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HOWARD MIAL

May 17th, 2004


First Sergeant Howard Mial, a twenty-three year career Marine from Somerset County, New Jersey, joined the Corps in 1943. During World War II he served in Hawaii as a member of a Reclamation and Salvage unit. After the war, he enjoyed a career in the Corps's security forces with stationings at several stateside bases, including long tours of duty at Camp Lejeune. He resides New Bern, North Carolina.


INTERVIEWER: Could you please state your name, and spell your name, and give us the dates (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

HOWARD MIAL: My, my name is Howard Mial, H-O-W-A-R-D, M-I-A-L. Today is the 17th of May, 2004.

INTERVIEWER: Thank you Mr. Mial, um, we'd like to begin this interview by asking you to tell us just a bit about your background. Just a little introductory bit about your background, where you are from, uh, describe your family, the kind of education you had prior to entering the Marine Corps.

HOWARD MIAL: I'm originally from Somerset County, New Jersey, the town, the Burroughs of South (UNINTELLIGIBLE). In July 1943 I was 18 years, I turned 18 in, uh, February of 1943. I volunteered to, since I'd become of draft age, anyhow, I volunteered on May of 1943 and entered into the Marine Corps in July of 1943, from New York.

INTERVIEWER: How large a family did you have?

HOWARD MIAL: My family, I am the youngest of 10, seven boys and three girls. Uh, during this, uh, the reason, the reason that, the reason I was interested in the Marine Corps because one of my classmates was, Johnnie (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he was, in fact, he was in the high school with us. He had the Congressional Medal Of Honor, and I became interested in enlisting in the service of my choice.

INTERVIEWER: Did you finish high school, or?

HOWARD MIAL: I was a, I graduated in June, June of 1943.

INTERVIEWER: So you graduated and then went almost immediately into the Marine Corps?

HOWARD MIAL: Marine Corps, yes.

INTERVIEWER: And as a, as a volunteer?

HOWARD MIAL: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Why did you choose the Marines over all the service?

HOWARD MIAL: Well sir, uh, I wanted something that was challenging me and my ability to serve my country. And wanted to serve my country during World War II, at this time I previously had an older brother, one brother in the, two brothers in the Army was drafted and one was drafted into the old Army Air Corps. And, um, my sense of, of uh, I wanted to go serve too. And I did not, my parents wouldn't sign when I was 17 or younger.

HOWARD MIAL: (CONTINUED) So when I became 18 I could, then I could go and, and sign for myself.

INTERVIEWER: When you joined the Marines, were you aware that prior to 1942 the Marine Corps had not admitted African Americans, or is that something you were not aware of?

HOWARD MIAL: That was something that I was, I became aware of because it's previously some, associates of our family, one or two of them had joined. And I had, uh, questioned them, they was, they was down at Camp Lejeune at Montford Point at the time and had subsequently come back home on leave. And I, I wanted to be a part of the Marine Corps and see if I couldn't honorably serve my country.

INTERVIEWER: So you had heard a little bit about Montford Point before you actually joined the force?

HOWARD MIAL: Yes I had, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Um, how did you travel, do you remember anything about how you traveled to Montford Point and any experiences on that trip?

HOWARD MIAL: Yes, well, I started in New York, they had a troop train what was picking up passengers. We picked up passengers from New York, some had the train had come from Boston down to New York, we boarded in, in, uh, New York. The next group came from Baltimore, Maryland and that area. We came to Rocky Mount by troop train, then bussed, from there bussed to Camp Lejeune to the main gate. Where we were greeted by our DI.

INTERVIEWER: Let me ask you a little bit more about the trip down, um, you were from the North where there was not the dejure segregation. You came South, uh, did, did you run into any of the segregation restrictions on the trip down? Were you fairly free of those restrictions until you got into Rocky Mount?

HOWARD MIAL: We were, we was free of those restrictions because on the car, with the car that we, we came down and was a group of us. However, there was nothing but Black in that group, and when we got to Rocky Mount there was a person there to greet at the troop, uh, train. And got us (UNINTELLIGIBLE) tickets, we ate before we left Rocky Mount, and we was in a segregated area, the gave, we didn't go inside, they gave us, uh, what do you call, boxed lunches.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

HOWARD MIAL: At that time.

