It must have been an incredible sight: young men from every corner of the state lining up to volunteer to join the military: from cities and towns, farms and factories, from the mountains to the coast. Some were eager to defend their country, while others – like Roger Casey of Dudley – looked for adventure. We hear several of their stories – like that of Chuck Paty, a 17 year old only child, who had to convince his parents to let him enlist and then, had to eat a whole lot of bananas to meet the weight requirement. Tom Alley, a bank teller in Charlotte, enlisted but got tired of waiting so inquired about what he could do that paid extra. When the recruiter told him, “parachutist,” Alley had to ask what that was.  John Hope Franklin, an African American college professor in Raleigh, decided to volunteer but encountered racial prejudice, so pervasive at that time. The experience so enraged Franklin that he vowed never to fight. African Americans who did enlist or were drafted – like Hubert Poole of Raleigh – trained in segregated units like Montford Point Marine Base in eastern North Carolina. Poole describes his basic training there and how his mother had six blue stars hanging in the windows of her Raleigh home, indicating six sons were serving their country.

During 1942, NC had more service members in its borders than any other state.

“He said, ‘You want to volunteer?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, “What can you do?” I told him that I could run an office. That I’d had experience in college running the office of the librarian. I had three gold medals in typing. And oh, yes, I had a PhD from Harvard University. And he looked at me square in the face, and he said, “You have everything but color.” And I paused – I believe I did. And after taking a deep breath, I said, “I’m sorry to have taken up your time, then. I bid you good day.” . . . And I swore that I would not go to fight in such an army.” – JOHN HOPE FRANKLIN


In this excerpt, Hubert Poole from Raleigh, NC, shares his experience in boot camp at the only African-American Marine base in the country, NC’s own Montford Point