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Annotation

Baptiste was born in Saint James Parish, Louisiana on 4 November 1916. He is in town [Annotator's Note: New Orleans] visiting his family.Baptiste entered the navy on 5 February 1938. He had joined the navy because there was no work during the depression.He entered school in Jefferson Parish where his parents had moved the family when he was 4 years old. His family lived in Marrero, Louisiana. He finished grammar school at the Roosevelt School. He finished his high school at McDonough 35 in New Orleans.In 1932 Baptiste entered Xavier University where he completed a two year course in teaching. After completing his studies at Xavier he entered the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). He received a certificate for being in the CCC for 14 months. In 1937, Baptiste came back from Shreveport, Louisiana. He spent Christmas of 1937 in Marrero with his family then applied for the navy. His father went with him to vouch for him. The naval officers went to his home to see what kind of person he was. Baptiste was doing laundry when the officers arrived. Since he and his brothers were older than their sisters they had to do much of the house work. He was given the ok to be a recruit in the navy.

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Baptiste went to the Customs House [Annotator’s Note: in New Orleans] on 5 February 1938 where he was selected with 6 other men to go to Norfolk, Virginia for service in the navy. The 7 men were put in the back of a car. He doesn't think the passengers even knew they were aboard. He was carrying all of the tickets for when the men got to Norfolk.At the time Baptiste entered the navy he was relegated to being a steward or mess man. The men had no bunks and had to sleep in hammocks. They were placed in a segregated unit under Lt. Curley. Their drill master was a Chief Bosun's Mate [Annotator's Note: Chief Boatswain's Mate].Training was done with World War I rifles. Some of the recruits had been in the ROTC unit at Tuskegee [Annotator's Note: Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama].February on the Chesapeake Bay is very cold. The men were sleeping in hammocks and had to and had to roll their clothes and scrub their leggings in the cold to get ready for inspection.When they were finished drilling they were put on the rock pile braking up concrete to keep them busy. They were then sent to mess school where they learned how to set the table and how to serve officers.After 3 months training at Norfolk they took a train across the country to Los Angeles. It was a beautiful ride. From there they were sent to San Diego which became Baptiste’s home base.At the time San Diego had only 148,000 people. There were few industries and in the depression the navy was the largest employer. During Christmas of 1938 he went ashore in Oceanside, California.Baptiste served aboard the Rigal [Annotator's Note: US Navy destroyer tender USS Rigel (AD-13)], the Altair [Annotator's Note: US Navy destroyer tender USS Altair (AD-11)], then the Chandler 206 [Annotator's Note: US Navy destroyer USS Chandler (DD-206)]. The Chandler, Southard [Annotator's Note: USS Southard (DD-207)], Hovey [Annotator's Note: USS Hovey (DD-208)] and Long [Annotator's Note: USS Long (DD-209)] made up their division. Baptiste was a mess attendant aboard that ship.

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The Chandler [Annotator's Note: USS Chandle (DD-206)] had 4 stacks and had torpedo tubes and 4 inch guns. Baptiste became a trainer on a 4 inch gun. At that time there were less than 120 men aboard ship including 8 or 10 officers and about 6 mess boys.The crew slept together. There was no segregation. The officers were wonderful. Everyone aboard knew each other.In San Diego they had gunnery training. The target would be going south and they would be going north. Gunnery training was done off San Clemente.Baptiste remembers some beautiful times. He was paid 21 dollars per month. They could rent bicycles in Balboa Park and go to Fourth Street in San Diego for a big steak at a Japanese restaurant. The night club the Creole Palace was Baptiste's favorite place to hang out.The Chandler was sent to Mare Island [Annotator's Note: Mare Island Naval Shipyard] for overhaul. As a joke the men had been told that they would have to open the Golden Gate Bridge when the arrived in San Francisco.The Chandler had some wonderful officers. Mr. Morgan was the exec [Annotator's Note: slang for Executive Officer or second in command]. He taught school aboard the Melville [Annotator's Note: USS Melville (AD-2)] and Altair [Annotator's Note: USS Altair (AD-11)] and sent some young boys to the Naval Academy.An officer named Mr. DeLong from South Dakota was written about in Readers Digest. He had been selected to go to PT-Boat school. DeLong was sent to the Philippines and commanded the decoy boat when General Douglas MacArthur escaped [Annotator's Note: the information regarding DeLong being captain of a decoy boat is incorrect]. 