INTERVIEWER: Was that a civilian or military?

HOWARD MIAL: That, that was civilian.

INTERVIEWER: That was civilian.

HOWARD MIAL: Civilian, that was civilian thing, because we, the meal tickets is what we were eating off of. That was provided by the Federal Government.

INTERVIEWER: Um, can you tell us, you went by bus and so the entire units, all the train went by bus to Montford Point. Can you tell us, let's say, the first early impressions, maybe the first week or two you were in camp, what can you remember about it? How did that impress you?

HOWARD MIAL: Well, the most impressive thing was, was the regimentation, because we, our time, our time was, uh, down to the minute and you're busy learning, learning your rifle number, your serial number. See, at that time we had service numbers, we didn't have, uh, social security numbers that you have today. And orientation, uh, clothing, those things were done through us.

INTERVIEWER: When, when you came in did you have White drill instructors or African American drill instructors?

HOWARD MIAL: At that time I came, I was in Platoon 109, and that time, in my company we had nothing but Black NCOs and for drill instructors. And some PFCs, they, they didn't all have rank.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, while you were in, um, the, the training facility at Montford Point, um, did you personally encounter any racism from the officer corps or other personnel on the base or not?

HOWARD MIAL: Not, not, none, uh, because we were restricted to our activities, where we could go and could not go. I was not exposed to any prejudices 'till after basic training. That was on the, out of the confines of the camp of Montford Point.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, very good. Can you tell me something about what the spirit of the, of the men in the camp was? What do you remember about the espirit de corps or the camaraderie while you were in that basic training? Or did you have time to think about it?

HOWARD MIAL: Well, I didn't have to much to think about but the commandary that we had in there because we had an influx, I was young. And I was privileged to have some people who had been drafted, they were all in, they had some of them in there with me that had children about my age. Yes, they were drafted in there, and they, and we were all integrated.

HOWARD MIAL: (CONTINUED) And they, they were sort of like leaders, and, uh, help me out because, being a young man and not being exposed to, uh, much in life except when I was working. So they molded, help mold me to mature and go on and look at things in a grown up perspective.

INTERVIEWER: Well, did you have some off time at all in, in the basic, or was it all business?

HOWARD MIAL: Everything was business until you, uh, graduated after you come from rifle range and, and graduated, in fact, we didn't have a, weren't privileged to even have, our, haven't earned your emblem. That's what we called a graduation.

INTERVIEWER: Um, did you have any experiences off base, say after graduation, immediately after graduation, in which you went into some of the area towns like Wilmington, or Jacksonville, or any of the towns in, in the region?

HOWARD MIAL: Well, uh, Jacksonville (CLEARS THROAT) Jacksonville, I was the only, let's face it, when I got out I was anxious to get home. Because I got my furlough a little late, but I did know this, we would have to go to the bus station. Where we would be lined up, it will be a Black, Black line and a, and the Caucasian line. But if we were to have to fill up from the, uh, back what was left over they'd put the White on first.

HOWARD MIAL: (CONTINUED) And we would have to go get a, and on occasions they would have some bus, if it didn't we would have to wait until another bus comes in so we could get out. I know it took me seven, about 60 hours to get out of Jacksonville when I got out of boot camp.

INTERVIEWER: Was this, this was the first time you'd encountered anything like the segregation rules that had, that were then in existence in the South?

HOWARD MIAL: It was directly, but I have experienced with my family, coming down to, uh, North Carolina, because we, we are out in the Wade County area. We would come and visit some relatives and, uh, we had, I had brothers, two brothers and a sister in college. And we would drive down and, uh, in our cars we see, I was exposed after Maryland to places where we couldn't go and get food.

HOWARD MIAL: (CONTINUED) Because we'd pack lunches and keep them in our car.

INTERVIEWER: So you, you don't have much of a sense of what Jacksonville as a town was like. You evidently went home as soon as you could get home after, after getting furloughed.

