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ALLEN WILLIAMS

June 29th, 2005


a thumbnail image of Sergeant Allen Williams - Portrait currently not available. Master Sergeant Fred AshSergeant Allen Williams, from Richfield, Connecticut, joined the Marine Corps in 1948. He served in Guam for eighteen months with the segregated 5th Marine Depot Company. There he joined the Marine Corps boxing team and fought three rounds with Joe Louis in Hawaii. Returning to the United States in 1950, he was assigned to the now integrated First Marine Division, and left the Corps in 1952. After a brief career as a professional boxer, he worked for thirty seven years with the Connecticut Power and Light Company in Danbury, Connecticut. Retired, he lives in Aventura, Florida.


INTERVIEWER: Well, let's start, just a little, I'd like a little bit of background in terms of where you grew up, what your family was like, what kind of educational level you had before joining the Corps, so just give me the background before the Corps, and I'll, I'll, you know, family and so forth.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Right.

INTERVIEWER: Just briefly.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: I, I didn't have a father and my mother and, and my aunt and uncle were my mother and father. And, I, I lived in Richfield, Connecticut, Danbury, Connecticut, and Norwalk, Connecticut. And, then finally I moved to a town called New Milford, Connecticut, in the country. And...

INTERVIEWER: Brothers and sisters?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: I had one sister one year younger than I, and she lives in Danbury, Connecticut now.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Now, I want you to tell me a little bit about how you got into the United States Marine Corps, just tell me whatever you want to tell me about the process in you deciding to join and getting in.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: After...

INTERVIEWER: And, and give me the year.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Right. In 1948 I was going to Wright Tech in Stanford, Connecticut me and this White kid, we were riding together and he said, why don't we join the Marine Corps. And, I said, well, that's a good idea. So, we went down, he, his mother had to sign, my mother had to sign, my mother signed and his didn't, so I went in and I got processed. And, the next thing you know I was in Washington, DC, getting ready to go South.

INTERVIEWER: I'd like you to tell me at, at the time you went in, did you realize that you were going in to a segregated Marine Corps, that you would not be training at the same place that White Marines would, troops would be trained? Just tell me what you remember about that, anything you want to say about what you understood was going to happen when you went in the Marine Corps.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: When I got to DC there was Marines of different color, White and Black, we're in Washington, DC and one of, one of the White kids come to me and say, say, yeah, I'm catching a train in an hour going to a place called Parris Island. And, I says, I'm not going there, I said, I go later, I'm going to a place called Montford Point and we could not understand what was going on.

INTERVIEWER: So, where did you, when did you begin to realize that you were going to a segregated training camp?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: I really realized that I was going to a segregate, segregated training camp when I got down to, got on the train and we start going down into North Carolina and they start saying, Rockimont, no hill, and this is, you know, then, then I start seeing everybody on the train that was going to Montford Point was of color, so that's when I first got the, really got the idea.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. I'd like you to just remember as much as you can about that train trip, what it was like coming in to the Jim Crow South from Connecticut, how you understood what was going on, what you thought, what you felt, just anything you want to, the whole thing all the way up to the point that you actually arrive at the gates of Montford Point. Tell me a little bit about that.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Well, you see, we didn't have any problems going to training because we were directed to a certain car where the military were and like I say, when we got on my way, we went across these different little towns and then when we got to a place called, I believe was Jacksonville, Jacksonville, somebody was telling us another name, but, but I remember that as being Jacksonville, North Carolina and I didn't see any round, any people around but Black people at the station at that particular time, Marines.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. And, when you got off and how did you get to Montford Point?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: They picked us up in trucks and took us off Hadnot Point, The main camp and then we got separated over into Montford Point.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Now, so, we've got you in Montford Point now, I want you to tell me and I'm not going to go into the training, because I'm, I, I have lots of training. I know they ran you and I know you had do the drill, I know you had, you know, a, a rough time, but you were in the Marine Corps (LAUGH) ...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Right, right.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. I would like you to tell me if you can, I'm talking about the guys you were in (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Mm-hm.

