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JONNIE C. WASHINGTON

July 23rd, 2004


a thumbnail image of Sergeant Major Jonnie Washington Sergeant Major Jonnie WashingtonSergeant Major Jonnie Washington grew up on a Mississippi farm, graduated from high school, and joined the Corps in 1946. He made a career of the Marine Corps, seeing action in both Korea and Vietnam. Upon retirement he made his home in Indianapolis, Indiana.


INTERVIEWER: Sergeant Major, will you state your full name, and spell your last name?

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Jonnie C. Washington, W-A-S-H-I-N-G-T-O-N.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. And today's date, Friday the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Friday the 23rd...

INTERVIEWER: July.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Of July...

INTERVIEWER: (WORD?)

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Zero four.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Uh, tell us a little bit about your background before joining the Marines, uh, things like where you were from, your family, your education.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Before I joined the Marine Corps I lived in, uh, (WORD?) , Mississippi. I was living on a farm. My family owned the farm. I lived there for, until I was 17 years old. I graduated from high school at Edward High. I graduated high school 17 years old. I came into (UNINTELLIGIBLE) , 17 I came in the Marine Corps. (SOUNDS LIKE) I found out by seeing quite a few peoples in the Marine Corps, White. They were sharp, they said they was mean. And I said, this is the outfit that I want to go to.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) And I came in the Marine Corps. And I found everything I wanted in the Marine Corps. It's a hard life, it was hard boot camp and everything. And I said hey, this is my life.

INTERVIEWER: Did you have any idea that, uh, you were, uh, be, gonna be a pioneer in the Marine Corps, where African Americans were concerned?

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: No, I had no idea when I went in the Marine Corps. But I did find out before I went in the Marine Corps that very few Black was in the Marine Corps. And I had no idea I was stay in the Marine Corps as a career. So...

INTERVIEWER: So, can you talk about that a little bit more than, you had said that you wanted to go into the Marine Corps because that's what you wanted to do. But when you found out that very few Blacks were in there, you, you, you decided that you didn't want to stay. Is that what you were saying?

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (OVERLAPPING) No, I, when I found out there was very few Black in the Marine Corps, I wanted to stay in the Marine Corps. I wanted to prove that I could be a Marine. And I decided to stay in the Marine Corps. I loved it. After I got out of boot camp, boot camp was, was awful hard. And I said, if I overcome this obstacle, I know I could be a Marine. And once I got that emblem and graduated, there was no better thing that ever happened to me in my whole life, was becoming a Marine.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me a little bit about the day you left to go to the Marine Corps. If you can, if you can remember that, what, paint a picture of, of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (OVERLAPPING) The day I left for the Marine Corps I, uh, my mother cried. She says, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) youngest kid in the family. Baby of the family, as she called. And I, uh, left, and I, uh, left Jackson, Mississippi, once Friday night, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 10:00, on a train. And I say I'm going to North Carolina. Having never went, left Mississippi, I said, well, maybe I'm going to, going to a different life there. And I rode the train all that night. I didn't even sleep that night.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) I couldn't wait to get to Lejeune, North Carolina. I say I was going to Lejeune. I didn't know that it was, uh, segregated there. I didn't know that it was just a little, uh, island out by itself. When I got there it was just like, when I first got there, I said, gee, this is almost like being on the farm. When I got there, we got off the bus, train, and we got a bus at Wilmington, rode a bus from Wilmington down to Jacksonville. Got to Jacksonville, we got in cattle cars and went down to, in through the jungles to Montford Point.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) Where the hell start. Got in there one Sunday, about, I'd say about 3:00. And we got in there, they rolled us off the cattle cars, and then put us in the barracks. And we stayed there for about half an hour, and they run us about three miles over (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . We had, uh, strung out it was about, 30 of us strung out for about a mile. (WORD?) Double-time (SOUNDS LIKE) over at the child. With that, that child that hadn't had no fear, they cold cuts.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) That's what they feeded us that Sunday evening. And we came back to the barracks, run all the way back to the barracks, which is taking about two hours before we got back and that together, and so forth. And we was issued linen, went down to the property room, they issued linens, so forth. The only time they issue you linen, they issue you M-1 rifles. So you had stood outside with your hands out, and, uh, you better not, uh, drop that rifle. You go to your knees, but you bet not, uh, drop that rifle.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) And so you are, uh, got your linen, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) how to make a, make your rack up, whatever, all thing, this that. This is something that I never did in my life. I used to make a bed at home, you know, but this is altogether different. They showed you how to make your rack and so forth, and, uh, military fold, and all of this. And that night, I never, couldn't sleep. Scared, and, uh, uh, I says, what the hecks am I in now? what did I do (WORD?) now?

