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CARROLL REAVIS

July 23rd, 2004


a thumbnail image of Gunnery Sergeant Carrol Reavis Gunnery Sergeant Carrol ReavisGunnery Sergeant Carrol Reavis was reared on a farm near Lawrenceville, Virginia, and joined the Corps in 1943. Placed in an ammunition company, he was stationed in Hawaii during World War II. Mr. Reavis remained in the Corps and saw duty in Korea. Retiring after twenty-one years in the Corps, he went to San Diego, where he trained as a barber and completed an associate's degree in real estate at a local community college. He operated a barber shop and sold real estate in his community for thirty-seven years. Now fully retired, he lives in San Diego, California.


INTERVIEWER: Can you state your full name?

MR. REAVIS: My full name is Carroll Reavis.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

MR. REAVIS: Carroll Reavis.

INTERVIEWER: Spell that last name.

MR. REAVIS: R-E-A-V, like in victory, I-S.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Today's date?

MR. REAVIS: Is the seventh month, 24th of July, (STAMMERS) 2004.

INTERVIEWER: 23rd (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

MR. REAVIS: Today 23rd?

INTERVIEWER: Today's the 23rd. (TECHNICAL)

MR. REAVIS: Yeah, today is the 23rd, sorry, 23rd.

INTERVIEWER: 23rd, okay.

MR. REAVIS: (OVERLAPPING) Right.

INTERVIEWER: Tell us a little bit about your background, uh, Mr. Reavis, before you joined the Marine Corps.

MR. REAVIS: Well, I was born, I'm the fifth child of 17 children in the family. I was born on May 11th, 1923 in Virginia, a place (STAMMERS) off Western Road, about 12 miles from the (STAMMERS) North Carolina line, okay. And my father worked for my grandfather, who ran a mill that ground corn and wheat owned by a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) family who was the chief of police in the town of Lawrenceville, Virginia. This was in 1923. In 1925, the dam broke, and we had to move back to my grandmother's house about ten miles away into a slave house. Most people have forgot about slavery, but my grandmother's father had inherited part of a plantation, including the main house, and they still maintained a couple of the slave houses (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) We move into the slave house. My father at that time had six kids, six of them, and I grew up there and then in 1926, this must, 26 and 27 the big snow. That was the year that Lindbergh flew across, we used to hear that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Lindbergh crossing Atlantic. I was a little kid at that time, but I can remember. I must've been four or five years old. So I grew up there and my mother kept having children. By the time I was seven years old the Depression came along. You've probably heard of that, and my grandfather had left, and we went into almost slavery again, because everything was hocked no money.

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) My grandmother got sick and she died. So my father, with being the oldest son of that family wound up with three of his sisters and one brother, plus his own family and no money, 'cause all the money they had in the bank had been gone. So he sold, he hocked the house and just hocked everything, and we went back into slavery again with nothing. We had to go back into sharecropping, and that's where I grew up, and I've been working ever since. I finished the third grade in school. By the time I was 12, I was working full-time. Fifteen, I was a grown man. Sixteen I was in the Civilian Conservation Corps where my family received $25 a month.

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) I stayed there until it broke up in 1942. I was in there when the war broke out and then I went to work for the Navy, the Yorktown Navy (UNINTELLIGIBLE) depot at the TNT plant there. And then I became a third class fireman, worked in the fire, boiler room. I was drafted from there into the Marine Corps in 1943.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Can you tell us...

MR. REAVIS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) my life.

INTERVIEWER: ...a little bit about, uh, tell us a little bit about your trip to, uh, your trip down to Camp Lejeune and, and how you felt that day?

MR. REAVIS: When I was drafted, I had already been in a C.C. camp and a first sergeant in the C.C. camp which was part of the Army engineering. So when I was drafted it was two of the entire draft that time in, I guess, in the state of Virginia, because we all came to Richland to be examined. And it was two of, out of that group was sent to the Marine Corps for that particular day. Myself and another man from, I believe, Martinville or Danville, Virginia named Sydney Walker who lives here in Hyhattsville, Maryland. He's a (STAMMERS) dentist retired now. We went and got our examination. We came back home for seven days.

