Cyril Sheppard | Interview 1 | October 20, 1977

Oral History Center, UC Berkeley

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0:00 - Joining the Navy / Training at Great Lakes boot camp

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Keywords: 1943; boot camp; Camp Robert Smalls; draft; Naval Station Great Lakes; Navy; segregation; training

Subjects: Community and Identity Port Chicago World War II

6:10 - Loading ships at Port Chicago / Discussion of the explosion

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Keywords: 1944; ammunition; explosion; Fourth Division; negligence; Port Chicago Naval Magazine; SS E.A. Bryan; SS Quinault Victory; stevedore; winch operator

Subjects: Community and Identity Port Chicago World War II

9:12 - Racial tensions on all-black base / Friendship with Joe Small

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Keywords: black sailors; Joe Small; Lieutenant Ernest Delucchi; officers; racial tension; resentment

Subjects: Community and Identity Port Chicago World War II

12:40 - Disregard of safety and rank

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Keywords: Camp Shoemaker; competition; Mare Island Naval Shipyard; negligence; officers; rank; safety precautions; tonnage

Subjects: Community and Identity Port Chicago World War II

19:00 - Creation of a petition and investigation from the Navy Department

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Keywords: Admiral Wright; Camp Shoemaker; court martial; mutiny; petition; stockade; threats; work stoppage

Subjects: Community and Identity Port Chicago World War II

26:55 - Petition used as key evidence in case / Manipulation of statements

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Keywords: investigation; leaders; manipulation; Navy; petition; statement; trial

Subjects: Community and Identity Port Chicago World War II

31:18 - Typical work at Port Chicago and liberty time

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Keywords: loading ships; military leave & liberty; San Francisco, California; stevedore

Subjects: Community and Identity Port Chicago World War II

35:25 - Night of the explosion / Imprisonment after trial

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Keywords: explosion; Federal Correctional Institution, Terminal Island; fighting; mutineers; Ollie Green; Port Chicago Naval Magazine; punishment; San Pedro, Los Angeles

Subjects: Community and Identity Port Chicago World War II

42:22 - Details of the trial

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Keywords: Lieutenant Gerald Veltmann; mutineers; NAACP; statement; strategy; Thurgood Marshall

Subjects: Community and Identity Port Chicago World War II

47:18 - Short-term overseas duty as probation

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Keywords: 1946; aircraft carrier; Federal Correctional Institution, Terminal Island; New Caledonia; Okinawa, Japan; overseas; San Pedro, Los Angeles

Subjects: Community and Identity Port Chicago World War II

53:27 - Return to US mainland and discharge from Navy

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Keywords: 1946; court martial; discharge; New York; Thurgood Marshall

Subjects: Community and Identity Port Chicago World War II

61:18 - Reflection on naval career and fellow sailors / Settling down in New York

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Keywords: black sailors; boot camp; Camp Robert Small; Joe Small; New Orleans, Louisiana; uniforms; Virginia

Subjects: Community and Identity Port Chicago World War II

66:51 - NAACP campaign and involvement in the trial

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Keywords: female reporter; NAACP; Thurgood Marshall; trial

Subjects: Community and Identity Port Chicago World War II

69:17 - Further details of trial and imprisonment

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Keywords: dependants; imprisonment; Lieutenant Ernest Delucchi; pay; punishment; trial

Subjects: Community and Identity Port Chicago World War II

75:37 - Contacting the mutineers and sailors from Port Chicago

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Keywords: mutineers; Navy

Subjects: Community and Identity Port Chicago World War II

80:42 - Conclusion of Port Chicago investigation

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Keywords: investigation; negligence; officers; Port Chicago Naval Magazine; stevedore; winch operator; witnesses; wreckage

Subjects: Community and Identity Port Chicago World War II

0:00

ALLEN: Actually maybe we could start a little bit earlier than that if you just tell me a little about -- this is your home in New York, right? You came up here and went to school here and all that...Well, tell me a little bit about your background before you went into the Navy and how it is you came to go into the Navy.

