Interview by Mae Bell Campbell
Association President Mr. Lawrence Boris
2005 Phone interview with Mae Bell-Campbell Executive Director
of the Association of the "2,221 Negro Infantry Volunteers of WWII
Lawrence heard about the horrors of war in Germany and a lot about the notorious Hitler regime in the streets of New York City.
He was a young man working at a bakery, and at home he had a beautiful wife and a newborn son. For many days he struggled with the decision to go do what he felt was his duty to protect America or stay home and continue to work to take care of his Family.
Before Boris could make up his mind he was drafted in January 1943. After a grueling rough 6 weeks of basic training in war tactics he was sent to Camp Shanks in New York., where he soon left on the British ship Aquitania. Although, he signed up to be an Infantryman he was assigned to the 366 engineering non combat truck driving company. The 366 engineers worked their way across Northern France repairing bombed-out railroads and highways.
December 1944 the call went out for volunteers and Lawrence knew this would be his one and only chance to prove himself a fierce warrior. I just figured if I could hold my own on the streets of New York, then let those Nazi bastards bring it on. After training for front line duty he was eventually assigned to the all white 99th Infantry 394th Regiment, Company K.
Lawrence can remember there was firing going on all the time; he recalls the Germans using rockets called screaming memes, which was deafening when they exploded.
Many times they went off so loud it made you want to jump out of your foxhole and run, but hell where were we going to run to, other than into the enemy's hands.
"War makes an animal out of you", you would be surprised at what you can hear in war, and when you are scared as hell. I can remember times we would get in a new position and it would start to rain, the rain hitting the trees and ground yet I was so alert I could hear my wrist watch ticking. Actually Mae, I don't know if it was my watch or my heart.
Whenever possible the 5th of K tried to avoid a fight, sometimes we would mount a loud speaker and white flag on a tank and send it into the village and ask them to surrender.
Sometimes they would meet with the Burger master and try to persuade him to give up the town, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't, when it didn't we called in the artillery fire.
Lawrence remembers they had a rough fight for the village of Worm Bach two days after the attack of the Ruhr Valley. The men of 5k began it's advance on Worm Bach on April 8th The fight started just before we got to the hedge of pines between them and the village, the Germans opened up with all they had. Lawrence heard the gun open fire one hundred yards in front from a concealed position in a tree line just in front of the village.
As the 2nd squad leader he ordered his men to retreat, artillery shells possibly from a 76MM Antiaircraft gunfire tore through the morning air.
Boris remembers seeing one of his men Sampson Jones get hit in a big red flash around his legs. When he looked again Sampson Jones was lying on his back with his arms stretched out looking at where his legs had been.
Mae, I can remember that scene and others as if it was yesterday, yet I realized we were at "War"
Lawrence recalled moving through a village and coming upon a German Officer with his arm in a sling and his bags packed to surrender to Americans.
That German was not expecting to see Black troops and mumbled about his fear of being slashed and stabbed by the Black Americans. To oblige him I took out my bayonet and thrust it under his chin. I didn't break the skin, but I enjoyed scaring the hell out of that Nazi.
At the time Lawrence did not know he had made history along with 2,220 other Black servicemen by becoming the first Blacks to integrate into all white units to fight side by side shoulder to shoulder on the front lines in the European Theater.
After his tour of duty Lawrence was discharged in September 1945 and returned to New York and went to work for Otis elevator for a short while. After several other jobs he went to work for the Post Office where he remained until his retirement in 1985.
Lawrence has 5 children 8 Grandchildren and 1 great-Grandchild.
At the time this phone interview was done Lawrence spent his days staying busy by driving his car as a Taxi cab in Mt. Vernon,New York.
He later left the big city life and moved to Colombia Maryland with his Family still remaining active there until his death.
We must realize every bit of information we leave for future generations will give them insight as to who the heroic 2221 Black Soldiers of WWII really were.
Black Servicemen ,
Related Topics / Keywords / Phrases:
New York (New York),
New York City,
World War II,