HOWARD MIAL: Yeah, but you see that, that is the beginning of it, I later, I later came back after I had gone overseas to Jacksonville. But Jacksonville was segregated in itself to an extent that you only ate, eating places, theaters, where you want to go in a theater out there it was segregated areas you would have to go to.

INTERVIEWER: Um, what were your experiences like in the Corps after you left Montford Point, can you tell me a little bit about where you served and what you did?

HOWARD MIAL: I, I was, I, I, left Montford Point, went to the Panama Canal by boat from Norfolk, Virginia, we aboard the troop train, uh, that was six, not quite six months after I had, uh, basic training. Preceded to, to Hawaii, uh, Oahu, the area of in Camp Catlin area. When they got, when we got there they had, they took our service records, which was a history of our previous history.

HOWARD MIAL: (CONTINUED) And looked, they, uh, separated us and put us in various, various, um, sections. Some in the, some in the reclamation and salvage, some in the ordinance area and the rest of us that's where we stayed. Until we either later, later on we'd be deployed.

INTERVIEWER: What was your unit, what unit were you in?

HOWARD MIAL: I was, I was in the, uh, I was in the Reclamation and Salvage unit, because I had previously worked as in the clothing store. I don't know how that, really that was in while I was going to school. I had an odd job of working after school.

INTERVIEWER: So after you, did you leave Hawaii and go to any of the Pacific combat areas or were you stationed primarily in Hawaii during the war?

HOWARD MIAL: I was, I was stationed primarily in Hawaii at Camp Catlin, which is a dust bowl area. And, uh, my job, I started out repairing, packing, uh, salvage gear that came back from the combat area. And that, uh, included, houses, tents, shoe repair, all of that came under my prevue.

INTERVIEWER: And what do you remember about your service in Hawaii. I mean how would you say it differed from being in, uh, Montford Point and the, uh, Jacksonville area?

HOWARD MIAL: Well it was still segregated we, we had, uh, uh, segregated facilities. We had segregated companies, the White, however, I have ran into a lot of my, my former mates and people from the area of, of that, uh, up New Jersey and New York, and, uh, we got along. And also we were exposed to the British soldiers in our area and Australia also in our area.

INTERVIEWER: Did you have any opportunity to become acquainted with White marines at all when you were serving?

HOWARD MIAL: Yes, yes I did, that's, I'll tell you, I can tell you one incident where I had to be, I had come back, we had come back from, uh, overseas from being deployed. And, uh, we were, I'd gone to, we had gone to Kinston, on the way back we, we had loaded up, but there was two seats with two seats, in fact, oh there's nothing but Marines.

HOWARD MIAL: (CONTINUED) And it must have been a lot, a lot of them was from, was a diverse section, of White marines and Black, and we were sitting, sitting together. But halfway by (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the bus driver stopped the bus and told us, said he, said you can't have people sitting the way, White and Black mixed up on the bus. And he pulled on the side of the road and said we must have to be segregated.

HOWARD MIAL: (CONTINUED) Segregated, however, we were some marines on there, and some of them came back, they gently put him off and drove the bus, however, we rode the bus back on into Jacksonville.

INTERVIEWER: They took the bus driver off the bus?

HOWARD MIAL: Oh yes.

INTERVIEWER: And the marines drove the bus into Jacksonville?

HOWARD MIAL: Yes they did.

INTERVIEWER: That's quite a story.

HOWARD MIAL: It's the truth, it's a fact, that's the history.

INTERVIEWER: It certainly is history, that's, uh, that's an instant that you probably don't see in most history books, however.

HOWARD MIAL: No you won't.

INTERVIEWER: Um, did you continue in the Marine Corps after the war or?

HOWARD MIAL: Yes I did, sir, I served 23 years, my (CLEARS THROAT) history of my, my first after I, when I came back I was picked as a instructor, a DI which was to do DI. I served as a DI for, for drill instructor for a year, after that I was selected, after that tour there they selected me to be a part of the Earl, New Jersey in security.

