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WALTER THOMPSON JR.

June 29th, 2005


a thumbnail image of Walter Thompson Jr. Walter Thompson Jr.Walter Thompson Jr., a St. Louis, Missouri, native, joined the Corps in 1942 and was assigned to the 52nd Defense Battalion, serving in the Marshall Islands and Guam during World War II. Discharged in 1947, he returned to St. Louis where he worked for Swift and Company for fifteen years, then in construction. Retired, he resides in St. Louis.


INTERVIEWER: Mr. Thompson, please say... (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) ...will you say and spell your complete name, please.

WALTER THOMPSON: My name is Walter, W-A-L-T-E-R, Thompson, T-H-O-M-P-S-O-N, Junior, J-R.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Mr. Thompson, can you tell us a little bit about your background before joining the Marine Corps. And I'd like you to pay particular attention to your educational background, uh, your family and where you are from.

WALTER THOMPSON: Well, I am from St. Louis. I was born and raised in St. Louis in what you call the, the West End. That's west of the Mississippi River. And, uh, and, uh, I also, I went to grade school in that area. And, uh, high school, all the way. And, uh...

INTERVIEWER: What about your family? Tell us a little bit about your family.

WALTER THOMPSON: (OVERLAPPING) Well, my family, I had five sisters two brothers too. There was 10 of us at home. So, they'd raised in St. Louis. And go ahead.

INTERVIEWER: How, how did they feel when they found out that you were going into the Marine Corps? Do you remember their reaction?

WALTER THOMPSON: Well, there was no reaction because of, uh, during that time they had built us, what you call a recreation soldiers camp across the street from where we stayed. And, uh, and soldiers came in from Fort Leonardwood, and uh, Jefferson Barracks for weekend. And they would stay there. So, you know, service men. But I had never heard about the Marine Corps, just no more than few chatters until they passed that law, you know.

WALTER THOMPSON: And, uh, being the time I was going with one of the little girls and, uh, her (LAUGH) , her boyfriend, he joined the air force. In other words, Tuskegee Airmen. And, uh, I wasn't able to get in to the, into Tuskegee at that time. And so, I figured the Marine Corps with their pretty uniforms, I mean, I, I'd (SOUNDS LIKE) kept that cap, you know what I mean. That was the main thing. So, I went down and, and, uh, when I got ready to go, I went down and volunteered for the Marine Corps.

WALTER THOMPSON: But the guy told me I was a Navy material. He said, you are short and just fight for the Navy. And they don't, and the Marines is not going to take you. So, I seen a little old Marine come through there. And he was short as I was. And I asked him. I said, hey, man. I say, uh, the sailor said I couldn't, he said, oh, man, he said. You want to be in the Marine Corps? He said I've been looking for Marines all day long. He said, I missed my quota.

WALTER THOMPSON: So, I said, I will be going. And then, another fellow say he would go. Two of us there. And so, we went, you know, signed up for it. And they took us in and had a little test and all that stuff. And what made it so good, these guys went on to Jefferson Barracks. We come back home. And every morning we'd get up and go down to the Federal Building and they'd give us a coffee and doughnuts and all that. And we'd come back home again.

WALTER THOMPSON: What I didn't know at the time they hardly had a place for us, you know, training camp. They were building it up. So, finally we got about eight. And then, we shipped out, the, caught the train and went down to North Carolina. Which was a terrible experience. (LAUGH)

INTERVIEWER: Tell me about that experience.

WALTER THOMPSON: Well, first thing we got on a train in Union Station. There was one, one segue from St. Louis any time you are traveling in the cars or trains or the buses or things like this, you sit anywhere. So, we had got on the train. And they was jollying and carrying on, having a ball. And when the train got to the Mason Dixon Line, which is Cairo, Illinois, that's the Mason Dixon Line for going south. I didn't know nothing about it.

WALTER THOMPSON: But they made up another train. So, when we got back on again, the train was segregated. And we rode it all the way down. That was the first real segregation that I came in contact with from, you know, leaving home. And then, we went on down. And the farther south we got the worse it got, you know what I mean. So, I mean, it was bad for guys that was down there. But we weren't used it to same as guys that came from the area.

INTERVIEWER: Can you give me any specific examples of things that happened that, that you remember that just didn't sit well with you?

WALTER THOMPSON: Well, the first thing, you had to eat in the, go around the back. Had a little window where you'd leave. You'd order your stuff and you sit out there and fight the flies, and keep them off of you while you ate, you know what I mean. Because you couldn't come in the front. And, uh, so, will got down to North Carolina. And we got down to North Carolina and then the world come to the end. Because it was already this, already segregated there.