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) I boarded the train in Emporia, Virginia for Camp Lejeune, cold, very cold in November. We rode the train to Wilmington, Virginia, Wilmington, North Carolina rather where we had to get off the train, go so many blocks to the bus station where we caught the Trailway Bus. And, of course, we rode in the back of the bus to Jacksonville, not ever being, going to Jacksonville, didn't know. So we got to Jacksonville, got off the bus. A Marine sat us on the side where we waited 'til some more buses came in from someplace else. Finally, a Marine bus pulled up and took us to Montford Point. Montford Point at that time just had a two-lane highway road going into it way back in the boondocks, as we called it woods on both side.

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) And we (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at the time. And we got to the main gate, they took us off the bus, took everything we had. The bus went off and left us, and we had to march up to the (LAUGH) where we had to go. This is the shock of our lives, most of us, then we, uh, were sent into an area where they took over and started recruiting us, I guess. We went over and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) got assigned. They assigned to platoon and went over to supply to get our clothes and stuff like that and take a shower, of course. And following the shower, haircuts, and we got ready for boot camp, regular boot camp training. We went through boot camp, eight weeks.

INTERVIEWER: During the time you were there, what was the spirit, you know, of the, of the men, you know, (STAMMERS) while you were there? What kind, what kind of things did you do after hours?

MR. REAVIS: Well, when we came in, when I came in in '43, they were in the process of getting rid of the White instructors and getting Black instructors. The Black instructor just started coming into being, people like Huff and Johnson, a few other people. And the drill instructor that I had was a P.F.C. The senior driller was over the P.F.C. His assistant was a private. So after hours you didn't have no time. There was no time. You had to stay to the red book, which they call a guide book today. You had to learn the red book. Everybody had to learn the red book. That's all you could read. You could read nothing else but the red book and that's what we did at night.

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) We went to a movie, I believe, uh, seemed like it was once a week. It was once a week we got to go to the movie once a week. They all could take us to the movie, then back to the huts and back into the red book, and we did that. That was all our routine and, of course, we got up every morning, and we had to run everywhere you went. You had to, on the double, we ran to the mess hall. We ran back from the mess hall. You go to the bathroom you gotta run. Everyone was running. You ran everywhere you went.

INTERVIEWER: Did you ever get any liberty while you were there (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ?

MR. REAVIS: No, no, no liberty. No recruits, you don't get any liberty until the day you got a, a seven-day or 14-day furlough after boot camp. If you live west of the Mississippi you got 14 days. If you didn't, you got seven. This was the first liberty we got from boot camp. You could have no sweets in boot camp. No candy, no pie, no cake, no anything. You went to the exchange, you could not buy any candy, anything sweet. That was one of the things that a lot of people didn't realize, but we couldn't have any sweets until after boot camp.

INTERVIEWER: Well, did you ever have occasion to go on liberty, I mean, in the whole time that you were a Marine, uh, in and around Jacksonville or...

MR. REAVIS: Well, this is after I came back from the boot camp leave.

INTERVIEWER: Mm hmm.

MR. REAVIS: When I came back from boot camp, I believe after seven days, we went right into training again for to go overseas. See, we had to get ready. I was in the fifth ammo and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) training, and we trained every day, 'cause we had to learn about ammo, well, the types of ammo, what, how to read lot numbers, separate the stuff, 'cause I was in the ammo company and then we did get liberty at night.

INTERVIEWER: Mm hmm.

