Leon May, who fought as a Marine in World War II, tells his daughter about leaving for basic training.
Leon: We went down there in a Pullman. I got my knapsack and got to Washington D.C. And when I got to Washington D.C. they had some stairs to go down, to separate trains going south and trains going north. As I went down and I passed by the train the porter said, ’Hey Boy! Come on back here. Where you going?’ I said I’m going to get on that train. He said, no this is your coach. The first coach in back of the engine. Angie, you’ve seen these third world trains?
Angela: Where they’re packed in there.
Leon: Packed in there and they had their bundles and things. And the train started up and pulled out and went in this tunnel, and all that soot and the coal just filled that car. Can you imagine? Now I’m going to fight for democracy and these people got me in this coach.
Angela: What is your strongest memory, particularly as a Black Marine?
Leon: And I had an opportunity to see the enemy face to face. I had ten prisoners of war and they bring them out of the stockade, that is when I met Kanazi Oye. Kanazi Oye was a school teacher and he was the one that could speak English the best and he said, ’I don’t know when I’m going home, I don’t know where my family is.’ And I identified with him because he was a brown man doing things that he wouldn’t have done ordinarily see? And so, all of our officers were white. My gunnery Sargeant took me off that unit and he said,’ I’m going to take you off this unit because you talk with them. He said, ’One of them killed my brothers you know.’ And I was thinking, I said well, how many times have White people come to Black people and hung me out and this Japanese never hung a Black man. To see that enemy as a human being that was the one changing experience for me.