INTERVIEWER: When they didn't have you out there running all the time and you...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Right.

INTERVIEWER: ...in the barracks a little bit.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Right.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me about the camaraderie of what you guys did, if you had any free time, how you related to the other guys that you went through (WORD?) with, just try to remember that or tell me what that experience was like for you.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: I got along well with, with everybody in the, in the camp, in that platoon, but as far as free time was concerned, I didn't have much of that. And, and we were so tired after you trained that you would go hit the sack, lay there and that was basically it. It was, there was nothing, oh, yeah, we did go to a movie occasionally, maybe once a week.

INTERVIEWER: Right. Now, you were in a period when they had a Black DI.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Right.

INTERVIEWER: So, all your DI's...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Right.

INTERVIEWER: But what I want you to think about is did you have any experience with a White officer corps, did you, did, what kind of perception of the, because all the officers were still White.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Right.

INTERVIEWER: What kind of perception did you have of the White officers, did you have any relationship with them, did you know about them being there, just tell me what you do or what the guys knew, and what the relationship was. Anything you want to say.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Well, the White officers that I remember, as I believe he was a lieutenant that came around and he was ensuring you the fact that you were being treated properly. And, and I have, we really didn't have any relationship with them.

INTERVIEWER: Your relationship was with your DI. (LAUGH)

ALLEN WILLIAMS: With the DI's.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember who your DI was?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Sergeant Balair (SP?).

INTERVIEWER: And, do you think he gave you a, a pretty rigorous introduction into the Marine Corps?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: I think so. And, he was a fair, but he was very firm, he, he was a great guy. It's too bad that they, he, he's deceased, but, you know, was through Second World War, Korean War, Vietnam War, and then I believe he became sick from some of that.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. So, you, you're through training, I want you to talk with me a little bit and you can do this any way you want to do it, but I want, once you got through your boot, you had some liberty, and you probably got an original assignment, I want you to think about if, if you went into any of the towns in North Carolina like Wilmington or, or Kinston or New Bern or Jacksonville, what it was like, where you went for relaxation, what kind of interaction you had with some of the Whites ...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Mm-hm.

INTERVIEWER: ...it's obviously a very segregated community...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Mm-hm.

INTERVIEWER: ...in 1948.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Mm-hm.

INTERVIEWER: Just tell me a little bit about that and again, whatever you'd like to say.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Well, actually, at the boot camp I was there maybe one week, so I think I went up to Kinston maybe once and then, then immediately I was shipped overseas. So, my career, I didn't have any contact with anyone down in North Carolina really.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Do you remember what Kinston looked like?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Not really. (LAUGH)

INTERVIEWER: Okay (LAUGH).

ALLEN WILLIAMS: I went in, actually, I, I, we went on a bus, we got there at night and I never even seen Kinston in the daytime.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Right. Because right out of boot camp, you went right overseas, at, at least I did.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: And...

INTERVIEWER: Now, what I want you to do is tell me when you, when you got out of the Montford...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Mm-hm. (CLEARS THROAT)

INTERVIEWER: ...I want you to tell me what unit were assigned to and where you lived, and what you did, while, while you were in the Corps, for the remainder of your time, just talk about your time in the Corps...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Okay.

INTERVIEWER: ...what, what you did.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: From day one after the...

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, after, after...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Boot camp?

INTERVIEWER: ...after boot camp, before you got assigned and where you went.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Okay. When I got out of boot camp I went to Guam, Fifth Marine Depot. I was credited for staying there maybe 14, maybe the 18 months. I say that because they started an athletic team, so if I count the time that I go back to the States to, to box in the all navies, then, then it would cut my overtime, my overseas time down, you know, maybe two or three months.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Well, first of all, I want you to tell, there's individuals who, in this audience who don't have a clue about what Fifth Marine Depot means. (LAUGH)

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: They all know a little bit about what Fifth Marine Depot means and what that unit did when they were involved, and what you did with the unit.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Right. Well, Fifth Marine is, Depot is a supply depot and...