WALTER THOMPSON: And we had, uh, some White fellows, uh, training us. And then had some Blacks, the ones that were, you know, come through. And that, that, well, that didn't sit well. But that's where the hard stuff came into, uh, action.

INTERVIEWER: Let me ask you this. Uh, go back a little bit. How did you first learn that the Marine Corps was accepting Blacks?

WALTER THOMPSON: I first learned by, uh, (BACKGROUND NOISE) through, uh, through communications with guys, uh, telling us that they was, you could get a job anywhere, you know. Or that 248 or 330, they needed, something like that. On the same pass that you could be accepted at any place. And then we wanted to know, was it in the service too? But it wasn't, it wasn't bad for the service. Because everybody was going in the army and cavalry and all that stuff.

WALTER THOMPSON: They didn't pay no mind. But when you to the Marines, they didn't have, you know, wasn't you, you wasn't accepted in the Marines. The navy did took you. And that's when we found out. Because they said, well, you can't in the Marine Corps, you know. They don't accept you. That's a Southern outfit. But it, which it was a Southern outfit, which you didn't accept no, no Blacks at all.

INTERVIEWER: When you, when you got to Montford Point, can you, can you tell me from a visual, you know, what you saw, uh, visual point of view and an emotional point of view. What you were feeling when, when you got off that bus that day.

WALTER THOMPSON: Oh, it was a bad scene. Because when you got to the gate it was nothing there, you know. When we got, but the bus turned around, man, that was handmade and rocks and bricks. And the bus turned around. And the flagpole was a skinned pine tree with, with the flags upon it. You know what I mean. And, uh, we didn't see nothing when we got off the bus. And the guy came got us. He was rough. He roughed us up a little bit there.

INTERVIEWER: Of course, can you tell (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

WALTER THOMPSON: (OVERLAPPING) Well, by the way, you are up to something. He wanted, the first he'd say, I want all the whiskey. I want all the dice. I want all the knives and everything. See? And the guy went to open the little overnight bags and he went to kicking them. They weren't opening them fast enough. I said, this cat went out of his mind. Well, I had dressed in my zoot suit. I was suited down, baby. And when I got there I was suited out for the big pretty white hats, tall feather and everything.

WALTER THOMPSON: And, uh, so I, like, he cocked his eye at me couple times. So, we marched on in. But marching wasn't nothing to me. Because I belonged to a drum corps. Uh, I was son of legionnaires. I know how to drill and all that stuff. So, that didn't bother me. And the way he did. And, uh, and so, I walked on in. When we passed through the gate, he slapped me on the back of the head. That hat went all up and down when I put that case on.

WALTER THOMPSON: I carried a case all the time. See. The kids had made it big enough. He dusted it off (LAUGH) and set it back upon my head. And we went on in. And, man, the world come to end. And then, after we got inside, that was the end of it, you know what I mean? I scrubbed the deck and every little cracks all night long with a toothbrush. And, uh, (LAUGH) the, the rest of the guys, I guess, they went to bed early.

WALTER THOMPSON: I stayed. Right then, he changed guards on me, you know. I just took and scrubbed that toothbrush. Well, that was the first real test of the Marine Corps that I had, you know. That one broke in. Man, I had no beard no nothing that night. And from then on it was run, run, run, run, run. And, uh, the suit that I wore, you know what I mean, the clothes, and the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and all that stuff. But they couldn't take that sand coming and running.

WALTER THOMPSON: The seams busted in the seat, seat. And run that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) till I couldn't hardly sit with it. Had to be on double all the time. And they let us run like that for about a week. (BACKGROUND NOISE) The clothes were tore up. And they told us, uh, uniform, first uniform we got was wet. Dipped it in water. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Come and put that on. And they issued you rest of the stuff, you know. The shoes and all that stuff. So, it was pretty rough.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah. Did you, did you encounter any, uh, incidents of what you would consider to be prejudice among the people that were training you?

WALTER THOMPSON: Well, it wasn't, it wasn't that. But it was, uh, more of an authority. It wasn't the prejudice part of it. It was more authority, you know. Because, uh, they were strict normally, and we didn't know prejudice from never. All we know the man was like being in prison, you know what I mean. He started giving orders and you wasn't doing it fast enough. He was, and he started pushing all the time. Started pushing you.

