In this Best of edition of Dayton Youth Radio we'll listen back to an interview from 2019. Dai'laron Daniels from the Thurgood Marshall STEM School talked to his grandpa Jim, an African American veteran of World War II.
My grandfather's name is Jim Guy. He's not my biological grandfather; he became my grandfather when he adopted me and my older brother Da'lin as his grandchildren. He was one of the first people to hold me at the hospital after I was born. I did this interview with my grandfather, and it was pretty amazing what he was telling me.
I began by asking him about when he enlisted in the Army.
“They called you in, you didn't enlist at that time. They called you in. It was 1943. Like I said, it was pretty hard, it wasn’t easy when you're around 18 years old. I'm 94 years old now,” he said. “It was a hard job. Hard and dangerous, it wasn't easy.
Out on the ship, you’re loading and unloading live ammunition so it was dangerous. That stuff could blow up at a time on you so that was dangerous also. And we stayed in our little pup tents like the Boy Scouts and at night time the Japanese would be shooting all around you and shooting over the tents like that.”
When I asked my grandfather how he felt about the Japanese, he said they were just like the Americans.
“They had to do what they had to do, I guess. They had their orders just like the American people had their orders. So you couldn’t blame the guys out there fighting in the jungle because they were young guys out there fighting too. They didn’t come on their own, you know, they were ordered to you like that.”
He told me a lot about what happened and said that I remind him of his brother. He told me that his brother was gunned down during the war and told me about one of his most intense memories of the war.
“We went to the Philippines when there was still fighting in the Philippines. And we had to stay on a ship, and there was dead people floating all around in the water out there. And then too we had to stay on the ship because they had to get the beach cleaned out because they had mines, and step on those, you blow up, you know that.”
My grandpa is brown skinned, and he's very smart. Even when he was younger, he never smoked. He has light brown eyes, is bald and walks with a cane. And he also used to make the best chicken I've ever had in my life, like it was perfect. My favorite memory of him was when I was 14 years old. That whole week we were just passing time and creating memories.
I asked my grandpa why he enjoyed sharing his military stories with me when I was younger and told him I was thinking about joining the Army myself.
“Oh well I think you might have something to think about when you go in there,” he replied.
Then I asked him if he got the G.I. Bill to go to school.
“Well no. Black people didn’t get hardly nothing like that,” he said. “I tried to get it, but I never could get it."
I was 14 years old the last time I spoke to him in person in Dayton Ohio before he moved to Texas. I didn't know he had moved until after school one day when my mom told me that he was moving away because he kept getting sick and there wasn't anybody else to take care of him.
You have amazing people in your life. Just because they're older, doesn't mean you should look down upon them as they have done great things before you were even born. They're important people in your life. There are not many black World War II veterans still alive to this day.
Thousands of Black veterans who fought in World War II were denied the promised housing and educational benefits that came with the G.I. Bill. Learn more:
- How the GI Bill's Promise Was Denied to a Million Black WWII Veterans
- How African American WWII Veterans Were Scorned By the G.I. Bill
- African Americans, women, and the GI Bill
This story originally aired in 2019. Dai'laron Daniels is now a senior at Thurgood Marshall STEM High School who looks forward to supporting his family after graduation. Special thanks to Nathan Shields. Learn more at the school's website: https://www.dps.k12.oh.us/thurgood/ Support for Dayton Youth Radio comes from the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation, Ohio Arts Council and the Vectren Foundation.
This story was created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.