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) And, but after, next day, which is Monday morning, we got up at 5:00, run the child. We got (SOUNDS LIKE) 37 young civilians, didn't know how to, didn't know your left from your right. You got to go in formation and run the chow, for the chow hole. You go in, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) get your tray, and you go through the line. And they're, they throw your food on the tray. So you see, the last one out, you better not have be the last one out.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) So you just woof your food down, and got (UNINTELLIGIBLE) drinks, and ready to run. So they run you back over to the, to the barracks, which was about, it's about mile, two miles over to, (WORD?) mess hall to the barracks where we live at over in training. So we go back over there, that morning. They are, uh, go to the head. The head was, uh, bathroom was, uh, up above, you had to go outside to go to the bathroom. Up to another room, building. And so, uh, after that, say about 7:00, 8:00, they put your information, they drove you over to the barber shop.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) So I went over to the barber shop, all the hair cut off. Whoa, I said, Jesus, what is this? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Then you go to PX, and they give us an, uh, PX gear, and, uh, a bucket, water bucket, soap, everything. Then you go to, go to the, the, uh, supply. They ask you what size shoe. You said just, just, uh, say just give me some shoes to wear. What size pants you wear? (LAUGH) They'd get, throw the pants to you, jackets and everything, you know. But, so you got your toilet gear, all your PX rations, and the water bucket, a bucket.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) Then you got your sea bag on your back. So we go in, (WORD?) , they're gonna drill you back over to the barracks. Go on your back, well, it wasn't (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you're straying out for about two miles, before you, uh, to get to the barracks. They get to the barracks, strip you off, take all the civilian clothes from you, and give you them civilian, take all the civilian clothes, you get military clothing, and everything.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) And you go back the next day, you get your hair, cut all that hair off you and everything, and more. You're (UNINTELLIGIBLE) , and youse ready. The life. That's what boot camps are. Boot camp was...

INTERVIEWER: What, while you were going through training, uh, did you ever get a chance to go out on a liberty...

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (OVERLAPPING) No, no, no, no, no.

INTERVIEWER: ...town?

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: No. You went in there, we went in there in the summer, and we didn't come back out 'til March. Wasn't no liberty. Uh uh. You had no liberty whatsoever.

INTERVIEWER: When is the first time you, you got liberty, and, and when you did, where'd you go, and what did you do?

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: First time I got liberty when we graduated in March. First April, we graduated. That's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) April. Went (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . That's a (WORD?) town. (LAUGH) All the troops got together, they had a little, couple of bar, clubs up there that all the, uh, Marines, Black Marines went to up there. On, we all went to (WORD?) , catch a bus, and we all went to Wilmington. So, we stayed in Wilmington, we went together crew, as a platoon. So with this, went to Wilmington, uh, had a ball for the week, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Did you ever encounter any difficulties, uh, in, while you were out on liberty? Uh...

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Well, your...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: ... Difficulties was in Jacksonville. Jacksonville is very prejudice. We had to go across the railroad track. Everybody was across the track for Black. And that's where you went on liberty. You seen a lot of prejudice. And also, if you was going to Wilmington, the White guy on the bus first. If there was no room, the Black couldn't get on that bus. And coming back at night on Sunday nights, you got to be back about 5:30 in the morning, coming back from Wilmington. Uh, the Whites on the bus first.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) But we changed this thing. Once they left out of Wilmington, we'd take over the bus. We'd take the White (UNINTELLIGIBLE) getting seats. And before we got into Montford Point, we would, uh, uh, get off the bus, and, uh, uh, walk in. These things just happening.

INTERVIEWER: Did that cause any problems for you, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Well, sometimes they would come down and want to know who, they got to the point that no, hey, it was no need of going to the gate. They actually (WORD?) who was that come in the gate, who walked through the gate. Sometimes they'd call the O.D. Nobody did seen nothing. It was never seen. You come through the back, the gate, and come on in. It was no wire fences. Nothing. So you come in the back, and come on and go on in. So, it's nobody's, never seen nothing, nothing, nothing ever happened.