WALTER THOMPSON: But, uh, but if you was in shape, you know what I mean, now, the guys that wasn't in too good a shape they, they caught it. But being I ran a lot and I ran track when I was in high school and all that. So, I mean, it wasn't too bad. That part wasn't. But they didn't allow you to stop. Just run, go over and back and forth. And the same way when you come here, uh, and them little huts. They'd call you out and you'd come out.

WALTER THOMPSON: It's too slow. They'd follow you back in, too slow. Call you back out. They'd do that for maybe eight or 10 times. See? And then, they had guys on these water valves. They had valves with a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) , with buckets on them. What they call fire valve. And they'd put one guy up there, and he'd be flapping his wings like he is a shit bird. And the other one down there saying, no I am.

WALTER THOMPSON: This is constantly all day long. Somebody was up there taking each other's place. They are breaking you in, you know what I mean. But we didn't know nothing about it. But, I mean, I said, this is the worst place in the world, you know. But, so.

INTERVIEWER: What, uh, what was a, uh, can you just tell me a little bit more, a typical day was like in your life. Just a day. I mean, from the time you got up to, say, the time.

WALTER THOMPSON: (OVERLAPPING) From the time you get up?

INTERVIEWER: Right.

WALTER THOMPSON: When the man blowed the bugle, the men turned the bunks and things all over when you are ready to get up. And then, you got yourself together. You make up your bed. You had to make that up before you go to chow. And then, they send a runner. And the runner would come back. And you go to chow. You'd march to chow. But you had to run back. And you had to wait till it, you know, your runner come back from chow.

WALTER THOMPSON: And that's, you are just sitting there waiting on everything. Was wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. And that was the hardest part about it. Because, you know, you, if you wasn't hungry, you ate. And the rule was, if you was hungry, like, you get there you starve. And you go to pick up this and little bit of that. And the guy, some guys wouldn't give you nothing hardly. Tell you to move on out. And, uh, and you had to go on till noon, you know.

WALTER THOMPSON: And they be, they are running you again. But (COUGH) , but whatever you took you had to eat it. You know what I mean. If you come back for seconds, they'd wait for you to come back for seconds. And they'd pile it up on the plate like that, boy. And then, you had to eat all of that, you know what I mean. And, uh, it just, you know, you had to keep your, keep on P's and Q's. There was no, and you had to watch everything you was doing to keep the other guys from getting asked.

WALTER THOMPSON: And then, they begin to train you. Begin to tick. After you got, well, you say you are going to do right, you know. I will do this and the other. I ain't going to do that. Then they would punish you as a group. If one did wrong, everybody took the punishment, you know. This is in boot, trying to get you together. And, and, and pretty soon they bore down where every man had to look out for the other man, make sure he got it. You know what I mean. Because if one mess up, all of them (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

INTERVIEWER: Well, through all of this, uh, what was the spirit of the group like? I mean, uh, everybody. And how, how did they?

WALTER THOMPSON: (OVERLAPPING) Well, the spirit was shocked.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Uh huh.

WALTER THOMPSON: Everybody, did nobody think of nothing but trying to get right. (LAUGH) At that time you had to get it right, you know what I mean.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah.

WALTER THOMPSON: But you didn't have time to carry no animosity against this guy or that guy. Because one guy would mess up, you get punished. If this guy messed up you'd be punished.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Right.

WALTER THOMPSON: So, yeah, yeah. And then, the guys would write letters at night. That was another big thriller, see.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Uh huh.

WALTER THOMPSON: You write letters because you do, you know, you wrote free, you know.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Right.

WALTER THOMPSON: And they'd stamp the letter and send it off. And then, they would cut out what they didn't like. See? But, see, but during the war. A lot of people don't know that. They, and took your letter and they read it. And if they didn't like it they'd take razor blades and cut that part out, put it back in the envelope and send it on home. Saying you are trying to give away some kind of information. But most of the guys were pen guys, and went to school, had girlfriends.

WALTER THOMPSON: So, they write everybody, you know, just write, write, write. And, uh, and that was a, that was the biggest thrill. After they learn you not to do that, that was another big setback. Because if the letter, when the letter would come, they'd call your name. After two letters in row that one day, then you went to the belt line, see? They run you down, uh, through the belt line.

INTERVIEWER: What, could you tell me about the belt line?

WALTER THOMPSON: (OVERLAPPING) Well, the belt line was, your belt, they take your belt off. And the guy come down through there and everybody whack him till you ran out of men. And if he got three letter, he come down three (STAMMERS) , uh, twice. So, you could get, you could get two. But you couldn't get over three. And the guys had four or five, they come down twice. And the guy is sitting there.