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Baptiste had a janitorial service. One of his clients was a doctor who stayed on Corregidor [Annotator's Note: Corregidor Island, Philippines] as a child.Baptiste got to know a lot of people in San Diego. Balboa Park was terrific; from there he went to Hawaii.In 1939 they went on fleet maneuvers. They went through the Panama Canal. They were broken up. They went into the Atlantic. They went into the Caribbean where they stayed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They had the fleet finals for boxing there.After going into the Atlantic they went all the way to Dakar, Africa. The other part of the fleet was closer to the States. They were to attack each other. They met somewhere in the Atlantic. This was the 1939 fleet maneuvers.In 1939 the Germans invaded the lower countries of France. Baptiste's ship received orders to return to the Pacific to guard against an attack by the Japanese. At that time they knew something was up. The torpedo tubes were taken off of the ship and the 4 inch guns were removed. A larger fuel capacity was added. The 12 ships in Baptiste's squadron were converted into mine sweepers. The antiaircraft guns were added after the attack on Pearl Harbor. After they returned from fleet maneuvers in the Atlantic they were assigned to guard California.There were rough seas doing to Hawaii. Enroute to Hawaii they held maneuvers. Eight or 10 sailors were lost during storms. Baptiste lost a set of dog chains [Annotator's Note: dog tags].After the ships were converted almost another 100 men were added to the crew of Baptiste's ship.

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They went to the South Pacific to the Solomons [Annotator's Note: Solomon Islands]. The ship was pretty crowded.At Mare Island they were having work done on their ship. They saw the Southampton [Annotator's Note: Baptiste means the USS Northampton (CA-26)] that was a heavily fortified heavy cruiser. It was scheduled to go to Shanghai, China. It was sunk by the Japanese [Annotator's Note: The USS Northampton (CA-26) was sunk during the Battle of Tassafaronga in the early morning hours of 1 December 1942, almost a year to the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor].Baptiste returned to the United States with Dorie Miller [Annotator's Note: US Navy Cross recipient Ship's Cook 3rd class Doris "Dorie" Miller] to serve on new construction ships after they had served in the Solomon Islands.Baptiste served in the Solomons in the areas of Kolombangara and Savo, which is between Guadalcanal and Tulagi. He was down there with President Roosevelt’s son [Annotator's Note: President Roosevelt had a son, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. who served in the USNR and another named James Roosevelt who served in the USMCR with the Raiders during WWII].Baptiste has heard people complain that rich men don't go to war but he served aboard ships with 5 or 6 millionaires and tells people that that isn't true.After the Pacific, Baptiste ended up as the head steward aboard the Mescoma (AO-83). The Chandler, Southard, Hovey, and Long were numbers 206, 207, 208, and 209 [Annotator's Note: DD-206, DD-207, DD-208. and DD-209]. He used to remember his serial number but doesn't anymore.At Pearl Harbor, Baptiste was aboard the Perry when the harbor was bombed but his flagship was (DMS-13) USS Hopkins. At Guadalcanal he was aboard the Hopkins.At one time he was aboard the Honolea [Annotator's Note: spelling unknown; cannot verify ship name], a Coast Guard ship that took part in taking the Marines off of Guadalcanal.After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Baptiste's family thought that he was missing in action.When he left Hawaii for the Solomon Islands they had 20 millimeter antiaircraft guns. They didn't have 40 millimeter which is what Dorie Miller was killed on while he was serving aboard a converted carrier [Annotator's Note: Miller was serving aboard the USS Liscome Bay (CVE-56), a purpose built escort carrier, not a converted liberty ship]. Baptiste knew Miller. He claims that the people would turn the city over to them because Miller was a hero. Miller was a hero but he didn't know it.

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Baptiste was involved in 12 or 14 different battles in the Solomons. They lost heavily on the heavy cruisers like the San Francisco [Annotator's Note: USS San Francisco (CA-38)], the Chester [Annotator's Note: USS Chester (CA-27)], and the Chicago [Annotator's Note: USS Chicago (CA-29)].In one of the battles the Quincy, an Australian cruiser [Annotator's Note: USS Quincy (CA-39) is a US Navy ship, not Australian. Baptiste means the HMAS Canberra (D-33)], the Vincennes [Annotator's Note: USS Vincennes, (CA-44)], Astoria [Annotator's Note: USS Astoria (CA-34)] and the Quincy were lost with a loss of 3600 men within 12 hours.The Vincennes, Quincy, and Canberra were sunk outright [Annotator's Note: Vincennes and Quincy were sunk outright. Canberra was sunk the following day by torpedoes from US Navy destroyers.]. They had received incorrect information about the Japanese ships moving down from Bougainville. The Astoria was still afloat the next morning so Baptiste's ship helped take off wounded and tried to tow the Astoria toward the beach. The order went out to abandon ship. There were sharks in the area with wounded and unwounded men in the water from the night before. The skipper was wounded.The cruiser had taken a beating.One night they went to Kolombangara to rescue the Marines. They had been shot up badly. They were suffering from gangrene. Baptiste's ship was set up as a hospital ship. The doctor who was aboard caring for the wounded happened to be the same doctor who had given Baptiste his medical exam at the Customs House [Annotator's Note: in New Orleans, Louisiana] when he enlisted. The men recognized each other.Baptiste has to go to Mare Island to have his dental work done.He spent 6 years and 7 months in [Annotator's Note: in the navy].