INTERVIEWER: Did you ever have any problems, uh, did you ever go to Kinston, or (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (OVERLAPPING) Oh yeah, I went to, uh, uh, I, well, biggest (WORD?) that I be, was in Wilmington. I haven't gone to Kinston some time, yeah. That's, uh, that's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

INTERVIEWER: Um, let me ask you this.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Uh huh.

INTERVIEWER: Um, were you ever involved in, in, in World War II combat?

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: No, I wasn't. Uh, World War II, when I went in, it was, uh, was standing down. When I went in December of, uh, uh, '46. The, World War II was over with.

INTERVIEWER: What, what, what unit were you assigned to, uh, when you left, um, Montford Point? Tell me a little bit about your experiences in that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (OVERLAPPING) Uh, when I left Montford Point, I left Montford Point in 1948. I went to (SOUNDS LIKE) Lulu Lane, Navy Ammunition Depot, and we were security there. We went over as Black Marines. We relieved the White at this ammunition depot. And the Whites stayed there for about a couple of weeks after we got there, then the Black taken over the whole thing. And I stayed there for, uh, about from July, uh, '48, until, uh, December of '49. I came back to the States, and at that time, uh, they sent me to, uh, New Jersey.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) That's where the Black had previous, (WORD?) Black, some of them had, went to old New Jersey, Marine (UNINTELLIGIBLE) New Jersey, as security force. So I went there, and I stayed there as, uh, for about, uh, uh, almost two years from, uh, '40 to '50, from '50 until, uh, uh, October, until, uh, uh, about February, uh, '52. Uh.. (TECHNICAL)

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) Then I left there, and then went to Korea. Uh...

INTERVIEWER: Can you, can you tell me a little bit about the closing of Montford Point? It, it opened in '42, I believe.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Yes, it...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: ... opened in July, uh, I believe it was July, '42 was opening.

INTERVIEWER: And, and when you were there, or maybe one of the last classes, I guess, that, uh...

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Well, no, I was about the third. Uh, there was about two other platoons, well '48 they had, a few, very few Marines came through. I think, no, '47 very few. But '48s, very few came in. And then '49 they had very few Marines. And that's '49 when they closed it down. I was gone then. I had gone Lulu (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

INTERVIEWER: So, so it, it looks like you're, you're, uh, you came through as probably one of the last platoon ...

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (OVERLAPPING) The large crowd, last platoons, was...

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: ... the large force. That's '37 platoon, that's the last large platoon that came through Montford Point.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Could you tell us about your combat experience?

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: My combat, uh, experience was I was, I went to Korea in, or, uh, July, or, uh, '52. I was a sergeant. So I was coming there first, uh, Third Battalion, Seventh Marines. I went in there, and, as a sergeant. And first go in combat, I was, uh, assigned as a, uh, fire team leader. I was a (WORD?) leader for about a week, and then the platoon, the sergeant that I relieved, he come, rotated back to the States. I moved up to squad leader. And from squad leader I went on controls, ambushes and so forth.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) And then I was fortunate enough, I made, uh, right guard. And as a right guard in combat, you, uh, take care of supply, your platoons all foods, and rations, and everything. And this is what I did my whole time in Korea, was right, uh, right guard. Went on patrols, and some things of this type. My other career was I came back to the States, and I was, uh, went on different other assignments. Uh, when I came back to States in our, uh, from Korea, I went to Crane, Indiana. Marine barracks, Crane, Indiana.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) I went to security there. And I stayed at Marine barracks, Crane, Indiana, for approximately three years. In, uh, '57, I went to, uh, was transferred from there to our, uh, Second Marine Division. Second Battalion Weapons Company, Second Marine Division. As a section leader of heavy machine, uh, that time they had the water cooled machine gun. And I was section leader. There for about two years. I went on a Med cruise, came back off of Med cruise, and I was promoted to gunny sergeant E6.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) And I had orders to go back to Okinawa. I went the First, uh, Marine Division in, uh, Camp Pendleton, and they had a transplace. You went in this transplacable battalion, it stayed, they formed, and you stayed together for, uh, a year. And you stay with the battalion. The battalion went to Okinawa, stayed a year, and they come back. And then, and they would break up. Half of that battalion would go to, to other places, other duty stations, and half of them would remain there.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) They would train that other battalion, so they'd go back over. And I came back, and I was sent to, or, uh, Cherry Point, North Carolina. But there I stayed, and I run the rifle range. I was a rifle range NCO. Was a gunny sergeant. I was NCOIC. I stayed there for approximately, uh, two years. I made gunny sergeant E7 there. And I had orders to go to San Juan, Puerto Rico, was charge duty as a Black, to go there.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) And my duties was I, uh, went there as a guard chief to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . We was about 30 miles from the main base. My, I had 25, 35 Marines up there, and I was an NCO in charge of there. I stayed there for three years, came back to, or, uh, Camp Lejeune back to Second Marine Division, Second Battalion, Second Marines. And I came back to, as the company gunny of Lima Company. And I stayed company gunny there for about eight months.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) And I made, I was selected for first sergeant. And that's when the, when the Cuban Crisis broke out. And they transferred me from there, there was too many first sergeants, and they in the infantry be shipped out. They sent me to Second Motor Transport Battalion, HMS Company, Second Motor Transport Battalion. I was a first, I was, uh, first sergeant there. Then in this, January of, uh, 50 because six, or, I mean, '66, I went to first sergeant school. And I graduated from first sergeant school, passed that in South Carolina.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) Came back to Second Motor Transport Battalion, and stayed there until, uh, August. I got orders to (SOUNDS LIKE) West Pac. And I, October of 19, or, uh, '66, I went to First Marine Division. I was first sergeant in the first, uh, Third Battalion, Eight Marine Lima Company (SP?) , Third Battalion, Eighth Marines. I mean, Third Battalion, or, uh, Fifth Marines. And I stayed there for a year. And there as a first sergeant, I had a lot of troops. I lost a lot of troops in that battalion, in my company. I lost a hell of a lot of troops. And, uh...