WALTER THOMPSON: He ain't got no letters, he's going to beat your brains out, you know. He already mad. See? And, and so, that killed the writing. Nobody writing, right. None of my sisters, brothers, nothing. Nobody wrote. I wrote mama, that's all. One letter, you know. (LAUGH)

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

WALTER THOMPSON: And so, but I found out later on the reason they did that because you had all this studying to do as you went along.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Uh huh.

WALTER THOMPSON: So, you got to learn your general orders. You had to learn about the rifle. All this is it. This is all happening while they are breaking you in. Everything that, they didn't just say, well, we are doing this today and tomorrow we will do that. Everything was just, just like that one thing right after another. You didn't have time to hardly breathe for you. You washed your clothes one day night. And they get down the lines and have you take them in. Let them dry and then lay them under your bunch to sleep on and press them.

WALTER THOMPSON: That's the way you did them, see? And all this for the long while you was trying to get yourself together. Plus all this training and drilling, running. The running was the most thing. Run, run, run. But that's what got you into shape. And your mind, the main thing was to make you think as one. That was the main thing.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah.

WALTER THOMPSON: No such word as can't.

INTERVIEWER: What was liberty like?

WALTER THOMPSON: Uh, the (STAMMERS) ?

INTERVIEWER: Liberty. Yeah.

WALTER THOMPSON: (OVERLAPPING) Liberty, well, wow. You, after you finished boot training, you didn't think about no liberty, no candy, no nothing. Well, the first time you get liberty that's when you come out of boot camp. You had to finish all this other stuff before liberty. Nobody did even know where they live. (LAUGH) When you finish all this other stuff then they would give you liberty. See? And, and everybody got to be inspection on a Saturday. Or Friday. That, that, that would coordinate whether you got liberty or not. Everything had to be perfect.

INTERVIEWER: Well, when you went, when you did get liberty...

WALTER THOMPSON: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: ...and when you did go off base, where did you go and what did you do?

WALTER THOMPSON: (OVERLAPPING) Wow. We went to Jacksonville, the first little town.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Uh huh.

WALTER THOMPSON: And, uh, 48, all you'd get back in those days, you was lucky if you got a 48-hour pass. Then you could go to the next town. See? And if you got overnight liberty, you didn't go further than Jacksonville, see.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Uh huh.

WALTER THOMPSON: And, uh, but, but you go to town. You go in there buy you a ticket outside the window. See, you didn't go in. You'd go outside and get your ticket. Then you go out there and wait till the bus come. And other people be sitting up inside, cooling it, you know. And then, the bus come, they load it up with White people. And then, what was left you'd get on. And they'd push you back. You ride, maybe ride the whole time before you get a seat in the bus, see? And that's the way, that was the hardest part about the whole thing. Especially in the summertime. Uh, in the wintertime is cold too. But.

INTERVIEWER: What did you do when you went on liberty? I mean, what, when you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

WALTER THOMPSON: (OVERLAPPING) Well, the first thing you did, if you had an overnight...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Uh huh.

WALTER THOMPSON: ...all that, you find what they call a breakfast, bed and (STAMMERS) breakfast. See, all them people down there were looking for a little money. And you never had over $13 or $14. Because you are only getting paid $21 a month. See? And, and, uh, if you have an allotment taken out of that, sent some money home for your mother, or something like that, it would take $10 or $15. And then, the government would put, match it.

WALTER THOMPSON: And they'd mail it home. But then you don't have how much you want to have. Maybe $15, see? And you had to party on that and that would be all she wrote, see? See? That was all she wrote. That $15, I mean, for, uh, you've got to be a PFC, well, was $54. So, (LAUGH) you, you are getting about $4 more. See? So, so, liberty was, uh, was, uh, was a, extra. You had to lay in bed and sleep maybe two or three weeks before you got enough to go in town. Not to really support them up.

WALTER THOMPSON: And the more money you had the farther away you'd go. See? Like, Raleigh was a big town. See? Raleigh, North Carolina, a big town. Schools and everything, man. Everything. Plenty girls and everything. So, yeah, wait till you got a large bankroll. Because it took a long to get that. You got to have a 72-hour pass to go there. See? But all them little towns, they were just like being in a field, you know. I mean, ain't nothing to it.

