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Black Soldiers – “The Triple Nickle”, the 555th Parachute Company in WWII

26 Mar

Not Sure What Company This Is - But Black Soldiers During WWII

Trailblazing paratrooper broke color barrier in secret

Thurgood Marshall, Hattie McDaniel, the Tuskegee Airmen and Walter Morris — all African-Americans who made history breaking the color barrier. But while America’s first black Supreme Court justice, the first African-American Oscar winner and the U.S. military’s first African-American pilots are well known, you may never have heard of Walter Morris or his role in American history.

The War Department, as the Defense Department used to be called, wanted it that way. On Thursday, a ceremony at the Pentagon will undo that.

When Walter Morris first joined the Army just before World War II, he wasn’t a “black” or “Negro” or “African-American” soldier — he was “colored.” And he was treated like all the other “colored” men who wanted to fight for their country.

“We were servants, we were not soldiers,” Morris said. “Most of us had an inferiority complex and it was a result of what they had assigned us to do.”

In the Deep South in the 1940s, racism was out in the open, including in the Army.

“You could walk down the street in the main post exchange area and in the summer the door would be open and you could look in and see white soldiers and prisoners of war from Germany sitting at the same table drinking, smoking,” Morris said. “That in itself gave you this inferiority complex. You are in uniform and you couldn’t go in, but the prisoners could go in and have coffee and cigarettes.”

But by the time he left the Army, Morris would become the first “colored” man ever to earn the U.S. Army Airborne Parachutist Badge. It’s all because he wanted to overcome that “inferiority complex.”

Morris was the sergeant for a unit of black soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia. That’s where the Army was training white soldiers to be Airborne parachutists.

So after watching the white soldiers training, he would gather up black soldiers who had finished their jobs as cooks, guards or drivers, and they would duplicate the training the white trainees had just gone through…

The only military attack to hit the U.S. mainland during World War II involved incendiary balloons. The Japanese released bomb-laden balloons into the winds that carried across the North Pacific towards the U.S. West Coast. The intent was to set fires in cities such as Seattle, Washington, or San Francisco, California.

More often than not the balloons simply started huge forest fires. But the Japanese didn’t know what the balloons were accomplishing. The War Department wanted the fires put out and wanted to make sure the news didn’t get out.

The U.S. Forest Service needed help putting the fires out. Morris and the members of the Triple Nickle packed up and flew west. Even they didn’t know where they were going.

“It was a secret mission called Operation Firefly. We thought we were going overseas to [Gen. Douglas] MacArthur’s theater,” Morris said. It wasn’t until they arrived in Oregon that they learned they’d be fighting the Japanese on the fire line in the Western United States.

With some quick training, the Triple Nickle became the “Smoke Jumpers” — firefighters who parachuted into rugged mountain terrain with nothing but shovels, axes and basic supplies. Their mission meant they had to get the fire under control or out before they could return to base.

After 1,200 jumps, the fire season and the war were over.

But because Operation Firefly started out as a secret, the Triple Nickle’s contribution to protecting the home front and to history was all but lost.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on March 26, 2010 in Black History

 

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6 responses to “Black Soldiers – “The Triple Nickle”, the 555th Parachute Company in WWII

  1. Donald LeFlore

    April 17, 2010 at 11:42 AM

    My uncle Charles Thomas was a member of the 555th. as a kid I played in his short waste jacket and jump boots.I fought as a combat marine in VietNam and the military was prejudiced then so i know what it must have been like back then. To be a member of a highly motivated elite unit demands respect from staff officer down to the enlisted ranks. “Mr. Charlie” did everything he could in a most systematic way to install inferiority in people of color. But when war brakes out and citizens are enlisted to serve, the Indian who was ridden down and murdered, starved and corralled on reservations was given an upgrade, he had no separate training facility, the Mexican became a second class citizen when Mexico lost it’s northern territories suffered indignities that made him fight back as a bandit, there was no separate training facility for them, so to further advance the idea that Black men were sub-human and not good enough to train with full humans, the military fostered the separate but unequal way of the American way. into the military. Because they were simpletons, spooks and coons they couldn’t make good soldiers, trained and disciplined with the spirit of a warrior that says to the enemy, “If you want to come this way you can but after we’re dead”. But “Mr. Charlie” and his brother on the other side of the Atlantic “John Bull” were still in a state of denial, that although that highly disciplined and professional German army lost the war in the trenches of France and Europe, the only place that they actually won all of their battles was in Germany’s East African Colonies were a German major and a few German soldiers under his command trained some “jungle bunnies” some pure blooded “spooks” and “coons” of the sub-saharan variety The British Empire could have used an extra 600,000 troops on the Western Front but they had to be detoured to East Africa to catch and or destroy a few hundred German soldiers and the Akiri tribesmen they trained to be disciplined soldiers to fight without a chance to be supplied in the effort, so all supplies food weapons and ammo had to come from the enemy. These few hundred sub-humans lost few to combat killed while the havoc they put on the British soldier was so bad and embarrassing to the British that they had to degrade the combat skills of these “spear throwers” and called it murder by savages. That few hundred savages fought battles carrying their families wherever they went and their women and children shared the same suffering that their warriors did. They were never caught and never lost a battle and it was the only point of honor that the Germans had in the last two of their most important vital wars of survival. But lies die and the truth never does and the truth was embarrassing “Mr. Charlie” after all the shit he talked about freedom, justice and the family of man living at peace he looked like the hypocrite he was, so as it went , as the governments stopped standing behind it’s actual real problem, “Mr. Charlie”, the world went from overt to covert. The Catholic Church let blind in the heart Blacks who wanted to became priest and nuns go to the same institutions to be trained as the other human beings, even the Mormon’s changed with the world and let some real dumb Blacks into their ranks. I wonder if these Black people ever realized that if the love of God had been apart of either of these institutions of the world, they never would have had to change a wrong into a right.. Thank you TUSKEGEE AIRMEN, 555TH AIRBORNE PARATROOPERS AND MONTFORT POINT MARINES IT WAS BECAUSE OF THE SHIT YOU TOOK THAT A FEW OF US STOOD PROUD AND EARN THE RESPECT OF A FOOL WHO WOULD JUDGE A MAN BY THE COLOR OF HIS SKIN.

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    • btx3

      April 17, 2010 at 12:05 PM

      My Father in Law was on Utah Beach. My uncle got hit bringing in troops in a DUKW at Anzio. You wouldn’t know “we” were there by many accounts…

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  2. dennis carson

    February 1, 2012 at 9:28 AM

    My father e-2 matthew john carson, was over there in 1945 out of ft. Jackson,south carolina.. he was with a transportation unit( don’t kno what company) when he came back, he was station at camp atterbury,indiana..( 91st transcar co.v1 corps….

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  3. Brian Smith

    March 25, 2013 at 2:07 AM

    My Grandfather was part of the Triple Nickle. Marvin “Pappy” Groom… heard so many stories….

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    • btx3

      March 26, 2013 at 9:18 PM

      Yeah – One of my Uncles was over there with 370th Infantry Battalion, part of the 92nd Division. They actually got support from the 769th Tank Battalion at one point. He had some stories as well.

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