INTERVIEWER: Because (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ?

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Yeah. In, uh, Vietnam, I lost a lot of troops in Vietnam. And my company, and I still today, I keep contact with about three or four guys from New York. They call me monthly. We talks about the, uh, battles and so forth, that we had in, uh, Nam, and so forth. And during my tour at Nam, after, I was there nine months, and they, uh, they brought in some new, uh, some first sergeants come in, and we had a lot of casualties. And so, uh, the colonel battalion EX asked me, says hey, I need a personnel officer.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) I said, hey, I'm no officer material. He said, I need a personnel officer. So he says, we'd like for you, since you got only three months to do in Vietnam, we'd like for you to, uh, (BACKGROUND NOISE) come and be a personnel officer. Said, you'd make a good personnel officer for us for your last three months. So I went in personnel, take up personnel officer in the, uh, in the battalion. The job there was casualty reporting, and so forth. You did the casualty report, and report there.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) We wrote our, uh, (WORD?) letters, proofread the condolence letter. We, uh, also had to, my job was also, saddest job was you had to go to the morgue and identify a lot of bodies. And, uh, and the, and the, black bag, this is a sad type of duty. It's, wasn't nothing proud. It wasn't nothing happy about it. You brought a trooper, you come in, you talk to him, and hey, you go down there next couple weeks, and there is the body bag. You got to go down and, and, uh, check him for I.D., and body by his dental record.

INTERVIEWER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) A long, uh, really wonderful career in the Marine Corps. As you look bock on it, from Montford Point to, to, to the time you retired in 1976, what do you have to say about it?

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Was a wonderful life. I, the experience that I had in the Marine Corps, I wouldn't trade it for anything. It was really a life that I've enjoyed. I enjoyed the life. The life was rough, but I really enjoyed it. And sometimes that I got out it, it got something that I couldn't do anything. There's nothing impossible, that I can't accomplish. I know I can accomplish. If you stay in this man Marine Corps, and stay with it, give it all heart, and soul, you can accomplish anything once you come out it.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) Like, when I came out this man Marine Corps, I was offered all kind of jobs. I even says, hey, I don't want them. I just want to retire. But after retiring, after I came back from Nam, and then came to Second Marine Division, I was sergeant major, three (WORD?) , and I was sergeant major, uh, I had sergeant major Second Motor Transport Battalion, had sergeant major, uh, Sixth Marine Regiment, I had sergeant major Eighth Marine Regiment, sergeant major of, or, uh, Second Marine Regiment. And sergeant major of the Second Recon, during my last (WORD?) tour, my last four years of Marine Corps. Which is rather an expense.