SHEPPARD: Well, I was drafted. I didn't have any choice. I wanted to go in the army. I think it was about thirteen of us that went down to the induction center at the same time and all of us was running right behind one another -- we all trying to stay close so we could be together. No two went to the same place. And then when they got to me they just sent me over to the Navy office there, and 1:00next thing I know I'm in the Navy. I didn't want to be in it.

ALLEN: So this was the -- when did they actually institute the draft? Because some of the guys that went there were enlistees, right?

SHEPPARD: Some of 'em, yeah. But I know that I was drafted.

ALLEN: So you had -- had you finished school then? Or what?

SHEPPARD: Finished high school.

ALLEN: What high school did you go to?

SHEPPARD: Dewitt Clinton. Finished high school in 1941. And then they took me in there 1943. I was in the Navy.

ALLEN: So you went directly up to Great Lakes then?

SHEPPARD: No, I went to Virginia. They put me as a mess attendant. Because now they change it around and give you a new name. They call it the steward's branch. And I was on board a mine sweeper.

ALLEN: What was the name of the vessel?

2:00

SHEPPARD: YMS 165. Yard mine sweeper 165.

ALLEN: Where was it based -- do you remember?

SHEPPARD: First, it was New Orleans. And then they came north; we used to operate out of Boston harbor there...When even they would have general quarters, my station was on the twenty millimeter gun. So the captain liked the way I shoot the gun. So, I told him one day, I said, "Listen. I see where they got black men at Great Lakes, Illinois in the seaman's branch. I want to go there. See, when I come to fight, I don't want to come fighting with pots and pans." 3:00And so they had me transferred to Great Lakes. Then I went to gunnery school -- four to six months.

ALLEN: So that would have been in?

SHEPPARD: Yes, '44. I never heard of this place Port Chicago, but they sent me there.

ALLEN: Now, what did they tell you in Great Lakes in terms of what -- you wanted to go into combat duty, or --

SHEPPARD: I wanted to get on board a ship, yeah. I was on a ship, you know, but then I wanted to get back on a ship. I liked it out there.

ALLEN: At Great Lakes, did they tell you that was going to happen?

4:00

SHEPPARD: No, they don't tell you anything. They just send you through training, then they ship you out. Ship everybody out to different places. Well, they had mine picked out for me.

ALLEN: How long was the training at Great Lakes?

SHEPPARD: Maybe about six months there.

ALLEN: And that was gunnery school and what else?

SHEPPARD: Boot training and gunnery school.

ALLEN: So after six months there then -- now, Great Lakes that was the main training base there for the Navy for black and white, right? But it was segregated.

SHEPPARD: Yeah, it was segregated.

ALLEN: They had a name for the black component -- Robert Small Camp.

SHEPPARD: Yes, they had three camps. Camp Munford, Camp Robert Smalls, and another camp I forget it now. We left there, all the guys shipped out to 5:00different places. And they sent me -- I was in charge of the draft, see I was -- I had the highest mark. I come out of this school and made gunnersmate third class. But I never did wear stripe, so nobody really knew what I was. All they knew was that I was just another sailor. So when we get to Great Lakes, it just goes by the luck of the name. My name being Sheppard. The guy says, "Martin, Ross," was two guys named Martin. Two Martins, and a Ross, and then you step 6:00forward and they put them in the Third Division. They were upstairs. By my name being Sheppard, Smalls and some other guy, put us in the Fourth Division downstairs. See, on this ship you go around the clock. See, it's just like they built a railroad and the railroad -- see like this was the railroad here, you know, and one ship would be over there, and another ship over here. We load this ship first. I didn't think no ship was that deep.

ALLEN: This is at Port Chicago or -- ?

