Scam, kidnap by South African police

Scam, kidnap by South African police

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Scam, kidnap by South African police

Scam, kidnap by South African police

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Charles Blatcher III Talks About American Minority Military History

Charles Blatcher III. Of Thee I Sing: Minority Military History. MJOTA 2012 v5n1 p0525

                              Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen. I would like to acknowledge our host – the ACES Museum’s Board of Directors. I appreciate your arranging this book signing event on my behalf.


Many years ago as the co-founder of the former Black Veterans Association in Oakland, California, I became interested in the history of Black and other Minority Americans participation in the defense of the nation. The more I learned about it, the more my interest developed into a passion for knowledge regarding the subject. In 1978, my passion led me to establish a Foundation. The entity is called the National Minority Military Museum Foundation. I am the founder and chief executive officer. Our primary goal is to raise public awareness about the importance of the subject and promote the preservation of the history. Our primary objective is to establish a National Museum to serve as a repository for the history.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to hear many stories from veterans, one served as far back as the Spanish American War. Yes, I did say the Spanish American War. I had a dear friend name Samuel Waller who was the last surviving Black Veteran of that era in the State of California. Sam resided in the Veterans Home in Yountville, California.


Sam was blind and hard of hearing, but he loved company.


His favorite subject was his military experiences. During one of my frequent visits, Sam told me about his tour of duty in the Philippine Island as a member of the (24th) Infantry Regiment during the war. He vividly recalled the jungle, the heat and the hardship. One of his nurses, a young lady with good intentions overheard the conversation. Noting that Sam was hard of hearing, with no fear of insulting him she said, “I hope you do not believe those stories? He can’t remember what he had for breakfast this morning.”


A few weeks later, I had the opportunity to visit the National Archives in Washington, DC. While going through the files on Black Military History. I came across photographs of the (24th) Infantry Regiment in the Philippines Islands, during the Spanish American War. It was Sam’s regiment. I recalled his vivid descriptions of the jungle, the heat and the hardship. He spoke of how they drank rain water from puddles on the ground to survive. How they strained the water through rags to remove the slime in order to drink it.   He described it as if it was yesterday.

On my following visit to Yountville, I could not wait to see the nurse to inform her how wrong she was. Sam suffered from short-term memory lost. However, the photographs validated his long-term memory was intact.


There are many things Sgt Waller said to me, that I will never forget. He introduced me to the history of the legendary Colonel Charles Young. The Colonel was the highest ranking Black Officer in the United States Armed Forces for the majority of his career that spanned 32 years.

According to Sgt. Waller, had it not been for his color, he would have been a General in the United States Army.

Learning more about Colonel Young, I concur. If you are not aware of Colonel Young, please come join us tomorrow for the program of Honor. I will acquaint you to him through the words of W.E.B. Du Bois, historian and founder of the NAACP.

However, there is one thing that he said to me that changed how I viewed the importance of history and influenced the writing of “Of Thee I Sing.” He said, “Son, they write you out the future by writing you out the past. Don’t let them write us out.”

I am honored to have had the opportunity to meet Sargent Waller and the fact that he shared his military experiences with me. Sam passed away in 1980 at the age of 102.

Soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines all have their stories. Some of the stories are beyond belief.

Like the story I heard about a member of the Triple Nickel, the 555th Black Paratroopers in World War II. They were the first Black Paratrooper Battalion in the history of the Armed Forces. The way the story was told, a member of the battalion jumped from an aircraft in Alabama and landed an hour or so later in Georgia. (How about that?) It is told, that one day the battalion was going up for a practice jump. As they were walking toward the aircraft, trooper Ranson Holt seen an object on the ground, it was a pocket knife. He picked it up and put it in his pocket.


They boarded the plane and went up. When he jumped from the aircraft, a wind-draft pulled him toward the tail section of the airplane. As a result, a few of the lines on his parachute became snagged in the tail-wing of the plane. The pilot and crew members became aware of the situation. They knew eventually they would have to land the plane. They knew it would be sure death for the trooper if he could not free himself. They decided that they would fly around as long as the fuel lasted to give him the opportunity to try to free himself.

The way the story was told, he managed to retrieve the pocket knife that he found and cut the lines that were snagged in the tail-wing. As far-fetched as this story may sound, it is true. Trooper Holt jumped out the plane in Alabama and landed safely in Georgia.


Then, there is the story told by Sargent Frank Barbee, a former member of the same Paratrooper Battalion. Sargent Barbee gave up his stripes to volunteer for duty in the first and only integrated company of soldiers who saw action during the War. In order to volunteer, he had to give up his rank because the Black Soldiers could not out rank the White members of the company.

Sgt. Barbee recalled his first experience in combat. According to him, when the bullets began to fly, he became so afraid that he pulled his steel helmet all the way down to cover his feet. He acknowledged that his claim was impossible, but his point was to emphasize the level of fear he experienced.


Sargent Barbee passed away last year at the age of 90. His story is captured in the documentary titled, “African Americans In World War II: A Legacy Of Patriotism and Valor.”  


The Book “Of Thee I Sing” is – the compilation of historical facts that were brought together as a profile of the history. The profile was established to provide a framework for the creation of multiple exhibits about the history to acquaint the public with the subject. The Book recognizes the trailblazers: The Buffalo Soldiers, The Tuskegee Airmen, the 761st Black Panther Tank Battalion, the 555th Black Paratroopers Battalion the Red Ball Express and the 6888th Central Postal Battalion, the Black women who served in England and France during World War II. There are chapters in the book dedicated to the Native American, Hispanic American and Asian American contributions. The publication introduces the reader to the first Black Flag Officers in the different branches of the Armed Forces; Brigadier General Benjamin O. Davis Sr., USA, General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. USAF, Admiral Samuel Gravely, USN, Lt. General Frank Peterson, USMC and Brigadier General Hazel Johnson USA, the first Black female General in the history of the United States Armed Forces. The Book contains a chronology of events involving Black Military participation from the Revolutionary War through the Vietnam Conflict. Also included is a listing of Minority Medal of Honor Recipients.