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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Salter and Doris Cochran, April 12, 1997. Interview R-0014. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Discrimination in the army during World War II

Salter remembers serving with a segregated regiment on the home front during World War II. Though many of them, like Salter, were medical students, he and his fellow African-American soldiers labored in menial jobs.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Salter and Doris Cochran, April 12, 1997. Interview R-0014. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

We weren't sure we were going to come back to Weldon. I never will forget statement that my husband made when he came back, and finally decided that he would return. "If I could fight on the front lines of Korea, I could certainly do the same here in Weldon." Having to do with the situation we found when we came to Weldon.
KAREN KRUISE THOMAS:
Absolutely. So many people I've talked to have said they either fought in World War II or Korea, and came back and didn't intend to stop fighting.
SALTER COCHRAN:
We were in World War II when I was in medical school, but we had to go to basic training. We had to get up early in the morning, meet at 6:30 before we went to medical school. We were in uniform, too.
KAREN KRUISE THOMAS:
But you weren't sent overseas in World War II.
SALTER COCHRAN:
No, they saved that little situation for me to go to Korea, and rushed me over there real quick, up to the front lines.
KAREN KRUISE THOMAS:
So you graduated from medical school in 1948, which was the year Truman desegregated the armed services. It was a historical turning point as you were finishing school.
SALTER COCHRAN:
It was a segregated set-up, because we had training out at Fort Myer before I went to medical school. We had to take care of the horses and the manure. This was a ceremonial group. Any time a president died, they accompanied the body down Pennsylvania Avenue. The soldiers who were in the regular army were jealous of us. They all Caucasian. There was a young captain over there who said, "Y'all are going to medical school?" There was some consternation that he had such an educated group doing menial tasks. I was shoveling horse manure. That disturbed him. This guy was from the South, a young boy, though, 23 or 24. He was a captain, so he had some political influence. We had two women in there who were in the WACs. They couldn't understand how they could send us out here to do these things, and we were getting ready to go to medical school.