MR. REAVIS: And we went into Jacksonville, but it was a, Jacksonville was a, just like what we, most of us had come from. It was a southern town, small southern town. You get to town, you get off the bus and you keep walking. You'll go right through the town, cross the railroad track where the (STAMMERS) Negro section was on the other side of the railroad track. If you went to the movie, you stop at the movie, you buy your ticket and you go upstairs in the back. So very few guys would go to movie there, because they went on the base. And, uh, there was nothing (UNINTELLIGIBLE) across the tracks except a few, uh, beer joints and poolrooms and no eating places or anything like that and that's the only liberty, that was all they had in Jacksonville at the time.

INTERVIEWER: Did you ever get away to Kinston and Wilmington?

MR. REAVIS: Well, there was some people would go to Kinston, yeah, but I never did go at that time, at the beginning. I never went. I think I went to Kinston about, uh, my whole time in North Carolina about two or three times at the most. But this is way back after, you know, in the, I guess, in the fifties. I never, but there was many people went to Kinston and married, met girls and married them from there, but at the time I was from up in, uh, I was up in Lawrenceville, Virginia and Hampton and Newport News. That was my hangout, but a lot of people did go to Kinston and Wilmington, all the different places around there. Transportation was so bad in those days you had to, you go out and couldn't get back you were late you would go to the brig.

INTERVIEWER: What, what kind of job did you have in the Marine Corps after you left, uh, boot camp and after you left training, and can you tell us a little bit about it?

MR. REAVIS: Ammunition. You would handle boxes of ammunition. You load it. You unload it. You learn how to separate or segregate is what they called it at the time. We had conveyer belts. You segregate it by lot numbers, certain lot numbers. If the lot numbers are World War II, you segregate them so that we wouldn't send bad ammunition. We worked on that. That went from small arms up through 1055 ammunition. And house, you had to learn, this is what we did, we studied that and that's what we did. Ammunition company did that. The thing about the ammunition company is we did not have, you know, ammunition company no matter what your background was, you could not rise above the rank above sergeant, and it was only, I believe, two buck sergeants to a platoon.

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) But the platoon sergeant had to be a staff sergeant and he was White. At that time you could not make staff sergeant in the ammunition company. In depot companies they could, but we didn't have any staffing so during the entire war in the ammunition companies. I take that back. We had one who was a staff sergeant. He was a staff sergeant, but at that time they had two different ranks, platoon sergeant and staff sergeant. The staff sergeant was straight stripes. They didn't change that until 1946 when everybody became a staff sergeant with four stripes, but at that time you, we didn't, we, you couldn't rise above the rank of sergeant E4 .That's the rank that I attained in the ammunition company during the war.

INTERVIEWER: Did you go overseas?

MR. REAVIS: I went overseas to Hawaii. I went to Hawaii. That was as far as I ever got. I went to Oahu, which is the Honolulu area, Camp Cattling (SP?) and then they split my company up and sent one platoon to different islands. We, I was over to the island of Maui. We attached to the IVth Marine Division and that's what, we handled all the IVth Marine Division ammunition. And we stayed there during the entire war and when the war was over, we came back to Camp Cattling. During the war though, just prior to Iwo Jima operation, my company was coming together on Maui, because we were supposed to go out with the IVth Marine Division after we had loaded all the ships.

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) But the eighth ammo was coming to replace us. They were already on the ship coming from the states so they left them on the ship, and they went to Iwo, and they kept us in Hawaii. So I spent me entire time on Maui and Oahu in Hawaii.

INTERVIEWER: And is that all you did was, was, uh...

MR. REAVIS: Ammunition?

INTERVIEWER: ...ammunition or did you have...

MR. REAVIS: During the war that's all I did was handle ammunition during the whole entire war, ammunition.

INTERVIEWER: What did you do after the war?

MR. REAVIS: Well, I came back to the states and I was discharged in 1946 at Camp Pendleton. See, all Black Marines at that time was reserves. After the war you had to get, they, they put us out on convenience, what they call convenience of the government. So I came back at Camp Pendleton. I was discharged, but after I was discharged I heard that you could reenlist but you couldn't reenlist then. So a bunch of us took the train and, and rode all the way back, went home and while on leave we reenlisted. I went back to Baltimore, and I reenlisted in Baltimore into the Marine Corps, but I got sick and had to be operated on at Fort Howard Hospital, with (SOUNDS LIKE) Pisonise cysts, which people don't know about, you know, but I did.

