Early Life to Marine Corps

Marine Corps Service

Education and Reflections


Homer Johnson was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1924. During the Great Depression, his father worked for Ford Motor Company and his mother was a schoolteacher. He remembered growing up in a world that judged you on your skin color, however, he just thought it was just the way it was. Living in Detroit, he experienced some racism, but really got an idea when he went to Washington D.C. after joining the Marine Corps. Johnson graduated from high school in 1942 then worked at the Ford Motor Company until June 1943 when he was drafted into the Marine Corps. He was sent to boot camp at Montford Point in North Carolina. He learned fast what discipline was during his boot camp training. He just did what he was told and knew he could get through it. Johnson remarked that the Marine Corps taught him to be a man. After completing boot camp, he was shipped to Philadelphia [Annotator's Notes: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] in October 1943 and stayed there for two years in the Philadelphia Depot Battalion. His job was to drive heavy equipment like tractors, trailers and lumber carriers outside of warehouses. The Marine Corps gave everyone a stipend to find a place to live because they did not offer housing. Johnson remembered that they would have to be at work at eight in the morning, break for lunch, then work until five in the evening. He worked Monday through Friday. His supervisors were White but he did not feel he was treated unwell by them.


Homer Johnson made many friends with people from the South. They taught Johnson how to treat White people. Many of the guys he befriended had a couple years of college and he wanted to learn from them. When Johnson found out that his role in the Marine Corps was a laborer in Philadelphia [Annotator's Notes: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] he was a little peeved because he wanted to serve his country by fighting the enemy overseas. Johnson remarked that he kept in constant contact with his family during his service. Johnson remembered when he was in high school, his teacher told him about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Notes: Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941]. He also recalled he was on his way home from work when he heard a ruckus in the street and found out that World War 2 was over. He remarked that he felt horrible for the many servicemen that came home injured from the war. It did not matter what color they were.


Homer Johnson remembered that during his two years of service, his mother's hair turned from black to white. People were constantly learning how to cope with tragedy. Johnson remarked that the military was not consistent in explaining the benefits that were offered to servicemen, especially the G.I. Bill. After Johnson was discharged, he used the G.I. Bill and received a basketball scholarship to attend South Carolina State University [Annotator's Notes: in Orangeburg, South Carolina]. Johnson recalled that the USO [Annotator's Note: United Service Organizations] was segregated and he got caught up in some trouble with a couple of white sailors, but a couple of white Marines helped him out. Johnson's last remark is if you want to be a real man, go into the United States Marine Corps.

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