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After Baptiste left the Solomons he was sent to new construction. He was sent to the hospital because he lost his hearing and was suffering from combat fatigue. He has hearing aids now.Baptiste still has nightmares. He recently lost his wife of 61 years and is getting to be a lonely old man. He wouldn't take anything for it.It was mid day [Annotator’s Note: during the attack on Pearl Harbor]. They were in the harbor when 25 big Japanese bombers came in at them. They came in skimming the water. Baptiste's group shot some of them down. They also had P-38's [Annotator's Note: Lockheed P-38 "Lightning" fighter aircraft]. The Marines defended Henderson Field. They were some tough fighters.During Thanksgiving 1942 they brought food, ammunition, and fuel from their tin can [Annotator's Note: tin can is slang for a destroyer] to the beach. Baptiste's ship was supposed to sweep mines in the channel but the water there was too deep for the Japanese to set mines in.He feels that they were in a suicidal situation at the beach.Baptiste served all around Guadalcanal, Tulagi, Espirito Santo, and New Caledonia, which was under the Vichy French [Annotator's Note: It was under the Free French.].He was based at Espirito Santo. The king and queen were killed in Oakland [Annotator's Note: unsure of what he is talking about].Everything that went to Guadalcanal came from Espirito Santo.The Marines fought hard for Guadalcanal and Tulagi. Carlson's Raiders were there.James Roosevelt and a tall Marine brought a Japanese soldier or marine who had been taken prisoner aboard Baptiste's ship. The prisoner was treated royally.65000 more Americans were killed than Japanese in the Solomons [Annotator's Note: ursure how Baptiste arrived at this number. This is very incorrect.]. The British bombed palm trees and had to pay for every one they cut down [Annotator's Note: unsure about this either]. They would fire for days to soften it up. The battleships, heavy cruisers, light cruisers, and destroyers were firing. They were in the front with everyone firing over their head. The battleships fired something the size of a Volkswagen so if a round fell short that would have been it for them.

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When the 12 ships in his squadron hit Diamondhead [Annotator's Note: the volcanic crater on Oahu, Hawaii], 6 went south and 6 went north. They didn't know where they were going until they crossed the equator and the jungle gear was broken out. That was 2 or 3 days before they hit the island.That morning [Annotator's Note: 7 December 1941] they were anchored off of Pearl City. Ensign Bringle, the OD, Officer of the Deck, went hysterical. He was screaming about the harbor being bombed. A guy named Chuck ran into their compartment screaming and yelling. They didn't know what was going on. Finally they were called to general quarters.They dropped depth charges on midget subs and got 3 of them and got them [Annotator's Note: when Baptiste says 'they dropped depth charges" he is referring to the navy.].Baptiste was back at Pearl City. They used to train with the Oglala which was a wooden vessel. When the Japanese dropped bombs near it the whole thing disintegrated [Annotator's Note: USS Oglala (DM-4), was sunk at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 but was salvaged within a year and reconditioned. She was redesignated ARG-1 and served throughout the remainder of war. She did not disintegrate.].The Nevada [Annotator's Note: USS Nevada (BB-36)] almost blocked the harbor.Baptiste knew some of the guys on the Shaw [Annotator's Note: USS Shaw (DD-373)] which was in dry dock.The Saratoga was in dry dock and had a huge hole in it [Annotator's Note: USS Saratoga (CV-3) was in San Diego on 7 December 1941, not at Pearl Harbor. Not sure which ship he is talking about].During the bombing they were trapped in the harbor. The Nevada was the vessel that almost blocked the channel. They were able to get the Nevada out of the entrance to the harbor so they could get out.They were outside of the harbor for about two days then went in to get fuel. What they saw made them speechless. Everything was rubbish and covered with fuel oil. There were bodies everywhere.They had received a warning that the fleet [Annotator's Note: the Japanese fleet] was coming in but they weren't.People accuse Admiral Short [Annotator's Note: Baptiste means US Army Major General Walter C. Short. The Annotator believes that Baptiste is referring to US Navy Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel] of negligence but Baptiste doesn't think that there was anything he could have done. Hawaii was a place where they partied a lot. The navy relief ball was held there.Baptiste hasn't been the same since. He has had different ailments and has lost many members of his family.Baptiste lived here [Annotator's Note: in Louisiana] when they didn't have running water. They had banana trees with stalks so thick it looked like you were in South America.He told his sister the other day that he thought the whole interior of their old house was rotten. He feels that it is like they said in the navy - it's BER, beyond economical repair.