INTERVIEWER: There must have been some times, some, uh, in, in, in your, you know, long, uh, illustrious 30 year career, that, that you, you find yourself in a tough situation, a unique situation maybe.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: A scary situation.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Oh yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Difficult situation. Can you pick out one or two of them, and talk to us about it?

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: I will tell you (SOUNDS LIKE) why I really found out some tough situations. Vietnam is one, uh, tough. It was a tough situation that I found myself in, too. It was hard. It's tough. And I, the only thing I did is pray. Talk to my troops, and kept, tell them to keep the faith. And you know that you got, somebody got your back, and you got theirs. You could make it. That's only thing you want to depend on. Thing I depend on was the Marines. Because had, know I had a company that was gonna stick with me. I know I had other marines, (SOUNDS LIKE) if the, something happened, we was gonna have support. And this the way you got out those situations.

INTERVIEWER: In, in Korea, what, were you, were you faced with combat situations there too? Uh, you talked about...

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (OVERLAPPING) Oh, yes.

INTERVIEWER: ... (WORD?) now.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: I had combat situations in Korea also.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Anything over there that stands out in your mind?

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Well, we had, one of my squads, one of our squads went out from my platoon, and they got hit. And they went ahead and got hit in, um, they went on patrol, and hit some Bouncing Bettys. We feel that the enemy had reversed where we had put the Bouncing Bettys out. Figured that the (WORD?) , they had it reversed it, and we got our truck, uh, squad got hit in Bouncing Bettys. And we lost about, uh, about 16, 18 of them out there, and we lost about, about four or five KIAs there. We had to go, we had to go out and find out where they were, and bring them back in. It was a horrible thing. I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) blown apart, and wound himself for. It was a hard thing. (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: If, you, is there anything else you want to say, you want to say, that I haven't asked you about? Uh, about your experiences (UNINTELLIGIBLE) , uh, at any point in your Marine Corps career? That...

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: No. The only thing I can say is the Marine Corps is, uh, I love the Marine Corps. When I came in the Marine Corps, there was a lot of prejudice. But now it's, Marine Corps is, since before I retired, it had changed quite a bit. But there was still some prejudice in there, even in 1977. There was still some prejudice going on in the Corps. But it changed, I understand, a lot now. But I, you're still gonna find that regardless of where you go. And I enjoyed Marine life. And I, uh, I would go back tomorrow. If I had to, I would go back tomorrow. I wouldn't hesitate one bit, to go back. And... (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: Let me ask you this question. You, you, uh, came in as a Montford Point Marine.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Yes. Uh huh.

INTERVIEWER: Back in the days when really Blacks were not, you know, invited to be a part of the, the regular Marine Corps.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Well, no.

INTERVIEWER: And, having done that put you at a point in history that you can never erase. I mean, you, you have influenced history. I mean, you are a part of history right now.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: How does that make you feel?

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Well, makes you feel, you know, you sit back down and look at these things that happened. Sometimes it's really, uh, you wonder how could a person be treated like you can, that's supposed to be in the service protecting your country. I've seen the times there in, or, uh, well, you can, like Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. We'd go over there, had to go to dinner (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . We'd wait 'til they get about 25 of us, and take in some hundred degrees in, in the shade, and they'd take you over to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) , and they get you a (SOUNDS LIKE) dentist, and you get on that, uh, get on that cattle car, one, go off at one on one off off of the, you sit there sometimes two hours.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) And you look at these things, say how could this happen to, to a Marine? And you see these things happen. We used to go over, and we'd work in the warehouses, and our corporals was taking us over, that's PFC at that time, private, they take us to work, and then we'd eat off the mess hall there, after the White had. Uh, they have ate. Then they bring us in behind the, and feed us, made us back door, someplace to feed us, and so forth. It's something.

INTERVIEWER: (WORD?)

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (OVERLAPPING) You look at these things, and you say, uh uh. (LAUGH)

INTERVIEWER: Through all of that, what, what was the spirit of your fellow Montford Pointers? I mean, did they, did they take it in stride? I mean, uh, how, how did...

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: They'd take this in stride. All of them wanted to stay in the Marine Corps. They loved the Marine Corps. Once they got that (WORD?) , loving (WORD?) along, they wanted to stay in the Marine Corps. They had a lot of pride. They showed a lot of pride. Because they feel that they didn't want us in there, and they felt a lot of pride that they gonna prove that they could stay and be a Marine. Which they proved they self.

