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African-American World War II veterans honored at banquet

Posted November 11, 2008
Updated November 12, 2008

— American Legion Post 157 honored African-American World War II veterans at its annual banquet Tuesday night at the North Raleigh Hilton.

The men fought the enemy and discrimination in their own services. Among those was Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Sharpe, a Navy veteran of World War II.

At that time, Sharpe said, blacks were expected to be stewards who cleaned and made the beds of officers. He refused and paid dearly for that, he said.

"I was court-martialed, sent to the brig and lived on bread and water for 30 days at a time. The Navy did everything they could to break me, but they never did,” he said.

He remembers two things capable of breaking the racial barrier: enemy bullets and bombs.

During the Battle of Okinawa, Sharpe's vessel came under kamikaze attack.

"When your life depends on the person next to you fighting along beside you – you really don't give a damn about his color,” Sharpe said.

After a few years, Sharpe left the Navy, but decided to return in 1950 to study to become a corpsman.

"I was the only black in a group of 200, and they made my life miserable," Sharpe said.

Despite everything, however, he graduated near the top of his class.

"When that is the only country you know, good or bad, she is your country and you fight to defend her with your life,” Sharpe said.

These days, Sharpe is an assistant professor of health education at North Carolina Central University. He says he is glad to see the day an African-American was elected the commander-in-chief.


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  • SemperFi... Always Nov 12, 2008

    As a female Veteran & a spouse of an active duty African American Marine, I am not offended at all by this story. If we were to take a look back into history & the time when these Veterans served, it was a time in our history when we did not treat each other as equals as we do in the service today. It was a different time & place & I'm sure these Veterans felt pride as they were recognized. Let them have this day - they served our country proudly when we did not even treat them as equals. I'm not disputing any other celebrations that we should or shouldn't have - I'm simply saying, let them have this. They deserve it, don't they?

  • Rawil Nov 12, 2008

    "some blacks do not even realize that their own color, their on people sold them into slavery"

    you people need to do your research on slavery, I am tired of reading this above statement

  • bpjamesncsu Nov 12, 2008

    dogman1973...this article discusses WWII-era, when times were much different. Asian-Americans generally were not allowed to serve (placed in US prison camps) and Native Americans at that time were exempted from military service.

  • dogman1973 Nov 12, 2008

    What about the Asian-Americans, Native Americans and whatever ethnic group veterans who have served and defended this great nation in peace and war-time? And why we are at it, how about Female Veterans like myself who have served? Why single out one group? When I served, there wasn't a black sailor, latino sailor, white sailor....we were all shipmates without any color distinguishing us apart! I find this gathering rather offensive to single out one group over other veterans! Shame on you and those who attended!!!

  • npggirl Nov 12, 2008

    Mrs. Fabulous...I agree with you on some accounts. I am a white female that has always tried to treat everyone equal! I feel everyone is equal no matter what! But, there are still people out there, whites, and blacks that cannot get through the past. The thing is, and I learned of this in college, some blacks do not even realize that their own color, their on people sold them into slavery. NO, it was not right, what was done to blacks, women, indians...none of it was "right". But, just like you, people, ALL people need to realize the truth. "some" blacks need to try to stop blaming whites for the past, and "some" whites need to get the heck over it...IT IS an Equal world! I mean, I sit and think at times that we have come SO far, yet, other times, I think it is worse. What was done in the past was terrible, but ALL white ppl do not feel prejiduce, and all black ppl do not feel we owe them something. We all need to CHILL, and work together..

  • bpjamesncsu Nov 12, 2008

    IWorkForALiving and ZMan...they are honored distinctly from other veterans because, for most of their lives, they were not allowed to participate in other ceremonies for white veterans, and in many cases were denied placement on war memorials.

  • twc Nov 12, 2008

    I'm a veteran. I served side by side with people of various races, beliefs, etc. I prefer to see headlines honoring all veterans on Veterans Day. Save the protest articles for other occasions. There is a time and place for discussing past and present injustices.

  • Z Man Nov 12, 2008

    Mrs Fabulous 1 - why do blacks need their own celebration? I respect and honor our veterans regardless of their skin color. Why can't we just have one celebration of all our veterans, instead of separate celebrations?

  • SemperFi... Always Nov 12, 2008

    Wow - gotta love NC & it's people who cannot seem to even give credit to African American VETERANS who defended this country during a period of time when we would not even allow them to use the same water fountain.

    Show some respect people & pick up a history book while you're at it & then realize why we pay tribute to such men & women.

  • Mrs Fabulous 1 Nov 12, 2008

    I am so sick and tired of people like Iworkforaliving. Blacks were distress simply because of their skin color. When they have overcome they celebrate. This man would have never received honor because of his skin color. Now he is getting the honor he deserved. I can't believe some of you just want to push what has happened to some blacks aside. You want them to forget about it. You don't want to acknowledge it. You want them to get rid of the NAACP which is who helped them fight for equal rights in the first place. White vets get honored all the time. Whites automatically get a pat on the back just for being white. Blacks struggle. Whites (some of them anyway) will do whatever they can to keep a black from succeeding. Stop lying as if it doesn't still happen today. Some whites made public comments that they can't see themselves under a black president. Well history has been made. It's not about his color, but what he can do for this country. I wish we all could get past this!!!!