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The Medusa [Annotator's Note: USS Medusa (AR-1)] was not far from them [Annotator’s Note: during the attack on Pearl Harbor].Baptiste describes the Medusa depth charging a midget submarine.There was so much destruction in such a short while. They were surprised. The Japanese came in waves. Some of them had a one way ticket but he didn't see any.The Arizona [Annotator's Note: USS Arizona (BB-39)] still has fuel leaking out of it.When Baptiste came back from Guadalcanal he went to new construction. When he got there he was diagnosed with combat fatigue and was hospitalized in the naval hospital in Long Beach. He had never been hit by a bullet but mentally and physically he was bad off. He was supposed to leave the hospital on limited duty but his service was cut short because of his condition. One of his worst memories of the war was seeing the condition of some of the men. In the Solomons he saw people go berserk. He saw a gunner's mate on his ship go to pieces. One night they were in a battle and Jack Easton had to hit a guy to keep him from jumping overboard. It was tough to see people that you knew just snap.Baptiste is mentally, physically, and emotionally worn out. He wakes up sometimes and doesn't know where he is and has nightmares but can't figure out what the nightmares are about.

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Baptiste feels that a lot of talent was lost by the navy segregating them. He used to talk to his officers about it.He would see 90 day wonders [Annotator's Note: military slang for a graduate of Officer's Candidate School] come in who had never seen silver before but he would serve them anyway. It wasn't a good feeling but he felt that it was his duty. He tried to encourage guys not to get kicked out or leave with a bad conduct discharge.Baptiste got along with his officers. He did meet some southern boys who got a little out of hand but he never had any trouble because he knew how to use diplomacy to settle situations.There were a lot of black boys who went in who only had a fifth grade education. The service was educational for a lot of them. Guys like Harry Belafonte and Bill Cosby benefited from service in the navy.For over 37 years they have had messmen's reunions around the country. They went to Washington DC and planted trees in the national cemetery. Many of the messmen had children who were in the navy and some who had gone to the academy. Baptiste has a cousin who went to the academy. There was a lot of good that came out of it.Baptiste has a friend, Oliver Johns, who was very bitter. He didn't get kicked out but was usually over the hill [Annotator’s Note: AWOL]. He just didn't like the regulations.Baptiste didn't like it but he was never insubordinate. It was just the way most of them were brought up.Baptiste had his own janitorial service. His children are successful.He has no bitterness. It doesn't help.

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Baptiste feels that it is important for there to be a National World War II Museum. If they hadn't done what they did in World War II, Baptiste doesn't think that we would be here today. Even at his present age he would go back and do it again.He has a medal that he was awarded by congress for Pearl Harbor. He also has ribbons for his service in the Solomons.Baptiste hates to see New Orleans like it is today. We had the Marshall Plan which rebuilt Europe. He sees no reason why we shouldn't put it in here.He sees people living in poverty and having no hope or looking ahead. He feels that these are things he fought against. His father made 27 cents per hour and they lived well.All over the country he sees youngsters with no trade or training. Their parents have nothing so they come up hungry. They see what is going on on the other side and are bitter and resent it.The other day in Oakland a black woman who lived in a nice complex with her daughter went outside to see her Jaguar all bashed up and covered with swastikas.Baptiste doesn't hate anybody. He fought for everybody to be free. He thinks that the areas of New Orleans decimated by the storm [Annotator’s Note: Hurricane Katrina] should be burned down and rebuilt, not just patched up. If we can rebuild Europe we can rebuild our cities.Baptiste is grateful for the interviewer and the staff of the museum. His nephew brought him to the museum. He thinks the museum is wonderful and that we need to keep places like this.He has been all over the world and has seen poverty. He prays that one day we can do away with it and have some peace.

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Baptiste would be watchful. There are countries and people who want to see this country go under so he believes that we need to keep our guard up. He feels that the president [Annotator's Note: President George W. Bush] has done wonderful things for this country, “After all, we're all Americans”.Baptiste's children are all well educated. His granddaughter is a student at Dillard University.His wife was the first black librarian supervisor in Oakland. She did a marvelous job.In the southern pa of the country they really believe in education.This country is the greatest in the world. People come from all over the world to live here.He tells all of the youngsters that they need to go to Delgado [Annotator's Note: Delgado Community College, New Orleans, Louisiana] or a trade school.Baptiste likes The National World War II Museum. He hopes his kids and grandkids will come here. He served and even though there was segregation he is proud. He has had a wonderful life and has been wonderfully treated by the VA [Annotator's Note: Veterans Affairs].Baptiste's children and grandchildren are very successful.Being able to tell his story is a lot off his mind. He is glad to be able to leave his story. This means a lot to him.

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