• Have a question? Want to talk to someone involved in the Montford Point Marines project?

    Contact Us
  • Our online collection contains photographs, interview transcripts and other artifacts from the Montford Point Marines.

    See the Collection

This web site was supported by the Department of the Navy, Office of Naval Research, through a grant with South Carolina State University and developed by the University of North Carolina Wilmington, working in close cooperation with the Montford Point Marines Museum at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C.


June 29th, 2005

Technical Sergeant James Wilson, of Utica, Mississippi, joined the Corps in 1946. A twenty year veteran, he served at several bases in the United States and in Korea. After retiring from the Corps he worked with the United States Geological Survey for nineteen years. Upon retiring from that agency he moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, where he worked part time for the North Carolina Ports Authority until 1997. Now fully retired, he lives in Wilmington, North Carolina.

INTERVIEWER: You, you talk a little bit about going into the Marine Corps early on. And, uh, you said you wanted to go to the Marines (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . Did you know what to expect?

JAMES WILSON: No. Not at that time. I, (STAMMERS) I slipped away from school and went, and taking the test, (STAMMERS) taking the physical and everything and I passed it. And, and (STAMMERS) they sent me back, two weeks and said, if I came back in two weeks with my parents, one of them would have to sign it, that I would be good to go.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And that was my project then. My test was to get daddy or mother to sign it and (STAMMERS) she said, no. And I talked to him and he said, well you heard what your mother say, and I says, well, I tell you what, I'm going on leave here. That's what I'm going to do. I'm just going to run away 'cause I can't stay here. And so he said, I'll sign you in the service. And he went and he did.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me a little bit about what you expected, sight unseen, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ?

JAMES WILSON: That I really, I used to go the movie and, and watch, uh, Army pictures. And, I like pilots, I used to like the pilots. It (STAMMERS) I didn't, I watched a little bit of the ground but I always liked the pilot. Where he was up there and he could come down and do what he had to do and get out. And I thought that I wanted to go in to be a Marine. And I didn't care whether I be a pilot or a machine gun man.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) I didn't, I didn't really care, I just wanted to be in the military to do something for my country. In the military. And I, I wanted to travel to see the world. Well, I (STAMMERS) I was too young to travel and see the world because, uh, I was 17. And, the first place they were going to let us go, send some of the Marines, was to Panama and I was too young and then again, I had to get my parents to sign.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And, of course, my old man wouldn't sign for me to go out of the state. Out of the country. So I, that was a no no. And I just, I enjoyed it. I'm glad I did, I didn't know I was making a history. Uh...

INTERVIEWER: One final question on (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . How do you feel about being a part of history?

JAMES WILSON: I'm proud of that. I'm proud that I was a part of the, uh, first Blacks to enter the Marine Corps. And, I'm proud that I stayed in and stuck it out and I think by the ones that (STAMMERS) stay in the end made it possible for the ones that came along behind us. And not all the Montford Pointers stayed in so I, I'm saying that those that didn't stay was a part of the opening that was like opening a door but then they jumped ship.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) Because they got out, they didn't follow through on it and follow it up to the letter. Now if we all would have gotten out on our own then I don't think there would be a, uh, any Blacks in the Marine Corps today. But by we, a (STAMMERS) few of us staying in and sticking it out made it possible for the ones that's in today. You see, when I was in there, uh, you couldn't make a commission. If you made a commission you automatically went into the Reserves.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And when I first went in, a Black sergeant could not give a White private an order. There's no such thing as, no such thing as a Black giving a White an order. Makes no difference what his, the Black's rank. He can be Master Sergeant. He could, (STAMMERS) he couldn't tell a private what to do. White private. Just didn't have that authority. And, and that was, that was a, uh, uh, in a letter form, I saw this letter.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) In fact I got it over there, signed by the Commandant Marine Corps to all commanding officers. Now, I, I wasn't supposed to get this letter, but somehow through the grapevine I got it. And I still have it. That was the way, that's the way it was then. It didn't hurt me because I knew (LAUGH) I wasn't going to make officer and I was just going to do my three years and get out.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) Then I decided I'd stay in. I did my three years and I got out and I, (STAMMERS) I kind of like it. So I came back in and three more years and then, uh, President Truman extended it so I decided then, my career's in the Marine Corps so I'm going to stay. And that's what I did. And I don't regret it at all. I think it was a good step. And if I had to do it again, I'd do the same thing. Okay?