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) And then I went down and recovered back at Montford Point again. And at that time they had, uh, began to reestablish the antiaircraft outfit that had been disband, the 52nd. So they had reestablished triple A on Guam and most of those guys got there so they redid it over again at Montford Point, and I became a member of the triple A, third triple A. And they was doing the same thing that the 51st or 52nd had done. And at the time was only four of us in the whole battalion at that time. So I stayed in there from 1946 until, I guess, middle of '47, and they did finally get a whole battalion, but it didn't last. It didn't last. They broke it up in '47.

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) And at that time we, uh, during the same time rather, I did military police duty in Jacksonville, but we wasn't allowed to have, uh, weapons. We could only have a cartridge cottage belt and, uh, if we arrested somebody, we had to call the military police, White military police from, uh, Hadnut Point to take them over. We could not, we could arrest them, but we had to turn them over.

INTERVIEWER: Did you, did you have the, uh, talk to us about the authority over who you could arrest.

MR. REAVIS: You could not arrest a White person, no White Marine, no Black Marine could arrest a White Marine at that time. At no time could a, uh, Black Marine be over a White Marine at that time and that went all the way up until 19, I guess, 48 or passed '48. At no time could you be over or direct White Marines under any circumstances.

INTERVIEWER: And tell us, tell us how long you, you may have, I'm not sure of it. Tell us how long you, you had that duty in Jacksonville and anything else significant about performing...

MR. REAVIS: Well...

INTERVIEWER: ...you duties (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

MR. REAVIS: ... (STAMMERS) duty you had, uh, you have assigned dates that you would get, see? You had certain dates you would have to duty, and you would go into Jacksonville. It wasn't a permanent thing. See, it was just, uh, this organization have it this day, that organization have it. And it was maybe once a month, something like that at most, but we knew when we went there what our duties was. We were well instructed on what to do and where to go when you went down there and what you could do and what you couldn't do. And that was you didn't arrest a white Marine no matter what he did. And any Black Marine you arrest you must turn him over to the White Marine. It was like that so it was understood. I did, and I did that and this was in the 40s. I'm talking about in the '46, '47 area.

INTERVIEWER: And after you, after you left, uh, I guess, Lejeune, did you move on into another...

MR. REAVIS: Well, in...

INTERVIEWER: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ?

MR. REAVIS: ...in '47, yeah, well, in '47, at the time in '47 they began to, uh, they had organized one group who had been out in, uh, McAllister, Oklahoma Naval Base, ammunition company (UNINTELLIGIBLE) uh, they relieved White Marines up there. And, uh, they were forming another one, and I was in the one that was formed to go to Philadelphia, Fort Mitchell. And a guy named Cecil Moore, you might've read about him, he was the first sergeant that took that group up. Cecil Moore, he became a, a, a congressman a assembyman man whatever in Philadelphia area. He became a lawyer later, but he was the one.

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) When I went to Philadelphia, we took over Fort Mitchell, and we, we, and I stayed there four years as a guard duty in Fort Mitchell where we, uh, just guard the ammunition depot and, and ran part of the fire department. And that's, in Philadelphia we turned the bell on that night for the fog and the Navy, for ships, uh, and the Navy, coming into the Navy yard they had a big, uh, fog (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we had to do that, and we had perimeter guard around the fence, and we got the ammo coming in and out. We inspected trains bringing ammo in and going out, and we did that, I did that for four years in Fort Mitchell, along with serving in parades and honor guards and stuff like that.

