and he was a sergeant. I was a corporal at that time and he, uh, he was a strong man he was a real strong man and, and he got killed and, uh, I took his place. Racism didn't show up then, uh, nobody every talked about it, it was, uh, almost forgotten.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) I was a (COUGH) I was a in a, the only Black at one time there in, uh, our regiment of people that's 300 some people. And, uh, and I was in the squad and, uh, the, the Company Commander made me squad leader with that squad when Freak got killed. So the racial problem wasn't over there then, you know, I know I was Black but that's all.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) Okay but the fighting part was the problem and, and we had to survive I mean we had to survive and, and, and we were coming you forget who you are, you know. And, and, and live everyday I used to lay there when I got back off of patrol and, uh, and, and meditate on how I was gonna get through that day or that night.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) 'Cause they become separated from everything else just surviving and that's what we did. We ran into a lot of opposition we had what we call outposts. And this, uh, hills that are like little small mountains and it was sitting in between us and, and the Chinese line at this time it mostly was Chinese over there.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And, uh, and uh, we used to have to go out and, and stay on this outpost for seven days, uh, to make sure that, you know, uh, we're not gonna be surprised with an attack or something. And then that outpost would get attacked, I was in a severe once, one time, um, we was out there it was, uh, it was a Marine platoon and, uh, the support which was two corpsmen a radioman and a chaplain.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And, uh, and the CO and, uh, reminded to 69 people out on that hill that's how many was out there and we got attacked one night. And the next evening or night rather we, I came up the hill and when I got back to our line which was about a half a mile away, uh, maybe a little further. When I got back to our line I find out that it was seven of us walked off that hill the rest of them didn't make it, uh on foot.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) So it was severe fighting over there, uh, North Korean had, uh, kind of got demolished to a point when the Chinese came in and they just, they was, there was plenty of those. And, uh, but anyway, uh, made it back it was some severe fighting over there.

INTERVIEWER: Were you wounded when you were over there?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: Twice.

INTERVIEWER: Tell, tell can you share any of that?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: Uh (CLEARS THROAT) the first time I was wounded we was on the, on the line where we got this trench dug, our line you know where in front of it is war behind of it is you try to get peace. But anyway on that line and we was up in there one day and this captain Hoke was his name. He had, uh, sent and told somebody to fly some ice cream up there on the line. It was, uh, about 105 degrees.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And, and, and they flew it up there so he called up to me I was the squad leader and, uh, at that time and uh I had this guy I liked him but he was pretty rough. But anyway I, when I got the word I said, I said get ready we're gonna have ice cream 'cause there's a little thing. And I, I took out the door to go, 'cause he asked, you know, the squad leader always want to go get it.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And I took off and the guy reached and got me back in pulled me back and he took out he gonna get it. And they ran out and a China mortar came in it was half a can of gasoline it was sitting in a mortar can where the rounds come in. It was a tin can and we used that for our tanks for, these little Coleman stove we had. And that mortar round hit that can and it went up in the air.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And this guy went down he was, uh, 98 percent burned fire burning like a torch and I was right behind him 'cause I was gonna pull him back again and get out there but I didn't have time. And, uh, that's when the fragmentation from the thing they got you know saturated me, my sight lost my sight.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And, um, they flew him out to Japan, uh, me they flew me back down to, uh, uh, to Seoul and they had a medical thing set up down there. And my eyes, uh, were blind but then they figured out that it was just the blast, the heat from the blast that was, and, uh, and I was just full of shrapnel because a small part of that shell was right there. The big part flew way over and we was right up under and we caught all that.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And then, uh, after so many days I went back up to the unit that was one time and when, uh, the next time we was out on Bunker Hill, not Bunker Hill but X-ray that was the name of the hill and, uh, we got attacked. That's the one where seven of us walked off of there and when I came down you know I was, uh, had been ripped open under my arm.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And on, uh, by my ribs like somebody took a knife and cut it and I didn't know nothing about it 'till I got down there 'cause I wasn't even thinking about that. But, and that was the second Purple Heart I got.