WALTER THOMPSON: But as for the bus, hey, man, the best thing you got. Some corn whiskey and you didn't worry about cigarettes, because the government give you cigarettes a nickel a pack. So, yes, corn (STAMMERS) , and they give you free ones on the Chesterfields and the kind like that. They give you free. But you go in, and that's all. And you come back to town. You back in there. And go to bed. Wake up the next morning, you are back in the same old routine again, you know.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Uh huh.

WALTER THOMPSON: The, right back. But it was mostly after you come out of boot camp, it was mostly learning. You had to learn something. And you never have, the Marine Corps, they never give you no relaxed time. Not in boot. It was, always was something you had to learn. Because they was trying to catch up, you know. You was trying to catch. And Depots, they was Work Battalions. So, if a guy shot too low on the rifle range or something like that.

WALTER THOMPSON: Or anything, they'd put him in a Depot. See? All of his grades in school, background in school was little slow, they didn't waste no time on trying to learn you. They automatically, you candidate for Depot. See? And I left, when I was in school I loved chemicals. I, you know, took science. I liked science and, uh, I didn't even know that was on the record. Or I would've put something else down for it. (LAUGH) But all that was in your, in your record when you, when you, when they recruited you.

WALTER THOMPSON: And they asked you what you did in school. What you like and all that stuff. So, that was, that was it. And I liked to box. I was boxer. And I run track and all that. But, but the main thing I, the only thing that they wanted train was, I had that chemical, see. I had, uh, and, uh, so, they automatically, the man was looking for somebody in chemical. Because they give you gas. And they didn't know if you are going to use gas or not, see.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Uh huh.

WALTER THOMPSON: But they had to have somebody trained to train other guys. They never used tear gas a lot. See? And they had crying gas and all that stuff. So, I went to Chemical Warfare, where they had Chemical Warfare. And that was jellied gasoline and, uh, flame throwers and stuff like that. As you went along. First they learned you the small gas, see. And, uh, but that, that part came along by being assigned to another outfit.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Uh huh.

WALTER THOMPSON: In other words, the greatest thing after you come out of boot was to graduate from boot and be put in one of the, 52nd or 51st, see? At Depot you didn't last long. They farmed that, like, overnight, you know.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Uh huh.

WALTER THOMPSON: Two companies. So, Depot and, and have a Sergeant and two or three Corporals and PFC's. And they have somebody, and you, all you did was work. See? (BACKGROUND NOISE) Before, before I be shipped out work. When they get to different place they send into Pearl Harbor. Because there was a whole mess there and clean that up. And they bring supplies in, see.

INTERVIEWER: You went to the 51st or the 52nd.

WALTER THOMPSON: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: And what, tell us a little bit about what you did there.

WALTER THOMPSON: Well, when, when I got, I went in the 50, 50, 51st. While waiting after they pulled out. We, we had all the stragglers, you know. Whoever was behind us, they came on the end. And, uh, then they assigned the gun crews. And I went into the 90mm, see. And, and the fellow didn't have nobody in the Property Shed. What they call Property Shed. Was like when he receives stuff from the, the build your outfit up. Like machineguns, rifles and parts and all that stuff.

WALTER THOMPSON: So, I was wind up in the Property Shed. In other words, the fellow, the, one of the guys, and that was home boy. We had school together. And he told me, he said, well, I am going to put you in property shed. Because you get some sergeant stripes, you know. Well, that was a big, lot of jive. Every time he said when I make, when I make Sergeant I am going to make a Corporal, you know. One of them deals.

WALTER THOMPSON: And then, it never it. I worked my eyeballs out and I never get it. So, I went on my own from there on. I just went, you know, for myself. I didn't fool around with trying, making off for somebody else. And then, uh, there were, after that then I got, I took machinegun in school. I went to Machinegun School. And I went to anti-aircraft and all that stuff.

INTERVIEWER: Did you ever see any combat?

WALTER THOMPSON: No. No. We, what we did, we patrolled. We patrolled. We picked up Japanese overseas, when we got overseas on Marshall Island. See, what they did, they bypassed a lot of islands. As they was going through the Pacific, they bypassed, because they could starve them out. They wouldn't have (STAMMERS) , no chance on losing no men and they starve them out. Then the natives would slip up on them and catch them.

WALTER THOMPSON: And then, we go in and get them, see? See? And we run up on four or five of them bunches. They scattered all over the islands, you know what I mean? We captured supplies and the greatest thing in the world, uh, being on patrol found us some women, you know. And they say the Japanese had women. (LAUGH) And so, we started looking for the women. That's all. And we brought seven back one time on a boat.