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) We served the honor guards and things such as, uh, uh, Ralph Bunch when he got there, Nobel Prize. He came back to Fort Rutter and we formed the honor guard for him at the convention hall there. I had charge of that. By that time I had made staff sergeant so I had charge of that detail and that's what we did in Philadelphia was serve as honor guard who, this was, we were one of the first groups that was issued dress blues. We had dress blues, whites and those kind of stuff so we did a lot of honor guard around Philadelphia, 'cause Philadelphia always had a lot of stuff for Marines. And we did that for four years in Philadelphia.

INTERVIEWER: Did you, uh, did you ever, did you do any other kind of police work, uh...

MR. REAVIS: Yeah, well...

INTERVIEWER: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ?

MR. REAVIS: ...after, after Philadelphia I went to, uh, that's when I went to, uh, Hawaii from there. We went to Hawaii. We went to, um, and we went on military police guard duty again at (SOUNDS LIKE) Lulalei out there where I relieved a Master Sergeant Macbeth as the guard chief. We had about 400 Marines there where we guarded, uh, three ammunition dumps there. We had (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Westlock and Lulalei and, uh, way out around Makaha, you probably heard of an area, Makaha, that's over in that area. Well, I stayed there for two years. I was the military police chief there for that security there for, uh, two years about.

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) During that time I went to (SOUNDS LIKE) Osentu Military Police School at Fort Schaftner, the Army camp there, we went to military police school there and then later I went down to, uh, I was supposed to go down to Fort Gordon but I never made it there, but I did that and, uh, I put some H.A.S.P. duty, which was the Hawaiian Armed Service Police, in Hawaii. We did a few days on that, but most of my duty was in charge of security of those three ammunition dumps there, there.

INTERVIEWER: I heard that, uh, Dr. McLauren (SP?) mentioned to me that you had some, uh, dealings with C.I.D. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

MR. REAVIS: This was after that. This was when I went to the, I didn't go, from Hawaii, the Korean things got hot. It was going on when I was in Hawaii. A friend of mine, George Kidd, you probably already talked to him, we went to Hawaii together, but then he went to Korea and I didn't go. I stayed there. So I was sent back to Camp Lejeune into the military police, the division military police, and my duty was assigned to Wilmington. Mine was assigned to Wilmington, North Carolina. It's where my assignment was on weekends. You go up on Wednesday, come back Monday or Tuesday. And this is where I got into military police, 'cause I'd had the experience and was very difficult, because they rented a house, a lady, an (UNINTELLIGIBLE) lady (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) Her son, her son was in the Army and she was there by herself so she leased her house and rented it out to the Marine Corps and that's where we stayed in Wilmington. And we either went out at night for military police duty. So I had charge of that group, but we worked over the sheriff's office. We, in the afternoon we'd get dressed, go down to the sheriff's office, then we go down to our post. Now, we could not, we could not go in the city area. We could only do military police in the Black area. And a place called Seabreeze, which was a resort place from 1917 area for the, uh, uh, professional Black people at that time. So Seabreeze was where we took care of that on weekends and the Black area, I forgot the kind of road, but it was a road over there they called, all the Black businesses were.

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) That's what we did, uh, most of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) police duty. Again, if we arrest anybody, we had to turn them over. We could not, and we could carry guns then. This was in '52, I guess, '50, back in there, '52, '50, uh, through '53. My experience with that was, uh, just like it'd always been. You could do this, but you can't do that. And if you do this, you, this is what's gonna happen. And one incident took place there in, uh, I guess the beginning of '53. That's when the Marines came back from Villegas, they used to go to Villegas for training, and when they came back they got a 72-hour pass to go on the weekends, and they came to North Carolina. And a lot of them went to Carolina Beach in Wilmington.

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) And there was an incident that took place in one of the hotels over there and, of course, they called for the military police, and I was in charge of them, of course. I went up there, and they say, you can't go up there, and I had one White that he walked, we had, White Marines walked the White area, Black Marines (UNINTELLIGIBLE) although they came under me. So the, when I got to the hotel, they say, you can't go in here. You can't go. I said, well, I'm in charge. They said, well, you can't go up there. I said, well, if I can't go up there, get back on, we're going back. So we took them back. The next morning I was on my way back to Camp Lejeune to report to the commanding general.

