It’s a miracle I am still here and the rest of this life even happened

August 23, 2020

All of my 95 years have been in the Bucks area. I was born and raised at Andry Road. My mother and father had the land. My dad was a logger and my mother was a housekeeper. I was practically born at the church and my whole life has been affiliated with St. Peter the Apostle Church in the Chastang community. My teachers were Catholic nuns from New York and Wisconsin.

In June after the 12th grade, Uncle Sam sent me an invitation for the draft for World War II. I left on August 12 and went into the Army. My sister also left that day to become a nun in New Orleans. That was a tough day for my mother. I was a little country boy and didn’t know much about the war, the draft, or what I was being thrown into. All of the boys drafted were teenagers. We had no choice, we had to accept it. Jackie Robinson was in my company and we trained together. They discharged him before we were ready to go because he was pigeon-toed. I was shipped on a boat from New York to England and that took 11 days. I was alone and didn’t know anyone with me.

I was in the 761st tank battalion, an all-black regiment. We weren’t supposed to serve beside white troops. We were originally marked for D-Day and Normandy Beach, but we missed that one. Four weeks later, we landed on Normandy beach and went to the front of the line. General Patton met us at Camp Nancy in France. He stood on a table with a .45 on each hip and gave us his speech about what we were going into and how we were the first black tankers to fight for the Army. I am not going to use the language he used because he had a nasty mouth. He said you are the first negroes going into the battlefield in this war. I am looking to you, the nation is looking to you, your families are looking to you. Don’t let them down and don’t let me down. He said he was there with us.

We were put in a rough area. I think they were testing us. Until then, Blacks had mostly been quartermasters shipping supplies. Our battalion became known as the Black Panthers and we were sent out on missions like the Tuskegee Airmen to fight face to face with the Germans. Fields were destroyed, cows were hanging from trees where they had been rolled up. It was a terrible sight to see.

I was a tank gunner. The tank was just steel put together with a turret. We met up with a German bazooka squad and shell hit the turret of my tank. It drilled a hole and exploded when it hit the hot oil. I blacked out, thank God. They drug me out of the tank and buried me in a trench for protection and drugged me with morphine. The only thing you could see was my face. It was about 12 hours before they could get me to the field hospital. I went from France to a hospital in England for eight or nine months. With the help of the Lord, I survived. I said the rosary quite often.

I was shipped back to the U.S. and went into a hospital in Memphis for a couple of months where patients were segregated by race. I was excited when they gave me a recuperating furlough to go home. I walked to the front of the station in Memphis to wait for the 4 a.m. train to Mobile. A white guy told me ‘n—— are supposed to be in the back.’ My arm was in a cast and I thought, ‘Lord after all of this, this is what I get.’ I just looked at him and said, ‘Bless him Lord’ and went to the back.

The Army sent a telegram to my family about being wounded, and a woman from the Mount Vernon post office took it to my parents. But they didn’t know when I was coming home. I walked up to the house and my mother started crying. We all went to church that morning. I was in the service for two years, 11 months, and 16 days. When you come back you try to forget all of the tragedy you saw.

They discharged me and connected me to a radio shop in Mobile for electronics classes. I went fixed radios and TVs from my repair shop out of my sister-in-law’s house. I also worked at the hardware store in Mt. Vernon for 27 years. Those years were hard, especially managing. Some people refused to talk to me, they wanted to talk to the owner because he was white. I thought, “I am human just like you are. I am sorry you feel that way and God bless you.’ Being treated like that over and over is a hard pill to swallow, and it chews on you, but God got me through.

I also drove a school bus. If my kids didn’t get on the bus when I left for school, I wasn’t going to make a special stop for them. However, my wife took the kids to the bus stop to get on. I have eight kids. Six boys and two daughters. I gave them all a chance for college. By the time my third child was in college, I learned about the G.I. Bill that could have paid for their college. I wish I had known that from the beginning, but none of them had college debt.

My wife and I have been married for 72 years and we built this house together. She also grew up in this area and we have known each other all of our lives. My version of how we started dating was she got out of her seat and sat close next to me on the Greyhound bus ride back from Mobile. She claims it was when she got out of Bishop State after class and went to her sister’s house with a guy that I was waiting to catch a ride with. She said I pushed him in the bushes. I guess we need to go with her version.

My arm is still scarred and healed like this. It’s a reminder of what I went through. It’s a miracle that I am still here and that the rest of this life even happened. I thank God for it all.”

1 Comment

  1. Cammie

    Thank you for your service to our country, Robert. May God bless you!


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