INTERVIEWER: Company.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Company, company, and, and I, myself, was in motor transport, light maintenance mechanic 3531, plus all Marines, it was old 700 Rifleman, and I stayed, you know, the whole time that I was there, that's basically what I did. I trained down to the gym, I, every night at the gym, in the motor transport half a day, because we had, you know, it's so hot over that we had to work, we worked half days.

INTERVIEWER: This was in Guam?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: This was Guam.

INTERVIEWER: Now you said that in addition to your operations with your unit, which was...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Mm-hm.

INTERVIEWER: ...the Fifth Marine Depot...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Right.

INTERVIEWER: (OVERLAPPING) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) , that you were a boxer.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: That's right.

INTERVIEWER: You're, you're unique and I have heard this story a little bit. I want you to tell me a little bit about what you did as a boxer and how that affected your, your stay in the Marine Corps?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Well, when I, while I was on Guam they, they started having All Navies 1949.

INTERVIEWER: All Navy...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: All Navy boxing events and so I went out for the, you know, the trial and I won. And, because I'd boxed Army people throughout Guam.

INTERVIEWER: Tell us what weight you were.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: I was a heavyweight, but I was a small heavyweight, a 182 pounds. And, I had, then, then, then, do you need to know when I went on to Hawaii and...

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, tell me, tell the story.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Well, well when I, when I won on Guam, the next tournament was, it was in Hawaii, so we had a fight off in Hawaii, and then we went to San Diego for the next, for the main event, for the All Navy, I think it was Balboa Stadium. And, I went as far as the quarter finals that time.

INTERVIEWER: And, how long did you box while you were in, in the Marines?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: I fought in three All Navies, '49, '50 and '52. And, actually in '51 we had a bonus, it seems like that the heavyweight champion past, ex-heavyweight champion, Joe Lewis was over there, touring, exhibitioning with people so I was one of the ones he exhibitioned with up in Tokyo Stadium in 1951.

INTERVIEWER: So, you actually boxed with Joe Lewis?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Yes, yes.

INTERVIEWER: All right, tell, tell me about that experience.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Well, I was looking good then, I was really looking good for about two minutes, and I, I, you know, like they say, you don't go to the wall too many times, well, I went downstairs to him too many times and he got wise and he sidestepped and he hit me right on the, right in the solar plex, took the wind out of me, didn't hurt me, but it dropped me. And, I enjoyed the experience with him, you know.

INTERVIEWER: So, so you were a guy who was knocked out by Joe Lewis.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Oh, yeah, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Oh.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: And, bruised by him a few times, too, because I exhibitioned with him three times, I exhibitioned with him on Tokyo and twice in Yokohama in that, that same year.

INTERVIEWER: What kind of guy did you find Joe Lewis to be?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Very soft-spoken...

INTERVIEWER: Tell, tell me, tell me that Joe Lewis was, Joe Lewis was...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Joe Lewis was a very soft spoken, a lot of people thought he, he was, didn't know much, but he was a very intelligent man when you get to talking to him, you know, you may have, didn't come off too well in, in, the newsreel, but in real life he was totally different.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, I now want to ask you a question about race. Do you, how, how did, when you started boxing you started boxing in '49.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: I started boxing, I, I actually started boxing amateur in Norwalk, Connecticut.

INTERVIEWER: No, I mean, in the Corps.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: In the Corps, yes, right in '49 I started boxing in the Corps.

INTERVIEWER: Now, when you started boxing the Corps was still segregated.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Yes, it was.

INTERVIEWER: When you first boxed in the Corps, was not something new and I want you tell me this, and what, you have to tell this back to me because I can't use what I'm saying on the tape you understand.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Right, right.

INTERVIEWER: I want you to talk about that transition, how that transition occurred, how that affected you as a person.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Mm-hm.