INTERVIEWER: Good. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Closing Montford Point, and started sending, uh, Black Marines down to train at Parris Island. Was it, uh, what is, was it a seamless transition? In other words, was it with or without problems? I mean, did it (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (OVERLAPPING) I don't, let's just jump into, I was out of country then. Was overseas then. I never got in contact with it in its, uh, mens going down to Parris Island, so forth.

INTERVIEWER: But did you hear any negative...

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Well, some of the troops was saying that the first group went down is really, uh, is rough on them. I talked to quite a few the Marines, and they say it was rough for the first couple of groups. I'd a hate to been the first (LAUGH) going down there, I'll tell you that. Way some of them say, it was pretty, pretty bad.

INTERVIEWER: What, from...

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (OVERLAPPING) (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

INTERVIEWER: ...from, from what you heard, was it truly integrated, or, you know, like, they had places for, you know, the Whites here, and places for the Blacks here?

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Well, I heard some places is, some cases that it's truly (SOUNDS LIKE) integrated. Before that time you still had the segregation on the base. It, you had to leave certain places. But a guy had to be, uh, going to slop shooting things, with that, it, would probably had a lot of fights and so forth, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that.

INTERVIEWER: (WORD?)

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: But, finally they finally realized that the Black was here to stay, and they finally, or, uh, went along with the (SOUNDS LIKE) problem.

INTERVIEWER: Good, good. (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) One of the things that I as a Marine just, that just made my day, you know, putting on that uniform.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Oh yes.

INTERVIEWER: You know? I, I just, I just can't explain that to anybody. I, I think you can appreciate that, uh, you know what I'm saying, you know. That..

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (OVERLAPPING) Mm hm, oh yes.

INTERVIEWER: You know, when you, when you get ready to get dressed, and, you know, get up, and go out, you, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . You know, that, that was my uniform. And when I put that thing on, I felt like I was a king of the world.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Oh yeah.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) Can you talk about that, in terms of how you feel?

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: When I finished boot camp, any time I put that Marine, you know, I am the king, always. I wear my uniform, I wear it proud. There's nothing that I (SOUNDS LIKE) believe, I likes to, and generally, as a sergeant major in the Marine Corps, I changed my, in the Marines, I changed my uniform twice a day. And when I put that uniform on, I wanted to be everything top, squared away. The best. Shoes spit shined, always. Haircuts, every week. And when I put a uniform, I feels as like, uh, I am it.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) There's no, nothing no better than wearing that uniform, and wear it proud, and, there's nothing no better than that. And when you put the dress blues on, hey, that's like going to heaven. That's really fantastic to wear that blue uniform. And you wear it proud. And know that it fits you, and everything, and that really wonderful.

INTERVIEWER: One other thing that, one other question that comes to mind, we, the drill instructors at, at Parris Island, when you went there, by that time I think they were all Black. Uh...

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: What, you mean at Montford Point?

INTERVIEWER: I'm sorry..

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (OVERLAPPING) Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: ...at Montford Point.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Oh, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: I believe by that time it, they were all Black.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (OVERLAPPING) They were all Black when I went.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) How, how did, how did, uh, how did they treat you? I mean, in terms of, of training you. I mean...

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: Those guys trained you well. You was trained well. And it, uh, there's practical application. You better at fighting, hand to hand combat. You was taught, and you was practical application.

INTERVIEWER: Mm hm.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: If you were asleep in the class, you missed something, you probably got a few notches on your head. But it was really for your best to pay attention, and be able to perform. Because if you wasn't perform, they taught you how to perform the rough way. And, uh, it's the best thing. And this is what make a Marine. This is what the Black Marines was all about. You train them, they take, they, you train them, and they learn their job. And they performed it. Even in drill, we was proud to be a Marine to drill.

JONNIE C. WASHINGTON: (CONTINUED) Montford has some proud Marines. We used to go out on the field, and, for inspection. (SOUNDS LIKE) Used to lay our clothing display on the field. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Hash Mark Johnson was the camp sergeant major. And he'd come out and inspect the field, and get, every Marine was lined up, his gear was lined up, everything could shine, and they was proud. They was proud Marine. They was proud men to have their (UNINTELLIGIBLE) , to know that I have the title of Marine. And it makes you proud. It makes me proud today any time I see a Marine come by. Makes me feel good. Wonderful.


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