JAMES WILSON: Well, one of them was in the Marines, uh, James, he was a cook, that, we used to ride to Wilmington in the carpool together. The, uh, he was there and I transferred to Parris Island, lost touch and anytime I seen him he was retired and I was too. Uh. (BACKGROUND NOISE) (TECHNICAL)



INTERVIEWER: Can you tell me a little bit about, uh, where you're from and why you decided to join the Marine Crops?

JAMES WILSON: Well, I was born in, in Mississippi, uh, place called Utica, about 30 miles south of Jackson. And it was the posters that I saw, a Marine on the poster, and it said, join the Marine Corps and see the world. And I thought, that's what I wanted to do. And I asked my father about it, talked with him about it and, of course, he sent me to my mother.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) She said no, so I went on to school and the following year I, I slipped away from school and went down to the recruiter and, uh, (STAMMERS) filled out the papers and took the physical and passed everything and then I went back home and talked with them about it. And, I told them I, I had joined the Marine Corps and they gave me two weeks and I (STAMMERS) , they told me I'd have to bring my father or mother, one of them had to sign so I convinced the old man to do that.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) Uh, he did. And I, that was on November the 14th, and (STAMMERS) signed up but I didn't go back home after that. Uh, they sent us to Montford Point. Uh, and on the the 16th, we got to Montford Point in Jacksonville late that evening and Marines was there to meet us and put us on a little truck. (STAMMERS) Us around to Montford Point. We called it Boonies back in the woods.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And they just, they had us to get off and, of course, they said, now you guys are Marines, you're at Montford. We standing outside and, and they called us in to log us in and all that. And kind of shake us up a bit 'cause they asked me my name and I told them my name was James B. Wilson and he says, oh, are you a colonel or a general?

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And I said, no, I'm a man. I forgot about private. And he went and got another guy and he came out and (SOUNDS LIKE) sculper said, what's your name and I told him. And he stood to the side of me and the other one stood in front of me and so he says, are you a colonel or a general? I said, I'm a private and he says, well, you will say your name, you'll always use private.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And I said, okay. So, I said, he said, what do you mean okay? He said, you say, yes sir to everybody that wears an emblem. That's like the things (STAMMERS) and I thought it was a joke. So, I turned to look at him and the other one hit me in the kidney. So I turned around to fight him and the other one hit me so, I'd never been approached like that and I tried to fight them but it didn't help. (LAUGH)

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) I had to give up cause they (BACKGROUND NOISE) , they was, they knew what they were doing and I didn't. So, I was scared from that day until I graduated. I tried to stay clear of all the guys with emblems on.

INTERVIEWER: What, uh, tell me what year this was, that, uh, (CLEARS THROAT) (BACKGROUND NOISE) . What was going on in, in the country at that time?

JAMES WILSON: Well it wasn't too much, this was 1946, just, just after World War II were over and wasn't too much, uh, unrest going on in, uh, at that time, when I went in. I went, uh, I didn't have any idea it was going to be as rough as it was. I, I thought it was going to be like a little pleasure trip. Like a vacation but it turned out to be a little rough. And, that training was, I'd never been treated that way.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And I never, uh, experienced it in, (STAMMERS) it was a learning experience and I was afraid but I, I didn't tell all that truth, trying to get out. Uh, when I was interviewed with the doctor. I told him I walked in my sleep and all, (STAMMERS) anything to try to get out and it didn't work. And it was rough going from that point.

INTERVIEWER: Did you, uh, realize that, uh, you were among the first African Americans to ever come into the Marine Corps, at, (STAMMERS) and tell me a little bit about your feeling in that regard.

JAMES WILSON: Well, at that time, no. I, I, I didn't (STAMMERS) think it was a history making thing. I was just in the Marines and I was going to try to make the best of it. I thought, uh, Marines was supposed to be the toughest outfit and I wanted to be in the tough, toughest outfit, uh, in the services and I thought the Marines were tough and we knew that, that Marines was fighters and that's what I wanted to be.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) A (STAMMERS) fighter and this back in '46 and they was, wasn't too much happening and I, (STAMMERS) at that boot camp was, that was the roughest part of it. It was not easy at all. (STAMMERS)

INTERVIEWER: Tell me a little bit about your journey (COUGH) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . Unique experiences you might have had on the way (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

