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"I don't think they particularly liked us, and we returned that thing in spades." (Audio Interview, 18:01)

   A. William Perry
Image of A. William Perry
A. William Perry, Italy [1944]
War: World War II, 1939-1946
Branch: Army
Unit: 92nd Infantry 'Buffalo' Division; Company K, 370th Infantry Regiment
Service Location: Fort Huachuca, Arizona; Italy
Rank: Sergeant
Place of Birth: Cleveland, OH
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William Perry had been in the Army for only ten days when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. That was the day he was shipped off to Alabama for the first of many postings in the racially tense South. Perry, from Cleveland, hadn't encountered the kind of systematic discrimination he experienced in Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Even in isolated and nearly all-black Ft. Huachuca, Perry recalls, there were problems, mainly with young recruits bucking military discipline. He himself was transferred to the infantry for a minor infraction. Italy was the first place in his service career he actually felt welcome, first by General Mark Clark, who promoted one of the 92nd's officers on the spot, and then by the grateful Italian citizens. Fighting the Germans could be complicated by their hiding out in landmark buildings like the Tower of Pisa, off-limits to Allied firepower.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (3 clips)
»Complete Interview  (84 min.)
Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (8 clips)
»Complete Interview  (90 min.)
»Photo Album (6 photos)
 Other Materials
»Clipping from a 92nd Infantry Division magazine
More like this
»Buffalo Soldiers
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (3 items)
[From video interview] The 92nd formed in four different places; no congressional delegation wanted a complete division in its state; the 92nd coalescing at Ft. Huachuca, an isolated area of Arizona; Army assigning Southern-born generals to command the 92nd, the feeling being that men from the South could handle Negroes better; War Dept. ordering one combat team to go overseas as an experiment. (04:23) [From video interview] Going into combat on August 23, 1944; sentry killing a black soldiers for not knowing password and the sentry making an insensitive remark; tense situation defused immediately. (02:53) [From video interview] In charge of guns for company; they were put away every night, and he had to count them; this prevented soldiers from misusing weapons; even in Arizona, they put off-post areeas off-limits; could only visit his aunts in Tucson one time; had to go to Mexico for off-hours r and r. (01:44)
 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (8 items)
[From audio interview] History of the formation of the 92nd Division; no Congressional delegation would allow an entire division of armed African Americans to be located in one place; Ft. Huachuca chosen for its isolated location. (01:38) [From audio interview] Caught cold in Alabama two weeks after arriving; in hospital for a week; released and went down to mess hall, saw five other Negroes standing around waiting for whites to finish; had never experienced this kind of discrimination in Cleveland; changing his opinion of the Army; encountering widespread discrimination in Anniston while on leave; forced to stand for a long bus ride to Talladega; decided to stick to camp, cutting off any social opportunities. (02:47) [From audio interview] Morale problems at Ft. Huachuca; courts martial frequent; 18-year-olds and college kids bucking military discipline; transferred to infantry for some offense; made messenger for a black sergeant; work in supply; description of various duties of company; tension between the battalion staff and the black soldiers. (08:20)
[From audio interview] Coming off maneuvers, told that the 370th Combat Team was going to go into combat; men were skeptical; 370th was a test unit to see if blacks could fight; 93rd Division never called up because of MacArthur's reluctance to use them; going through Texas and breaking Jim Crow laws because they could-they were armed; weapons at Huachuca kept under lock and key; was in charge of them; stabbing incident with a bayonet. (05:10) [From audio interview] Welcomed by General Mark Clark when they arrived in Italy; Clark promoting a black lieutenant to captain on the spot; early deadly encounter with Germans; Italy an ideal place for Germans to fight a defensive war; could not fire on the tower of Pisa, though the Germans were using it as an observation post. (05:02) [From audio interview] How welcome he felt in Italy; felt safer there than in Alabama; fighting outside Seravezza; Major General Almond reluctant to award medals; how a team works with a machine gun; strategy of trying to pick off the officer in charge. (07:27)
[From audio interview] Black replacements not always trained in infantry techniques; Nisei 442nd had better replacements; black officers irreplaceable; when they were gone, morale dropped; retreating Germans cleared out trees along the roads and mined a lot of the fields; Allies mistakenly digging in at Anzio, allowing Germans a stationary target. (03:45) [From audio interview] Battle at the Cinquale Canal, mined by the Germans, who were on adjoining mountains, firing down; impossible to get across; their artillery ammunition was rationed; priority for Army was Western Europe. (03:33) 
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  The Library of Congress
  May 29, 2007
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