WALTER THOMPSON: Had to stand guard on them all the time. All the time. They, their eyes are slit like that. They look like they asleep, baby. Watching you like a hawk. And you be nodding and counting on the boat, and rocking and- and carrying on and watching them. And when we got back to the base, and turned them into the stockade, the guy told them. Said, man, say, we almost had a good time. There were three, three of them of them seven was women. Probably like that.

WALTER THOMPSON: I didn't want to believe it. I'd say, no, no, that is a man. But when we got to the stockade they were women. They were women. And there was a terrible excitement. Because, I mean, terrible deal on us because we, that's all, we was out there looking for the women. We know there were supposed to be some out there. And you run up on them and didn't know it, you know. Didn't know it, you know.

WALTER THOMPSON: But that's what we did. Whenever, then we moved the natives from one island to another one. See, they bypass them, they didn't have no food or nothing. So, we go in with them LST's and put them on that LST, LSC's, that's the Landing Craft Support. And, and bring them off the islands.

INTERVIEWER: Uh, did you develop any, uh, unexpected relationships with any, any Whites while you were going through your Marine Corps experience?

WALTER THOMPSON: Well, the only, only one, couple of them. Now and then I did. But, like, the guy that was our Commanding Officer, when I, when he, he was, uh, Executive Officer. Troop. And, uh, he had definitely a lot of Black people. Because he played music and all that stuff. And, uh, well, I come in contact with him one time. We was drilling and, and all the, the tall men in front of the squad and down go the short ones to the back. And I was short on the back.

WALTER THOMPSON: And we marching and drilling. And they were, and I couldn't hardly keep up with them guys. They'd make a step out. So, he came out. I never forget that. I was soaking wet. He come out and told the guys, said, hold it up with that squad. The guys stop. And he say, you all there, you are going to kill that little bitty fellow on the back end. Said, put him up front there and slow that platoon down.

WALTER THOMPSON: So, the guy, he didn't want to do it, you know. He said, get up there, because the captain, he say you get up there. Get up there, get up there. And when I got up there, only thing I couldn't control it. But see, uh, I had a little trick on. Because I already took, uh, drill. And I knew all about all the drills, but I couldn't keep up. I just run and have to keep, and then, I get back in step and I'd run some more, keep up with.

WALTER THOMPSON: And when they go back out of the way, then I could, you know, handle them. And, uh, so, I got up there, man. The guys walked all in back of my shoes off, you know, stepping out. Step out, step out, you little son of a gun. Step out. But I didn't know at the time, that the right guy is having control over, over each squad, see. So, he is open. But they didn't tell me that at first. And when I found it out I was the big man then, see. (LAUGH)

WALTER THOMPSON: And then, when you graduate from boot camp, you automatically be PFC. But before we got in there, it was PFC. And then, the right guy would get a, the Marine Corps would give him a uniform. A big dress blues. When we came through they ain't give nothing. They cut it out. That was it. I mean, how, what they did to the White folks. That was it for us. And we didn't have nothing. So, that was, that was, that was a letdown too, see.

INTERVIEWER: What do you think is the historical significance of the, of the Montford Point Marine experience? I mean, why do you think that it's so important in history?

WALTER THOMPSON: Well, I'm going to tell you. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Nobody will never know the history of it, you know what I mean. It should be, it shouldn't go down the tubes like that. You know what I mean. It's still, like, it's still like the Buffalo Soldiers. See? Nobody told about the Buffalo Soldiers. And 95% of the people look at the Buffalo Soldiers as soldiers was on the Indians and the frontier men. It was the Buffalo Soldiers that carried the frontier across this country.

WALTER THOMPSON: See? But you are always seeing the White boys ride with the bugle blowing and charging on the Indian. But most of that was the 7th and 8th Cavalry. You understanding me? And they never played it up. It was just here after the '40s, I mean, the '50s and '60s that they let them know that the Buffalo Soldier was the main ones that did it. Well, that's the same way with us, you know. They, they don't give you no credit. All the material that was brought in to the battles was carried in by Blacks.

WALTER THOMPSON: Black Marines. Was a support. You couldn't shoot a machinegun, you shoot maybe 10, 20 minutes you did shot up all the ammunition. Nobody going to bring you no more. You through. See? And all they are waiting in the water and getting the ducks and all this stuff, bringing it up. And you under fire. You are under fire. One shell, did drop some of them, whatever you got. Because you are cleaning out the world. See?

WALTER THOMPSON: But they never put it. And when they are getting ready to carry the wounded back, you understanding me? Ninety-fiver percent of the guys in the Depot Company was the ones that carried the wounded back. And then, when they fall short, they fill them in line. With everybody in Depot Company shoot. They train you with the rifle. So, when you arrive you can fill in anywhere. See? And, uh, so, but that's the reason.