JAMES WILSON: Well, we left, uh, around midnight, left Jackson, uh, Mississippi about midnight that night and board the train. It was five of us. And, uh, one of the guys had to, was in charge of the tickets. The meal tickets and all of that. And it was slow, slow. (STAMMERS) The train was rather slow. But, I didn't care, I didn't even think about it, and we didn't even know what time we were supposed to be there.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) They had the orders and he knew what time we was supposed to be there, but we were on the train so it really didn't matter and we were just really enjoying ourselves and this one guy that was in charge, he wouldn't, uh, he wouldn't eat. He was saving his (STAMMERS) meal tickets 'cause he was going to cash them in when he got to Montford Point. Of course, that never happened.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) Uh, we had a layover in Birmingham and, uh, there's a restaurant there and we went, everybody ate but him. He would, uh, go buy a sandwich and he wouldn't eat 'cause he was saving his meal tickets, and of course, uh, he didn't get it when we got back to, when we got to, uh, Montford Point. It was a slow experience. We changed once in Hamlet, North Carolina and I, I never been there since.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) That is (LAUGH) just passing through and we stayed there. It was kind of like a slow process, you know, the train. And then we, uh, we caught a bus. Said, we didn't come all the way to Jacksonville by train. We came, I don't exactly where the other place we caught the bus. It might have been Wilmington. I'm not really sure, but I know (BACKGROUND NOISE) our last ride was on the bus, to Jacksonville.


INTERVIEWER: (CONTINUED) Mr. Wilson, are you, when you got to, arrived at Montford Point, what were your perceptions? I mean, when you got off the bus and you stood out there, you know, and (STAMMERS) July sun, what did you, what did you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ?

JAMES WILSON: Well it was, it was kind of hot coming from, uh, where we were coming from. Mississippi was, the, (STAMMERS) weather's basically the same. Uh, but, uh, uh, I guess you'd call them sand, sand flies or whatever. They would fly right into your eyes. Uh, I hadn't experienced that. I, I really, when I got to Montford Point it was just, it wasn't what I had thought I was going into it.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) Was more or less like a prison camp but I didn't really know how prison camp was but you couldn't talk to anybody and you had to say sir to everybody. And, you had to stay on your toes really. I didn't, I didn't like the idea. I, I made a mistake, at least I thought I did and I just wanted to get, get it over with and get out of boot camp. But it was rough getting in there.

INTERVIEWER: And, uh, when you got there, (STAMMERS) when you got there and you got settled in, tell me a little about your Drill Instructor. (CLEARS THROAT) Did you encounter any, any kind of racism?

JAMES WILSON: Well, um, when we got to Montford Point and after we were checked in and all, we didn't see, that was about, uh, 4:00 I guess and for the rest of the evening, uh, we were being, uh, was assigned to our quarters and was issued mattresses, what have you. And the next day is when we begin to form and they had us lining up and had to go over and get our uniform and, uh, our drill instructor was Black. He, uh, the only, uh, Point guys that were there were officers.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And, and they wasn't seen that much. They were more or less in the offices, in the office and if something, uh, went wrong you might see one, uh, if they were having inspection. (CLEARS THROAT) They might come out and inspect and ask a few questions but mostly it was drill instructors, it was Black on Black and it was tough. I mean, they (STAMMERS) , they would beat you up.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) They would, (STAMMERS) they would beat you. I mean, physically kick you, uh, uh, hit you, uh, hit, (STAMMERS) they called us knuckleheads and of course, we went and got our hair cut off and they had our heads shaved and, and they call us skinheads. And they would hit you on the head with their knuckles. And, ooh, it was, it was scary. And they was some mean DIs, let me tell you. (LAUGH) Mean.

INTERVIEWER: (STAMMERS) What was the morale like, (STAMMERS) of the trainees that went there with you and their general attitude?

JAMES WILSON: Well, we, uh, we kind of formed, uh, ourselves, uh, we formed, uh, uh, togetherness like the southern guys were on one side of the hut. We were in huts and, and the northern guys was on the other side of the hut. We, we, we segregated ourselves from the northern guys. And the southern guys and we, we had those little heaters, little (STAMMERS) coal burning heaters in there we had two, one on one end of the hut and one on the other end.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And we would maintain, this was in the wintertime. We would maintain our, uh, fire in the other end on our end, because we call ourselves southerners and we southern boys knew how to keep warm. And of course, (LAUGH) the northern guys didn't, wouldn't get up and keep the heat going and we wouldn't let them come down to ours.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And it, we got along good but, uh, there was some fights. It was mostly the fights against the south and the north. That's the way we set ourselves up. In boot camp.

