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One Black Boot - Chris Sarno Memoir

There was only one black recruit in Platoon 288. Like the other boots on Parris Island, he did everything he was told to do, and he did it well. He was a quiet man who caused no problems. As a result, there was no racial tension because of his presence in the platoon. Cooper was his name. In spite of the fact that he had proven himself worthy to be called a United States Marine, when everyone else got orders that they were going to Pendleton, Cooper got orders to Baltimore. Sarno recalled, "I said to the DI, Baltimore? There are no Marines in Baltimore.í The DI replied, ĎYouíre right. Heís going to be a steward in an officerís mess. Thatís the way we do it." In 1951, there were no blacks in combat outfits. For Sarno, this didnít seem like anything unreasonable. He had grown up in an all-white neighborhood where different races did not mingle. "They were black and we were white, so we didnít socialize with them," he explained. When Sarno entered the Marine Corps, the segregation that still existed didnít seem out of the ordinary to him. "Even going through training and replacement command in California," he recalled, "there were all whites. I didnít think anything of itówhy Pendleton was nearly all white. That was just the Navy. They werenít listening to President Truman in 1948 when he desegregated the Armed Forces. Sure he did it publicly and he signed a law, but it wasnít implemented. The Navy was very hesitant to put any black in a combat billet, whether in the Navy or Marine Corps." Growing up in a white community, Sarno said blacks werenít in his life. "They were the comical guys," he explained. "They were seen, but not taken seriously."

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