INTERVIEWER: Okay so you had, you had an interesting time in Korea it sounds like. When you came out of Korea, uh, where did you go then?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: I left Korea 15 and a half months after I got there and I came back with the draft that I went over there with. It was, uh, 4,800 marines that was in this draft and went back it was 1,900 of us. And I came back and, uh, landed, we landed there and, and in California and when we got off the ship went through down and got processed and everything, went through the medical things.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And, and I left and I got orders to go to Albany, Georgia, they just had build a new supply center down there and I was transferred down there. And I went on leave for 30 days and after that I reported into camp, I mean down to Albany, Georgia supply center.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me about your separation from the Corps, when did you leave the Corps?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: I left the Corps after I joined the Corps, I, I was in the Marine Corps, uh, 11 years I mean 20, 19 years and, uh, 11 months and about 15 days. I'm about 15 days shy of 20 'cause you know you could retire with 16/6. So I left the Marine Corps I was stationed in Korea I was one of the Advisors for the South Korean offices over there at the time.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) Vietnam War was going real hot and I got orders to go back to Korea and I was over there and, uh, training the South Korean officers. And my wife was pregnant with the last child and from all I could understand from her that she's having a difficult time. I had, uh, I think 13 days on the book so I flew to San Francisco and then I went on leave from there.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And then tried to fix (WORD?) so it could be while the baby come, but when I got home the baby didn't come. About three days before time for her to deliver the baby she should have already been and done it but, uh, the baby didn't come and I called Headquarter Marine Corps and required them to give me a stay in the States until the baby come.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And the Commander and Officer in the Marine Corps told me he said talk to the sergeant major there my job was to important! Get back to Korea! That's the word they used all day long. And I was kind of hot tempered during that time and, uh, I just wasn't gonna settle for that and I tried all day long we stayed on the phone with Washington D.C. just about the whole day.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And they were trying to help me, 'cause they knew that I, you know, I, I wanted to be there when she had this baby. And, um, so the final analysis of it was that this sergeant major told me he said the only way you can stay in the states and don't get in trouble is that you retire. And we talked about that half of the day and finally I made my mind I said I'm just gonna go ahead and retire. And we did, um, incidentally the baby came two days later.

INTERVIEWER: Now tell me a little bit did you work after you retired did you, and, and where?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: After I, after that day I went out the next day looking for a job they told me they said we'll call you out to the Base at Camp Lejeune . And, uh, direct you through, uh, said we'll all work with you and said the only time you had to go out the Base when we ask you to come. So I went out looking for a job, I found a job it was a, a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) job on this making plywood.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) That's in Jacksonville and I got the job 'cause I know you know with the children we had I got to do something so I got a job. And it was a low paying job, uh, but I took it and three or four months later I made supervisor out there. But, I retired get off my job where I done do what I got to do and then go back to work.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And I worked out to this plywood for 30, I mean okay 16 and a half years and I retired I did with an early retirement.

INTERVIEWER: I see.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: And I, at that time we was in church full time I had two churches that I was pasturing and, um I'd quit the job I did early because of the church and then after that, uh, and I stayed out of work maybe a year and a half and then I got another job. And I was working at the place called (WORD?) up here it was a store up here in Jacksonville and I, I worked there 10 years.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And, uh, then I retired for good, uh, after that you know my wife and I we've been church, you know that was a life and there was church. And there was relatives and there was friends in that order. So we were church, okay so we've been in it now the church, one of the churches I was pastoring back then in, uh, we built it.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And I was pastor there for 30, we celebrated our 31 year anniversary a few months back. Another church after I pastored there for 10 years I let it go because I was elected over here. But, I mean founder of this church and the days I speak we developed a church system that we have from a church to a, uh, district of churches. We call it assembly of churches and right now there's five of them and I'm the bishop of all these five churches.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) One of them located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, one in, uh, East Dover, South Carolina, uh, one up in Beulaville, North Carolina, Richland and Jacksonville and we got another one that we (COUGH) been working with out in Medford, Tennessee. So since that day, uh, we been working church life and friends and relatives.