INTERVIEWER: When you, uh, when you went on liberty or went out in town, what, what did you feel, what did you experience?

JAMES WILSON: Well, when we first went out in town, uh, we went out about five of us, the group and, and we were told where we would be going. Uh, across the railroad track and most of the cities, uh, (LAUGH) Blacks would always be across the track. And we were walking down the street, I think it was New (STAMMERS) , New Bridge Street or something and I didn't know, we was just going down the street.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) So, we's asking them where was the railroad tracks, so, the guy says, down there and so we went down there. He said, once you get cross the track, you'll find yourself. And, of course, we did in Jacksonville and so civilians didn't like us down there either. And I guess the Marines before us had kind of act up and they had a USO down there.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) They had two USOs. They had one down in, across the track, and then they had one downtown. But that was, everything was segregated. The Blacks would go across the track and the Whites was uptown. Uh, and of course then later on they began to let us go to the, oh, you could always go to the stores uptown and buy jewelry and whatever. Clothing, but that was it. You had to go down across the track if you wanted to eat, drink, play pool or anything like that.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) It was just, but it didn't really bother me because I was used to that kind of life coming up. So, I didn't didn't really bother me. I just, never even paid it any mind.

INTERVIEWER: When you left the Jacksonville area, and maybe traveled to Wilmington or Kinston, did you find, going on liberty, any difficulties?

JAMES WILSON: Uh, on the bus, yes. It, uh, it turned out, uh, you had to go in the (STAMMERS) other side to get your tickets and, of course, you were the last to get on the bus. If there was any room left. If there were no room, you had to wait for the next bus. Sometime they would run another bus maybe 30 minutes and then sometime they'd be couple of hours. And getting into the city of Kinston, that was kind of rough, too.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) Because guys was fighting and stuff like that. (STAMMERS) And you always, we always, I always went with some guy that (STAMMERS) NCO or PFC. Uh, that had been out before. And that was a mistake 'cause that guy was carrying me in the wrong direction and I was following it to a T. 'Cause I had (LAUGH) had never been out like that. (CLEARS THROAT) And it was, it was, it was, just (STAMMERS) that's a terrible experience. And, of course, got into some fights that, uh, I thought wasn't necessary but I had to fight along with my comrades.

INTERVIEWER: What, what are some of your, uh, your pleasant memories of being out of town?

JAMES WILSON: I would say (CLEARS THROAT) to the USO, we are going in, relax, drink sodas and write home. Uh, that was about, that was in Jacksonville. That was about the best one, best, and I would go down to the USO and sit down and relax and write home and maybe eat a dinner or something at the café there. Go back. I didn't do too much going to Wilmington. I came to Wilmington once and the experience was a little too much for me.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And I didn't come back up here, uh, for quite a while. Uh, I met some of the wrong type of people. (LAUGH) I met some guys that, I guess they thought they were ladies. And, uh, I, I didn't, wasn't too good with them. I, I didn't like, (PHONE RINGS) (STAMMERS) I like to stay away from them as much as possible and I was afraid and I wouldn't come back to Wilmington's bad experience (PHONE RINGS) . (TECHNICAL)

INTERVIEWER: Uh, when you left Montford Point, what, uh, what, what MOS did you receive and, and talk a little bit about what you did in the Marine Corps after Montford Point, the training and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .

JAMES WILSON: Oh, when uh, I left, uh, Montford Point, my first duty station were, uh, at Camp Lejeune to guard detachment. About 35 of us went over to main side, that was in 1947. And, it was still, we had our barracks but it was all, our whole squad, they was, uh, African Americans. And the NCOs was, uh, having their own, (STAMMERS) we was, it was just like we were at Camp Lejeune but we was still all together.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And the experience that I had, this one guy he was from Philadelphia and somehow they made a mistake and put him on the gate. And, he was one the gate. This is what he said. And he was talking to one of the other MPs and MPs was telling him that, what do you think about them letting those (LAUGH) (SOUNDS LIKE) splibs, I think that's what it is. Splibs or gibs or something. Come in, out here? And he said, what do you mean?