SHEPPARD: Right. We're loading them things right on up to the brim. Right to the top. And I tell you this: them guys didn't have anything -- they didn't have the training. They didn't know what they were doing. And I'm standing up there -- 7:00boy, and they got them big bombs, bombs you can't even get your arms around them. Great big ones. You hook the winch on there and bring it out, yank it off -- bam! Hit that steel railroad car. He just yank it off -- both sides, bam! Bam! Bam! I said, "Goddamn, man, can't you do better than that?" He says, "Oh, man don't worry about that. I felt the same way when I first come. But these things ain't got no fuse in them." I say, "I don't care about the fuse. They got TNT in them." Now, nobody really knows what happened, how it happened. 'Cause they had an investigation, but they had nothing to go by. It wasn't even splinters left out of that thing. No flesh. It was 322 guys lost their lives 8:00there. And they was all friends of mine, but it wasn't nothing enough to send home to bury.

ALLEN: Had you worked enough on those two ships?

SHEPPARD: Yeah, I had just gotten off.

ALLEN: It was the Quinault Victory and the EA Bryan.

SHEPPARD: I never did know the name of the ships.

ALLEN: I think that's what it was. The Bryan was the one that they'd almost finished loading. Quinault Victory was the one that just come in. You worked on the day shift then?

SHEPPARD: Yeah, I'd gotten off at 8:00 that night. You worked from 12:00 'til 8:00. The same truck that bring them to work take us back to the base. I know it 9:00was 8:00. I got out of there 8:00. I think the ship blew up at about 10:15.

ALLEN: 10:15, yeah. You were in the -- which division --

SHEPPARD: Fourth.

ALLEN: So that was Lieutenant [Ernest] Delucchi and --

SHEPPARD: Yeah, that's the guy. Lieutenant Delucchi. He was a no-good son-of-a-bitch. He was -- I think he was an ex-professional wrestler. He just spent half the day wanting to knock somebody down. He was like the -- I guess he could beat up everybody, you know. He was a big professional wrestler. I know a number of times, he was [phone rings] -- yeah, he always challenging different 10:00guys, you know. "If you think you're big enough, come on out here, step forward." And all that kind of stuff.

ALLEN: Was there generally a lot of racial friction there, in terms of the officers towards the men?

SHEPPARD: Yeah, it had to be. This was an all-black base. I have been in the Navy a couple of years -- almost. I'd never -- that's the first time I'd ever seen a base like that. I didn't think that they existed.

ALLEN: What do you mean?

SHEPPARD: All black, you know! The only whites ones there was the officers. They didn't have the white men doing that stevedore work. And I resented it, too, because I went to school for gunnery. I didn't come to do stevedore work.

ALLEN: What was the feeling of the other men there?

SHEPPARD: Well, they didn't have much feeling. They knew what it was, they could see what it was. Nobody had much -- on that base -- nobody had much schooling. 11:00They just got all these guys together, and dumped them all over there to do this kind of work.

ALLEN: You went there -- how long were you there before the explosion?

SHEPPARD: I was there a couple of months, I think. Couple of months.

ALLEN: Did you get to know -- who was the petty officer there, the black petty officer -- Joe Small.

SHEPPARD: Joe Small. Me and Joe were really tight, yeah. We were together all the time. See, they tried to build a case around like he was the ring leader or something like that, you know. And they tried to build it up on me too, saying I gave advice, telling different guys what to do. Make it seem like we forming a 12:00mutiny. But it was nothing like that. I told them guys that -- I don't care what nobody does. Whether we go back to work or don't, it don't matter to me, cause I ain't going. So, they use these things -- they use that kind of stuff, as if I'm going around -- me and Joe Small -- going around trying to influence other people, other guys. I never even went anywhere -- they all came right to the bed, right to the bunk. And they -- "What you gonna do?" Hell, I don't care -- I know what I'm gonna do. I ain't going.

ALLEN: This was after the explosion?

SHEPPARD: This was after the explosion.

ALLEN: Was that Port Chicago or up there at Shoemaker?

SHEPPARD: Port Chicago.

ALLEN: But they moved you up to Shoemaker?

