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Racial segregation in military remembered by World War II veteran
PENSACOLA - This week started with Martin Luther King Junior Day, and many are still reflecting on the changes our country has gone through in terms of race. One of those historic changes was in the military, which was racially segregated until 1948.
"Wasn't nothin' easy about being in the service as a black man when I went in," said Marion Mosley, an African-American World War II veteran.
Mosley remembers the oppressive nature of institutionalized racism all too clearly.
"Everything was rough, tough as nails, man," Mosley said, "I never thought I'd see the day where you and I could go in the bar and have a beer and a hamburger, you know what I mean."
Mosley was a young musician, a trumpet player, when he joined the Air Force.
"One thing I like about playing music, they're color blind all of 'em," Mosley said, "I don't care where, they're raised in the deep south, they're color blind."
He eventually wound up becoming one of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American aviators in the U.S. military.
"I was a P-51 fighter pilot," Mosley said, "We fought in Italy, Africa and Germany."
Although they fought bravely, the Tuskegee Airmen were routinely subjected to racial discrimination both in military and civilian life. But Mosley says some of his fellow white airmen stuck by him.
"There was one time when we came from overseas," Mosley said, "There was a lot of white guys who wanted to know where we were, and they found us and they invited us to Houston, Texas at the Shamrock Hotel for a reunion. When we come in there and told them they said, 'No, no, you got the wrong hotel. We don't have no blacks coming in this hotel.' Then the white guys got a hold of 'em and said, 'Oh, yeah, you don't want them you don't want us' and we all walked outta there together, man."
As for how the military operates now, Mosley says he likes what he sees.
"They seem to be doin' fine, man," he said.