Everybody turns white when shot at

Bettie Wilkins,
Roanoke, VA.

I was born in 1940 and my parents were sharecroppers. My father was drafted in 1942 and came home in 1944 with a partly collapsed lung. He was in a trench with other GI’s when the Japanese threw a burning bomb with gas into it. He was lucky because three men died and one lost a foot. He was one of only two Negro soldiers in his unit. He and Ben were never given first choice for missions and some soldiers did not talk to them. That was when they got there just at first. They said they don’t talk to niggers. That was before they all went to the islands to fight Japanese.

After they boat was shot at landing they had to swim to the edge of the land. My father said the soldiers put rope out for he and Ben they to pull them because they said because niggers can’t swim. My father could swim and helped Ben because he was not good to swim much. When they got to land they pulled the rope to help pull Ben and my father to land. He didn’t talk much about fighting on the islands but he said everybody turned white first time they was shot at. When I was little I didn’t understand what he meant. I thought people could turn white. I asked him then how did he turn black again. He laughed and used to tell that story every family reunion. Mamma didn’t think it was funny at first but then she started telling it her self after he passed. We never thought about Chinese or Japanese race people before he went away to the war.

He hated them after he came back. I never thought that was racist because they were trying to kill him and shot at him. So he always said bad things about them but not white People much after that. He got some medals, and I still have them. Some times white men from his unit would come to our house after he got back and they would go out to the back yard and talk away from all of us. Mamma was not allowed to come talk or hear and My little brother and I were not allowed either. They would talk very late and Could hear them but not what they say. Some times my father called them brothers but I said can’t have white brothers hahaha. He got mad but Did not talk about it. Just said he would explain I was grown up but he passed when I was fourteen and I guess he didn’t think I was grown up because he never told me. But Mamma said it a different kind of brother and meant he give his life if you need it. We only met Ben once but he talk about him. Sometimes. My father said he got prejudiced against in the army but he was home alive so he was lucky. he was mad because he try to buy a house near the mill he worked at but could not borrow for a house like white men who got him from the war. It was prejudice. That is about my father and how things were racist.

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