INTERVIEWER: How did race enter into the boxing matches, the transition from a boxer, from a segregated unit, to the transition as a boxer in an integrated Marine Corps, can you tell me a little bit about that?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Because I, I, this is something that's really unique.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Right.

INTERVIEWER: I, I don't know, I'm asking you myself...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Right.

INTERVIEWER: ...I'm really interested in your answer.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Right. Mm-hm.

INTERVIEWER: So, just talk with me about that it's, I'm interested as well as the audience, because I know nothing about this.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Right, right. Well, you see, with the, in the boxing business race, color didn't seem to matter. We, as a team, we stayed together, stayed in the same hotels, in the same barracks, so, it really didn't affect me, and so '49, but I really didn't realize that segregation was over until 1950 after the Korean War started. And, that's when we also had a tournament I believe, boxing event in Oakland, California.

INTERVIEWER: And, how did you realize, tell me how you realized segregation was over, what made you understand that the Corps was integrated?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Because it seems like we were, I, I go by some of the barracks, for example, in the Navy, and I see people of color in the same barracks. Well, I know that the boxing team was altogether regardless of your color.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Can you tell me when you were, let me (UNINTELLIGIBLE) , you never boxed in the American South, you were always outside the South when you were boxing, is that correct?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: That is true.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me that, tell me that.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: I, I never had the opportunity to box in the South because in, in Camp, when I was down in North Carolina at Camp Lejeune, while I was there we didn't have a boxing team. And, I wasn't there long enough to even participate. So, the first time that I ever started boxing in the service, like I said before, it, it was on Guam, and then when I came back to the states boxing, it was always in, in, in California. But I can add one thing to you, that may be, when I got to Hawaii, 1950, I believe, the boxing team moved there.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: (CONTINUED) We had a chief named Gibbs, Navy Chief in charge of us, he came to me in about, I think about four of us were Black Sailors or Marines that was in this boxing team, everybody was supposed to have a rub down, but I noticed he came to us and says would you guys rather go to the movies? And, we said go to the movies? Yes, would you rather go to the movies? He says, these people don't want to give you guys a rub down. So, we didn't particularly like that, we didn't really want to go to the movies, but we didn't have any choice.

INTERVIEWER: Now, what he meant by these people, tell me what he meant by these people?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: The people...

INTERVIEWER: Tell me what that meant by these people.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: He meant by these people that they did not want to rub Black people down.

INTERVIEWER: And, these people were?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Were Hawaiians.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Now, other than boxing, you, at the time you were boxing you were also in some military unit?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: That's correct.

INTERVIEWER: And, is that still the, the depot company?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Up until '49, '50, that was depot company, 1951...

INTERVIEWER: You need to tell me that, through '49, 1950 I was in the...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Oh, from 1949 to 1950 I was still in the Montford Point Marines, not Montford Point Marines, I was in the, the Fifth Marine Depot on Guam.

INTERVIEWER: Now, what I want you to think about is outside of boxing, in terms of your unit assignment...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Mm-hm.

INTERVIEWER: ...tell me when you remember first being assigned to an integrated unit, tell me the process, anything you remember about it. How did you get, I mean, how, what was the process, because this is what's important about you.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Mm-hm.

INTERVIEWER: You know, you, you integrated at the unit level what was the process like, some sort of a deconstruction of the Fifth Marine Depot Company...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Right.

INTERVIEWER: ...into an integrated Marine unit, or whatever unit it was, whatever the unit was called, I don't know. But just tell me that process and what you, what you moved into, what you remember about it, how it occurred. Because this is a very importance occurrence...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Right.

INTERVIEWER: ...in, in the history of the United States Marine Corps. So, if you would just tell me about that.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Well, when we came back, when our time was up on Guam, we came back to the States and we went into Camp Pendleton, California, Oceanside, California, and I stayed there in, in, in a total integrated barracks, and then I went off on leave, and then when I came back from leave, that's when all the people coming in from all throughout the country to go to Korea. So, I never really had too much separation after 1950, after we got back from Guam.