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) and he said, well what do you think about it? And he says, I don't think nothing about them. Uh, they just nice. What'd you think when they see you, you don't think anything about it? Said, no, says, I'm one myself. And it surprised the guy. He didn't know he was, uh, Negro, he thought he was White. And, of course, they relieved him and sent him back to Montford Point. And I never seen that guy again.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) I don't know what happened to him. He was a corporal. But that was just, it, it's just (STAMMERS) , amazing how things, I never thought about it anymore. And I, and I didn't even think that it was a history making thing. It was just a regular routine way of, you know, going about it. I couldn't understand, uh, why we would go on a working party. I think our MOS was at 7:45 or 3:45 or something.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And all of us had the same MOS. General duty. And we were on (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and we were like a working party. To me, it was just like a prisoner go out and work along the highway. 'Cause you was just cutting back brush and the Corpsman was spraying it with the disinfectant for mosquitoes. And, uh, a corporal was in charge of us and a private was telling him to tell us what to do.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And I wanted to know why. And he never gave me an answer but he'd taken me off his details 'cause I asked too many questions. and I realized later why he didn't let me stay on it. Now, (STAMMERS) I liked it. Because I knew what I was going to be doing all day. And I think when I asked that question, and he never answered, uh, he couldn't answer that question, really.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) So he didn't want me, I guess I was a smart guy 'cause he wouldn't let go back on that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . So, I didn't want to go to (CLEARS THROAT) excuse me, I don't want to go take training in, uh, judo. I didn't want it but I had, had to go at that time. And it was kind of rough, too. That was another hard pill to swallow. (STAMMERS) Throwing you all over the sand out there. You know, you're supposed to be training you, but it was, this guy was a judo expert. So he knew what to do. And, I learned it, the hard way.

INTERVIEWER: What was the name of that judo instructor?

JAMES WILSON: Uh, (SOUNDS LIKE) Gasio, I believe.


JAMES WILSON: Tony Gasio, yeah, yeah, that's, that's him. But he wasn't a big man. But he knew how to disarm you and he knew how to flip you, too. (LAUGH) He was good, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Uh, can you give me a couple a little snapshots of other things you did in the Marine Corps over the (CLEARS THROAT) years?

JAMES WILSON: Yes, I was a, I went to supply school, uh, at Montford Point. Uh, that wasn't bad. (BACKGROUND NOISE) I went to NCO school. Uh, I can turn it off if you want. (TECHNICAL)

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) I went to supply school. I went to NCO school. And I went to preservation and (SOUNDS LIKE) packing but I went to different places. Uh, I went to supply school, preservation and packing in Aberdeen, Maryland. And I was told that if I didn't pass the class I would be (STAMMERS) demoted. So, it was myself and a gunnery sergeant and, of course, I passed it.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) But he didn't. And when we got back, nothing happened. He got transferred to California. So I don't know if it was a joke or what. But I went to, uh, NCO school and, at Parris Island and it was pretty rough. Uh, we had to do some demonstration but I, I liked it, it was good. And I had duties there, (CLEARS THROAT) excuse me, at Parris Island, I had duties there. Had, uh, I marked a grid square of warehouses and the, uh, outdoor spaces.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) I marked whole Cherry Point. I mean, whole Parris Island. I, I did that myself before I was transferred. And, I got transferred to Okinawa, of course. And I think I got, uh, five (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on my arm for that and I didn't get a letter or anything. Uh, I got a comment from the captain that it (STAMMERS) good job, job well done. And I told him, uh, uh, I said, well then, give me a promotion.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) (LAUGH) That didn't work. I got transferred to Okinawa. Uh, caught some duty in, uh, Earle, New Jersey. That was some more crying time 'cause I was with the same people at Montford Point. And it wasn't a bright thing either.

INTERVIEWER: (STAMMERS) Tell us, uh, why, uh, a lot of Montford Pointers ended up in the same Battalion.