INTERVIEWER: Okay I'd like to ask you two more questions, one how do you think the Marine Corps experience affected your life. What, what do you think were the most important influences being a Marine had had on you?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: Uh, 150 percent and I say that because the fact is that something talked to me inside of me when I was, uh, 15 years old that, uh, if I didn't make a change I was gonna be destroyed. Or something bad was gonna happen and that's why I joined the Marine Corps. Uh, and I got in the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps had, uh, a great deal on me, I mean it changed me, okay.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) War changed me and my wife changed me I had not, if I had not went in the Marine Corps I probably would have been (WORD?) I knew I would have. nothing that I was doing but I couldn't find nobody seemly to me that had any, uh, sense of direction. I was just loose out there and I, I wasn't I was afraid, okay.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And then I got in the Marine Corps and that, they just changed my disposition all together. Uh, I got in war and it, it made me mature and, and then I got in the church and the church brought out the love, the compassion that I was missing, that I had but I wasn't using. And, uh, 'cause my children, there's 12 children here.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And, uh, I was able to raise them good as we did because of the training I had in the Marine Corps (LAUGH) . But, uh, my life was changed and this is the way it was. I mean that's the way it happened it happened I, I wouldn't trade nothing for those 20 years I spent in the Marine Corps.

INTERVIEWER: Okay let me ask you the last question would be what are your feelings now about having been a Montford Point Marine, I think you just answered that question but anything else you want to say about having been, how do you feel about having been a Montford Point Marine?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: I think about it all the time, I dream about it sometime I just, um, being a Montford Point Marine it gave me some knowledge that I never would have had towards hate. Um, prejudice, uh, difference in peoples, uh, I understand that peoples are infiltrating our borders now more. I, I understand different things that I couldn't have because of, but, the Marine Corps the Montford Point, if I'd have went to Perris Island, South Carolina or somewhere down there.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) I wouldn't have got what I got up at Montford Point I got to know how it is, you know, if you were Black and I were White I'd know how to treat you now. See (LAUGH) I would know, I, I would know how to deal with you now. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) see I knew him the option of being superior over somebody else. And, uh, I learned how that people using people to try to prove themselves.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And we had a lot of that at, at Montford Point, these people that were over me they wanted to express themselves. I can do it if I had to kill this guy I can do it. And brother I was glad that they did because now I can understand better.

INTERVIEWER: Okay now the last question is you've got the floor whatever you want to say to that camera. You can say anything you want to say this will be the wrap up question so the wrap up question is, it's yours?

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: I would just like to express my, uh, December I'll have been out of the Marine Corps 40 years, I retired 40 years ago and I'd like to say this, you know. Uh, the 40 years of, uh, and I'm still in training, so to speak, but 40 years if I had the opportunity to go down to that post office again and go through all that I went through and, uh, the game the intellectness of me inside that changed me from the inside out.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And I know this is gonna sound silly but I would choose the same route, uh, I would have Montford Point set up in the same predicament the same system so I could go through it again. The Korean War was ridiculous but I would want to go through that, the church is troubled now but, I, I would want it to be so I could go through it to prove who I am on the inside.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) I, I gained I gained a lot at Montford Point I dumped out a lot but I gained a lot. I don't think on the things that I didn't gain but I, I think on the things that I did gain and that's for myself, my control. And I don't think there's a Black Marine that ever went through that place over there and didn't think himself better when he came out of that.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) 'Cause if he survived it than he ought to be proving himself it was a survival Montford Point wasn't like Parris Island. We did things because we was who we was and not because the Marine Corps required of it. Not because of, uh, you know I'm gonna make it that much better. But it's just the fact is we were going through situations because of who we were. Can I say this then I'll be through.

INTERVIEWER: Sure can.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: I was talking to a, a gunnery sergeant and he and I just met we was in transit and, uh, and we just sat down and started talking and, and we were (WORD?) back, oh were his early days he was about 20 years younger than I was probably and, and, um, and now I reflect back on how I was. And I come through and, um, he, uh, he wanted to express something within himself about the racial differences.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) And I mean he didn't say I want to do that but as we talked I picked up on that that's what he was trying to do. In other words apologetic type of conversation and, and as it went and I was able to sit there and tell him about this little place here Montford Point. And I could tell him that, uh, inside of me I'm the same as you, you're the same as me.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) Because when we suffer and you look at it, you suffer when I go through it and we sit there and talk. And that's just, just made me, uh, I believe who God would want me to be. And when I was talking to that man you know, he's a Caucasian man and, and there was no difference, there was no nothing. I mean it was just like me and him were twins.

JOHNNIE GIVIAN: (CONTINUED) When the conversation was over I got so good to myself and I believe he did the same. Montford Point taught me this the Chinese and Korea only taught me how to duck. But the Montford Point taught me how to do this, how to feel this way how to be this way. And now that's what I share with peoples everywhere I go, I share this with people, not Montford Point but what I got from Montford Point. (TECHNICAL).


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