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) So that, I got chewed out and that was the end of that. I never went back to Wilmington to duty anymore. I got transferred back to Korea after that. So this same whole story went on. When I went to Korea, I don't know if you wanna know that, but I went to Korea and I became the N.C.O. in charge of C.I.D. for the Ist Marine Air Wing there, (SOUNDS LIKE) Hoohang. Again, you could do this, but you can't do that. And a lot of black marketing was going on at the time, but the general (UNINTELLIGIBLE) wanted to know about everything that was going on, but if an officer was doing it, I could not interview an officer, or I'd have to get another officer who was not military police trained or anything to interview this officer through him.

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) Well, it killed the whole thing. And there was a lot of black marketing going on. I went through that in Korea and had some times there too, a lot of problems there with the authority. Although I was in charge, but in charge of what, went through that. And some things I went through I won't discuss at all here or any, any other time because of my clearance of the time.

INTERVIEWER: How, how would you say that the Marine Corps experience has affected your life?

MR. REAVIS: As a whole, the Marine Corps taught me many things. It taught me about people more than anything else. I already knew about the people, but they, I learned different things about people in the Marine Corps and that was, uh, how you could have a brother that wasn't your blood brother, how you could make a choice without questioning it. We learned that. We learned the, the camaraderie we learned at Montford Point carried on and drove me right on through the walls really, because what I learned in the Marine Corps was the one that inspired me to go onto where I am today. The things I did after, I did more after I got out of the Marine Corps than I did in the Marine Corps as far as far an individual was concerned.

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) First of all they taught me that I was responsible for all of my children and their education, what should happen to them and their children. This was the thing that I learned, but that responsibility was what the Marine Corps taught me was responsibility. So all of them, I have five children and they're all educated. I mean, highly educated, from my youngest to my oldest, and my oldest son is also a Marine, 100 percent disabled from Korea, from Vietnam, that's my oldest. My Junior, lives in Baltimore, he's a teacher and a football coach for Douglas High School there. His brother worked for the city of Baltimore. He was a carpenter, but now he works for transportation for the city. My twin daughter to my Junior is a nurse at the V.A. Hospital in Baltimore, okay.

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) Her son, she had two sons, her son is a police officer in Baltimore and those are the three children I got in Baltimore. I got one granddaughter right here in Laurel, Maryland who's a teacher at Laurel Hobbs Junior High School there. My great grandson getting ready to go into the college this year. And all these kids was born in '49 (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . My junior son who is the third of me, he is now the head master of a private school in Bronx, New York. He's Carroll, the third. And I have another, my youngest daughter is also a nurse. She was in the Air Force. She's now in the Navy, a Commander in the Navy Reserve, and she lives in San Diego.

MR. REAVIS: (CONTINUED) And my youngest son went to Williams College, came back and went to University, I mean, through, uh, Columbia University. He is now one of the directors of the after school cooperation for the City of New York. He should be coming in here to, he said he'd be here today to see me. So this is what I, this is my life. Marine Corps made that life for me and them.

INTERVIEWER: That's interesting. Is there anything, the, the camera's still rolling now. I there anything else you can tell us about your experience at Montford Point, uh, within the Marine Corps that you think might be pertinent to, to what we might be able to do here with this documentary? Any, any difficult times, any scary times, unique times?

MR. REAVIS: Well, the Marine Corps, as I see it, we all have the same stories, different story, but same story. I think anyone today could learn from anyone who went through Montford Point about the Marine Corps and about life itself. From just what they learned, Montford Point learned, I think they could give some of the past onto any youngster today, because they need to learn who they are, what they are and what they can do. We learned that, and I believe it the young people do half of the things that we did in there or accept half of the things, bad things that we accepted, I think they'd be better people.

INTERVIEWER: Outstanding.


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