JAMES WILSON: Well, (CLEARS THROAT) excuse me, they was reorganizing, uh, the, the had summit, Oklahoma and I think they was closing down bases. You had lot of the, uh, servicemen were coming back from overseas on Guam and they was being reassigned and some of the places was closing down. And there were places that I guess I had (STAMMERS) I had signed up to go to a placed called, Jackson, Tennessee, I believe.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) Uh, guard detachment, but (STAMMERS) Tennessee didn't have a, they wouldn't accept, uh, detachment of Blacks in that area because they said there was no, uh, liberty places and billeting, so they went us to New Jersey to have, uh, I don't know what, what kind of negotiations were made but we went to New Jersey in '47 and uh, I didn't particularly want to go into New Jersey because it was cold.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) I (STAMMERS) , I'd always heard, it cold up north. And, (LAUGH) when we got up there, it was snow. About 13 inches. Uh, I definitely didn't like that. But, uh, it turned out to be okay. It was a...

INTERVIEWER: Did, did you have any, uh, combat experiences. If so, where and...

JAMES WILSON: Yes, I went, I was transferred to, well I came back to Camp Lejeune. In 1950 I went, '51 I went to (CLEARS THROAT) excuse me, Korea and I were over there, uh, for 13 months. Uh, with the, uh, 1st Marine Air Wing, uh, it was Mack 12 and uh, little place in Korea called Pong Te, K6 (BACKGROUND NOISE) , and that was pretty good duty.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) It just didn't combat area and we had (STAMMERS) scares and some raids and some, it was some bad times. They had two, some wise time, you had to use, that's the way everybody got along, whether they liked each other or not. And, it was still kind of rough. Yeah, it was kind of rough. Had, I think, four squadron top of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) , I don't really remember. I was in Mam's section. Uh, Mam supply, MSM.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) Uh, Navy supply. We was supplying all the aircraft and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) jet, night fighters and what have you. And, I remember when, uh, I think it was 1950, this is the second time I was (STAMMERS) , when I met up with, uh, General Peterson, who was Second Lieutenant at that time. And Lieutenant Peterson came out, was going to take a flight school, going up at flight time and he had on a, his cap but he didn't have on a jacket.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) He just had on shirt and he told us when you got this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Second Lieutenant emblem. Uh, they say when you got this, you got it made. And we thought that, yeah, you got it made 'cause he's an officer. (STAMMERS) (LAUGH) And it was kind of funny 'cause when he came back the colonel was there in the flight office when he came back.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And, uh, he, uh, got him for going up without the proper attire. And, he chewed him out. So, uh, he didn't chew him out in front of us. We heard him and we, when the lieutenant came out, we said, Lieutenant. He said, yes. And when you got that you got it made. And he just (LAUGH) (STAMMERS) 'cause he'd got chewed out. But it was some, uh, good times and bad times over there.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) Korea. Uh. I, I guess I must have liked it cause I went back. I was there when they, when, in (STAMMERS) 1954 when it secured. I was there then and I was supposed to be going aboard the Constellation and around the world. When, on my way back to the States. And I would be stationed at Miami, I believe. But then my relief didn't show up so I had to stay three more months. And I missed that.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) So instead, I went to Treasure Island. And, I didn't like that. That's when I found out, uh, at that, when I got to Treasure Island, that's when I found out that I had a heart problem. And I was there, hospital for six months. That was a downfall for me. And that was six months. Then I came to Camp Lejeune and (STAMMERS) 2nd Division, where I stayed until I finally retired from the Marine Corps. But it wasn't, I had to go hospital seven times after that. Uh, before...

INTERVIEWER: The life and times of, uh, the men, including yourself, who served at Montford Point are fast becoming military history, what do you think the historical significance of (STAMMERS) those times are?

