My reason for going into the Navy was to duck the Army. I had three brothers who already were in the Army. They told me: “Go anywhere you can go other than this place. Don’t come.” Then I got my “welcome” from Uncle Sam. I went to Mexico, not expecting to come back, but I got busted. I came back to Chicago and looked in my mailbox at all those brown envelopes. That Saturday morning, in September 1942, I went downtown on Plymouth Court and joined the Navy.
Following my training at boot camp and quartermaster service school at Great Lakes, Illinois, they sent me over to Pier One in East Boston. Blacks no longer had to be cooks and stewards, so the Navy didn’t know what to do with rated seamen. After they found out that I knew semaphore and flashing lights, they put me directing British and Australian ships in to the docks.