INTERVIEWER: Now, when you got back from Guam, tell me what unit you were assigned to after that. After, what was the unit you were assigned to from the, the segregated Fifth Marine Depot...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Right.

INTERVIEWER: ...Company to, tell me a little bit...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: ...about that.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: I came out of the Fifth Marine Depot to the First Marine Division in Camp Pendleton and 3531 truck driver, that's basically what I was doing.

INTERVIEWER: And, tell me that the first Marine Division was an integrated unit.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: The First Marine Division as far as I know and, and as far as I could see was integrated.

INTERVIEWER: This is (WORD?) that's good. Okay. Can you tell me a little bit about coming out of the Corps and why you decided to leave the Corps and go on in a civilian career.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: I got out of the Corps, I didn't really go in there to stay as a career, and, and I did like the traveling to, to a degree, but then you start getting older... (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: Just tell me the process that you went through because we can edit these tapes anyway, tell, tell me the process that once you're in the boxing in the Corps, how were you identified as a boxer, is it something you chose to do, just tell me how you got into that a little bit.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: I've always loved boxing, an amateur, I used to box amateur in Norwalk and Stanford, Connecticut, and Bridgeport, Connecticut. So, when I got in the Corps and, and over on Guam they were, they wanted some athletes to play football, basketball, boxing. So, I decided to go out for the team. So, I made the team and, and I just continued right on and was brought, and I stayed with it the whole time that I was in the Corps. (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: Oh, yeah, tell me about sort of mustering out, you, you told me you didn't, never played, so when, when did you leave the Corps and when, where, do you recall where you were, where were you mustered out, just tell me the process.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: I was mustered out in Treasure Island, 1952.

INTERVIEWER: Treasure island is in...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Is in San, between San Francisco and Oakland. And, I believe that base is now closed. And, and from there I, I state, from there I moved to Los Angeles, I, I lived in Los Angeles for maybe three or four months before I got homesick.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Now, I want you to just briefly tell me about what you did later in life, how, what did you go to do in life after, after the Marine Corps?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Well, after I got out of the Corps I continued and I turned professional, boxing, and I had a few fights like Easton Parkway, Canada, Toronto Maple Leaf Stadium, and didn't turn out too well (LAUGH) because one of the reasons is the money was not there and then I decided to get married and, and that was pretty much the end of my career, really.

INTERVIEWER: So, but, but after boxing you went on and did something and...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Oh, yeah, I went, I worked in construction work and then I worked as a, in the line department of Connecticut Light and Power in, in Danbury, Connecticut for 31-and-a-half years I worked there.

INTERVIEWER: And, retired...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: And, I retired in 1997 and reside, stayed in Connecticut for two years from 1999 I moved to Florida, Sunny, Sunny Isle, Florida and now I reside in Avenutura, Florida.

INTERVIEWER: And, you enjoy Florida?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: I love it, I love it. I'm down there with all my friends, all my arthritic friends, because I have got a little arthritis around the neck, so, (LAUGH) so I'm down there with them and, and I'm happy.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Now, I want you to tell me, this is the last question...

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Mm-hm.

INTERVIEWER: ...and you can say anything you want to say. But what was the significance of having been in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what, what, what did you get out of this? If you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) about this is the most important thing about having been a Marine, this is what I feel about having been a, a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) , whatever you want to call it.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: An (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Marine and being a Marine it was just like my education, like my college. Everything I really learned there I've been using for the rest of, for all my life up till now as a matter of fact. And, and it made a man of me. And, and...

INTERVIEWER: And, I take it you enjoyed the experience?

ALLEN WILLIAMS: I did, I really, I enjoyed the experience, I enjoyed the people that I come in contact with in Japan, out in the street. I enjoyed those folks and I enjoyed my comrades, and I, and I had a great life in, in the Marine Corps.

INTERVIEWER: You guys are all alike. (LAUGH) Thank you so much.

ALLEN WILLIAMS: Everybody liked the Marine Corps.


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