JAMES WILSON: Uh, (STAMMERS) not too many left but there's quite a few that got out, during that Montford Point time. Uh, at the time when we, we were in there, they had order that came out. I don't know exactly which one and they, we had a, our choice, either go to cook and bakery school or get out. And I made up my mind to get out. I wasn't going to be a cook or baker.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) I always thought that was a lady's job. Uh, cooking, but anyway, I, I was going to get out so they said they can't make you get, get, go to cook and bakery school because you didn't sign up. I wanted to be a motor transport man. (STAMMERS) I couldn't drive no, no car. No truck. I could drive a car with a standard shift was, you know, the only thing they had then. I don't think there was too many automatics.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And I didn't get to motor transport. So that's when I went into the MPs and Guard Company. And, of course, I don't think we got MOSs really change until 1950 when we started going to these different schools. And I know I got a 3051 and then, uh, I had a 3041, 6,800, Rifle Instructor. MP, uh, I was a coach, uh, in 1956 at, uh, 2nd Division, I was a coach and I had several guys, I had, (STAMMERS) that had never qualified with the rifle.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And they gave me those to coach. And it, uh, I got them in there and I got all of them to qualify but one. Of course, I had to sit on the back, some of them, you know, to get them down to do what they was supposed to do. But I did get them to qualify and that was, that was another good mark that I got. But yeah, sergeant in charge got a letter.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) 'Cause I never got nothing in writing and that's, that, not, (STAMMERS) and I would always ask for my, something in writing and I never got it. And, uh, First Lieutenant talked to me and he told me some, something that, uh, he shouldn't have told me. Uh, he told me what would happen, but I was ahead of my time. And if I was John Doe I would be this, that.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And I said, well, what are you doing for me. He says, I can't do nothing for you 'cause I'm just a lieutenant. So, I, uh, I didn't thank him for it. Because I thought he should have kept it to his self. It hurt me more than it did, more than helped, so, but I didn't hold that against anybody. I still do my duties.

INTERVIEWER: You were a part of the last group to come to Montford Point. Uh, (STAMMERS) can you tell us a little bit about that transition when, that you remember. (STAMMERS) (CLEARS THROAT) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Before you, uh, they, they just trained you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but you, you saw the transition. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

JAMES WILSON: Well, um, yes. We, uh, first we, uh, when they sent us over to (STAMMERS) Camp Lejeune for the trial and everything worked out well, there was some (STAMMERS) misunderstanding between ranks (STAMMERS) low, low, low echelon and was nothing that would, that got out of hand. Uh, we would always take care of ourselves if the individual made a mistake or said something that we didn't like.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) We would approach them on that and (STAMMERS) if it was a fight, we would do it (STAMMERS) just like two, two privates would just have their fight and they'd stand around and let them fight and when they thought it was enough then they'd break us up and that would be some apologies and we'd move on from there and I remember when I made corporal.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) They told a guy, uh, give a guy an order and do something and he told me, hey, give it to that guy over there. That's your kind. (STAMMERS) I'm from Georgia, you don't tell me what to do. (STAMMERS) What you talking about? Uh, you know what I'm talking about. And, so (STAMMERS) we not going, we got to go over here and talk. But we not going to go with this.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) So, we, we sit down and talked about it and (STAMMERS) that guy came (STAMMERS) and I came to be very good friends. In fact, we friends right today. He's in Baltimore, Maryland. I don't know why he didn't go back to Georgia, but he's in Baltimore, Maryland, if he's still alive and we kept in contact with each other for a long time. (COUGH)

INTERVIEWER: Uh, how, how did the Marine Corps experience affect your life?

JAMES WILSON: Ah, the Marine Corps, I think it made a man (STAMMERS) out of me. It, it, (STAMMERS) taught me responsibility and how you, uh, would persevere to advance and do your job and do it to your utmost. Do the best you can do. And it was, that you don't start something that you don't finish. In other words, when you start it, you complete it and do the best that you can do.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And (BACKGROUND NOISE) work together as a group. We worked together in training and there was lots of times that we, there were things that we could do, especially putting a rifle back together at such short (STAMMERS) , first three groups was no problem. But when you take it completely down and, and I learned how to just tear it apart (COUGH) completely.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) And that, that was a job within itself. But we worked together on it as a group and I learned how to, I never learn how to put it back together blindfold, but I, the biggest problem I ever had with the rifle was, putting the (SOUNDS LIKE) seer back in there and the little pin flew out and I don't know what. (LAUGH) We look for it about an hour and we found it.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) I didn't find it, somebody, one the guys find it. We put it back. I never taking it out again. I, I left all of those parts alone. But we worked together, uh, and it was some (STAMMERS) heartaches every now and then. There was always a wise guy in the group and but, uh, we, we learned how to take care of the wise guy. We learned how to set him up. Set the guy up.

JAMES WILSON: (CONTINUED) Tell him something and, and know his faults and only until that person and if you hear it again and we knew it was him. And, of course, we did some thing like blanket, whipping the guys, get him in the sack and tie him in. And beat him. We did that. To make a good Marine (LAUGH) out of him. As (STAMMERS) that's what we thought. Uh, make him tend to him business and what have you. Uh, we did things like that.

INTERVIEWER: You talked earlier about (COUGH) your perceptions...

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the web site developers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Naval Research.