Hardcover. Oblong quarto. Measuring 13” x 10.25”. Original green textured commercial bolt-bound album. Contains 326 sepia-toned or black and white gelatin silver photographs, a combination of commercial and snapshot images measuring between 2½" x 3" and 4" x 5" with captions. Additionally included are souvenir photographs, postcards, and other ephemera. The album is good only with chips, tears, and some mustiness with very good photographs with some staining and fading.
An unusually comprehensive and unified World War II service album of African-American Marine from Richmond, Virginia. While African Americans had served in the Navy for more than a century, although almost exclusively in menial roles, it wasn’t until 1942 that the U.S. Marines accepted their first Black recruits. The young man enlisted in July of 1943 and after training at Camp Pendleton served in the Pacific Theater, including in some of the worst fighting of the war. A member of the 11th Marine Depot Company attached to the 16th Field Depot, he served on the Palau Islands for some of “the most fiercely fought battles of the Pacific war” according to historian Melton Alonza McLaurin. The Marine’s unvarnished appraisals of the combat he saw — primarily in his captions to 63 original photos taken on Peleliu Island on “dog-day” 15 September 1944 and its aftermath — reflect none of the patriotic pride almost universally seen on similar service albums. A photo of a bomb-pocked hillside is captioned “Have you ever tried to run up such a trail?” Another of a fellow African-American Marine standing among six corpses is captioned “Sure no plaything.” Under another nearby image showing two Japanese casualties, is written “Surrender would have spared this,” while below another similar image asks “Why must so many die?” In this regard, the contrast between these images and captions and the official Marine Corps souvenir images that later dominate the album could not be clearer. Most striking is the Marine’s stark judgment of his place as an African-American fighting in the U.S. military. In a page-long preface early in the album, he writes (in part):
“While looking through this book you may find yourself in the position to be disappointed because all or most of the pictures are of white boys. I am sorry this has to be for if I had my wish there would not be a single white fellow in this book. The reason I do have them here is because myself as Negro Marine, and the other thousands of Negro Marines shared the same hardships of war and island invasions. To be perfectly frank we endured greater hardships because we had to survive the great discrimination among officers and enlisted alike. We were always given the most menial tasks to do being last in everything if it were possible to place in that position [...] With this short statement I hope you will understand how I feel toward the whole set up. I suffered over seas for two years and two invasions. Even without any praise which I do not want for there is nothing to make me proud I was in the Marine Corp.”
The overall effect is that of a man grappling with what his service meant not only to him, but to a country who refused to fully recognize him. A revealing firsthand record of an African-American Marine’s experiences in World War II, told from a rare point of view. An uncommonly frank primary account of race relations in the military and an uncharacteristically unromantic view of World War II service from an early African-American Marine.