WALTER THOMPSON: And a lot of the guys walking around here now, they, they, you know, they fell down harder because you ain't got the flag waving on top over like, like at Iwo Jima, you know what I mean. See? But all the guys at the bottom of that hill were mostly Black. See?

INTERVIEWER: Would you say that your Marine Corps experience is, has affected your life or has influenced your life?

WALTER THOMPSON: Well, in a way of speaking, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: How is that?

WALTER THOMPSON: Well, the battle, well, I can take the bitter with the sweet. See? That's one of the reasons I'm, I am able to take (COUGH) being out here with the family, and I took some jobs. I worked on, when the man just cut me loose, I might as well just went nuts. But I just thought about the Marine Corps, the way they did. And I take it in my stride. And I said, well, maybe I will use this method. And use that method.

WALTER THOMPSON: I didn't come back home and said, well, I can't work that. I can't do that. I would take anything, you know, just to go along, to survive. So, that's, that helped me a lot, you know. If I, you got a bunch of youngsters now, they can't take the punishment because they don't have that fortitude to back them up. That's the reason why they run and steal, knock people in the head. They start to take the easy way out.

WALTER THOMPSON: And that's a, and they can get along just like I did, you know. Which I did catch a lot of hate when I come back here. I caught hate because I was on that bottle and I smoked them cigarettes. And I had a short fuse. Everybody right now say I got a short (STAMMERS) . I am real happy now. (LAUGH) I don't pop nobody, I don't drink no more and I don't smoke. But, uh, but, yeah, your reputation go with you, you know what I mean. Used to have conventions like this, we'd be fighting and doing everything.

INTERVIEWER: How do you feel about having been a part of that history, or having been Montford Point Marine?

WALTER THOMPSON: (OVERLAPPING) Well, you know, more or less, that, that's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . I take a lot of punishment with the Montford Point. See, my, all my family say, any time I go to do something now, I don't care what it is, I was, I was threatening to quit about five, 10 times once. Time I go to say something even my daughters and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . And they'd say, well, daddy, you going to do such and such thing. I say, well, I ain't going to do it right now (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . But if it was Montford Point you'd do it, see? Everything at Montford Point you'd do that.

WALTER THOMPSON: If it was Montford Point my wife right today, I asked about the car. I said, let me take the car and I am going over here. She said, now, you ain't going with no my car to no Montford Point deal. See? So, I had to get my truck and bring it over here. But not that I can find no place to park. But, you know, that's the way that people do you, you know. Them, them, these are my people. These are my people, you know. The ones that I, I raised and fed and cared on, they, they use it on me, you know, (LAUGH) all the time.

INTERVIEWER: So, so, uh, are, are you telling us that, that you have a special connection to the Montford Point Marines (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

WALTER THOMPSON: (OVERLAPPING) Oh, yeah, yeah. I have a lot of them. I mean, yes, I wouldn't put up with it, you know what I mean. I have a lot of fun. It's good to see the old timers. And I've seen them break, you know what I mean. And that's, that's a hard thing. It's still like a nurse or a doctor that, uh, you treat somebody, your patient. And then you go see them we going down, you know. I see here some strong guys in this Montford Point was. But you could see half of them wither down.

WALTER THOMPSON: Uh, maybe myself, I am withering too. (LAUGH) But, I mean, but they, you know, I seen a lot of them get in, they going on down. And some are with canes, wheelchairs. Some can't get up, had to go to the hospital visit some. And, and it really hurt you, you know what I mean. That hurt you, you know.

INTERVIEWER: One last question, Mr. Thompson. If you had to do it all over again...

WALTER THOMPSON: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: ...tell me, would you do it and why.

WALTER THOMPSON: I often think about that. (LAUGH) I often think about that. But I would have no other way out. I could just tell. But I had a lot of fun. It was a heck of a challenge. And I think it benefited me as a young being, and it benefited my family. Because I didn't never, never let them say never, you know. No. Nothing. I mean, there is no such word as can't. You understanding me? I just, I am trying. And I still got.

WALTER THOMPSON: I said, bring me that tree. And I know he couldn't bring a tree. No, he can't bring the tree. Boot, he couldn't bring me that tree. I go, I thought I told you to bring me this tree. And, you know, would me, sarge, I'm trying. Fall back in. But don't tell me you can't, boy. You must be crazy. I can't (UNINTELLIGIBLE) , you know. I'd run into him, come to him. But that's the way your life, you know, and taking in stride and everything.