HOWARD MIAL: (CONTINUED) I served in Earl, New Jersey, came back to Camp Lejeune and there I was appointed to work in the brig, which is the penal system for the Marine Corps. I was a brig warden there and upon the desegregation, desegregated of the service I went to Hadnot Point and was the first brig warden, Black, Colored brig warden over Hadnot Point.

INTERVIEWER: What, where was that located?

HOWARD MIAL: In Camp Lejeune.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

HOWARD MIAL: I, from there I preceded, my next tour of duty I went to Hawaii which, it was on Oahu. I was in the security forces there at the Naval Ammunition Depot at (WORD?) . Adjacent to (WORD?) Pass which is the entrance to Scofield Barracks where (WORD?) and the next tour of duty that I had, I had at Earl, New Jersey. No, McAllister, Oklahoma in a security section there. I served there then I went to Earl, New Jersey served there in the security forces.

HOWARD MIAL: (CONTINUED) Uh, the next tour of duty I, I served at in Hawaii over in, (STAMMERS) on the leeward side, on the leeward side in the Air, Air Force of the, there I was selected to go to school at, the Army school of military police. And I worked in criminal investigations for about four years, and, and the armed forces police.

HOWARD MIAL: (CONTINUED) Left there and came back because I subsequently got more rank, was selected, I came back to Camp Lejeune and served as B18 as the first sergeant, first battalion (WORD?) marines. And I participated in the, during the Cuban Crises our battalion was reserved there. After that I came back and, uh, started having health problems and subsequently got a.

INTERVIEWER: You had a long and distinguished career in, in the service in the Marine Corps. Um, let me ask you to think what do you think was the most, or how did your Marine Corps experience affect your life? I mean how do you, if you look back on it, what do you think the most important aspect was?

HOWARD MIAL: First, first of all I, it's an individual thing, it's like it was a challenge to me, because I saw some of the restrictions and some of the jobs they would not, was not open to me or MOS's. And because it limited, you cannot limit my ability and my ability was a challenge to me, and, I, I thought it out if I could make it better, do good and someone else come behind me and make it easier for them.

HOWARD MIAL: (CONTINUED) Because I've seen others that come in and it was a challenge that's all I can say.

INTERVIEWER: Well, you Montford Point Marines were not only the first African American Marines, they were, as you noted, the marines who actually integrated the (WORD?) . So you were, were conscious then of trying to, as it were, blaze a path for others, particularly for other African American Marines who would come in and now had much less limited options than you had when you first went in. Is that correct?

HOWARD MIAL: That is correct, uh, that is what I'm talking about, see because certain MOS, now I knew that I could, I could do other things than to be, than to be a security personnel. I went in criminal investigation, I ended up, I did a tour there, which was I was eligible for and I had the clearance and, and I thought I had the intelligence, and evidently they did to let me go and pursue that.

HOWARD MIAL: (CONTINUED) So that was probably changed what I was talking about. Now being a, a warden, a prison over the brig, the prison, that's challenging because you have regulations. You have, uh, because a person who object, which I was taught, and was, is to try to rehabilitate those person back to the unit if possible.

HOWARD MIAL: (CONTINUED) Always it's not possible because some, a lot of serious offenses was committed and, uh, there, they would not be able to go back to the units anyhow.

INTERVIEWER: Let me finish up by asking you a question, uh, about how you feel now at your age, and, and, looking back on a, on a very long life. How do you feel now about having been a Montford Point Marine?

HOWARD MIAL: I feel proud, I'm extremely proud because of, because you have, because we (STAMMERS) I figured I made a contribution to my, to the generation that I come from. And each one of us has applied, Marine Montford Point only builds on to the pride that I already had carried in. Because I'm only the second generation to the slaves.

HOWARD MIAL: (CONTINUED) My father was a, and, and that pride comes, has withered to the Marine Corps, and my performance in there.

INTERVIEWER: Well I want to thank you very, very much for this interview. It's an interview that will be there for people to use for years and years and years to come, so thank you very, very much.

HOWARD MIAL: Thank you for having me, (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: Could you say your name and count to 10? (TECHNICAL)


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