WALTER THOMPSON: And I've had a, I've had a lovely, lovely experience with the Marines. The guys I met, the new and old. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) But the new and old. Because the new ones is taking a little bit more punishment far as physical and mentally than we took. All we had to do was put down physical strength and we could make it. But now they got the mental, education, all that stuff. Which a lot of our boys would've washed out.

WALTER THOMPSON: Just with the education part of it. Look how many guys washed out, how they washed out in 99th Pursuit Squadron for flying. They had the will and everything. But they didn't have that education. So, this is what makes it different now. And then, nowadays, they let you catch up with it. It's all this, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . I had my, my brother was a Marine. And, uh, which (UNINTELLIGIBLE) been in the Marine Corps, he don't like it too well now.

WALTER THOMPSON: He was going to join, the battery was out. Made $50 off of him, you know, during the time they were recruiting. (LAUGH) And then, my son was a Marine, baby boy, Marine. And he said, he was going back. He said, I am not going in that Quantico, all that running and hollering and yelling, and jumping and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . I am not for that. When he was in college he was supposed to be a big time football player.

WALTER THOMPSON: And on later wrestler. He was a wrestler. He was a state champion from there in the heavyweight. (COUGH) He told me, said, dad, I am not going back. And you must be crazy. So, I just, uh, I didn't say what exactly. I didn't say, uh, well, I don't know. I said, I know I had one girl, I didn't think I had two. And, boy, what I said that for. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I said, oh, I didn't know I had another girl in the house, my God.

WALTER THOMPSON: And he went down there and put that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . And last I seen him he was down there stuffing that sea bag. And he went on boot, see. Next thing I knew I was pinning the bars on the shoulders, you know what I mean? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) So, and he is mad at me now about the Marine Corps. But deep down inside of him, you know, it's there, it's there. Once you plant it it's there. You understanding me.

WALTER THOMPSON: So, I dared him. I had a pretty good deal in the Marine Corps and I have had no bad thoughts about the Corps. No more than what I got treated for doing the time. See? It wouldn't been there, maybe it wouldn't been that bad, but doing the time. I will be a vet. Because I be seeing that whole change, you know. Be different if it was still going on. But I've seen the whole change right on down the line, you know.

WALTER THOMPSON: And, uh, I am really proud of the Marine Corps not for the Corps itself, but the quality of people that they get in the Corps. And what they are making of themselves. We got generals. We got sergeants, lieutenants, colonels, all that. Which in my day, if you seen a PFC you was happy. (BACKGROUND NOISE) At that time I never seen a full sergeant, you know, he acting. Until way later on, you know what I mean.

WALTER THOMPSON: So, I made a difference. It made a difference. Because the guy took me out and we was training right with the dogs straight on both sides of the road at Camp Knox, on the side of the road was the dog, where they trained the dogs. So, so, I told the guy one day, I was over there watching. I said, man, them cats, all they got dogs got the sergeant stripes on them. (LAUGH) He told me, he said, some of them guys over there been in five, 10 years.

WALTER THOMPSON: And they got hash marks and ain't got a PFC. So, I didn't believe him. I went over there and checked it out. And which he was right. There was guys in there three, four years. And, uh, and some of them had hash marks and, and they ain't got made Sergeant. So, why should I grumble. The only reason I was hollering because we were new. We were new. We was acting. Everything was Acting Jack. They called you Acting Jack.

WALTER THOMPSON: There was that sopranos, you know. But see, Acting Jack was all right, but it didn't put no money in your pocket, you know. See? Sergeant ain't that money. You still had that lousy $50 (LAUGH) , $50 a month. See? And when they took out everything, you didn't have any. (BACKGROUND NOISE) So, that was the biggest thing I wanted the money. The money. The money. The money. Yes. And I, I don't know why I didn't re-up. I don't know.

WALTER THOMPSON: But I got a good job. My daddy was a butcher, see. And I went to work as a packing house man. And I was going to cut me some meat, boy, over there. And he told me, says, son, I'm going to tell you something. It going to take you three years to learn how to keep the knife sharp by itself. I says, this old man got to be crazy. But he was telling the truth. There were some days I couldn't even, I couldn't even pick up the spoon, you know. Gripping that knife, couldn't even pick up a spoon. So, so, I learned you got to, you got to crawl before you walk. (LAUGH)

INTERVIEWER: I appreciate it, sir. (TECHNICAL)


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