SHEPPARD: Yeah, they moved us to Shoemaker. Then we went to Mare Island. They kept us -- they kept everybody there, while they're rebuilding the base. While 13:00they went and rebuild the railroad and brought in some new ships. I say, "What they hell, they can't find nobody else to do this kind of work?" I told them -- "I want to be on a ship anyway. Put me on a ship and let me fight out there. Take my chances there." See, you lose your life on somebody else's negligence. Them guys yanking them bombs back and forth, back and forth like that...And they're smoking cigarettes. There's a big sign: "NO SMOKING". Guys standing up there smoking.

ALLEN: Who was responsible for enforcing the safety regulations, like the NO Smoking, or like the training? Did anybody have training for this kind of work?

SHEPPARD: No, nobody had training for that. Those white officers -- cause 14:00they're only officers there -- was white half-dozen of them -- they would bring you down and then you don't see them no more. They bring you down, then time we start to working boy, they -- gone. They're making it. Yes sir.

ALLEN: That was the division officers? What about people like the Holman, the loading officer -- there was a couple or three white officers who are supposed to be working down there.

SHEPPARD: Yeah, but we never see them.

ALLEN: They weren't around either?

SHEPPARD: No, man. Never seen them. Like when those two ships blew up, I don't know if there's any white officers lost their lives.

ALLEN: Well, I think there was one white lieutenant. And of course, the only other whites were the merchant seamen that were on the ships. And the coast 15:00guard -- they had a fire barge down there, I think there was white guys on there. Let me ask about this: in the trial testimony, I think it was Ollie Green -- at the trial stood up and said, "They forced us to race against each other. Compete." Was that going on?

SHEPPARD: Yeah, yeah. That was going on too.

ALLEN: How'd they do that? How could they -- What was the reason?

SHEPPARD: I think they were tonnage-minded. So many -- I don't know, the officers there must have been trying to get credit to their name, or something like that, by loading so much tonnage.

16:00

ALLEN: Did they talk about that -- the officers? Did they say -- ?

SHEPPARD: They didn't talk about it. Well, they didn't talk to us much. But they used to come on out once in a while on the line, and make you go faster. And, you know -- I used to always try to be the last one to get down on that ladder. See, they had a ladder as tall as this building. See how high up in the air we are? You look down there, get on top of that deck and look down. Jesus Christ! And them guys used to come down there like monkeys. They would slide down with their hands on the outside of the ladder. Like the firemen, in the station house, firehouse. I would come down like this. Them guys stepping all over my hand! They are in such a hurry to get started.

ALLEN: Well, why would the guys be in a hurry to get started?

17:00

SHEPPARD: Well, I don't know --

ALLEN: I mean, why would they go along with it, if it was competition? What's the reason for them --

SHEPPARD: They didn't have too much smarts up there. On the whole base and nobody got a rating. Seaman second class, everybody. I remember the guy that was in charge of the place, came over to me he said, "Hey, they made a mistake with your rating. They got you down as seaman first class." So I looked at him I says, "Yea, they do have me. They have made a mistake. Because my rating is gunnersmate third class. I say, "All them other guys that came with me, them other five guys, they are seaman first class." When you come out of school they give you that rating. You should have seen the look on this man's face. He's in charge.

ALLEN: This was Captain Kinhim.

SHEPPARD: No, he wasn't no captain. This was another seaman second class. See, 18:00what they had wouldn't give the blacks any rates, and the seaman second class guys running the whole barracks. He's in charge...So he come over to me says, "They made a mistake down there." I says, "Yeah, they did make a mistake. I'm not seaman first class -- them other guys are seaman first class. I'm gunnersmate third." This man act like he want to grab me by the throat. Can't understand how this could happen. But they just wasn't giving away any -- You know, they just saving money, man. Didn't give nobody no ranks.

ALLEN: Was there much complaints about that amongst the men?

SHEPPARD: I didn't see many people complaining.

ALLEN: One of the things that Joe Small said at the trial, he said before the 19:00explosion the men got together -- he didn't say how many times, or where or how, but there was a couple of times to talk about the Bluejacket's Manual -- well, he didn't really say much beyond that.

SHEPPARD: Bluejacket's Manual?

ALLEN: Yeah, that was that manual of regulations, and so on. Did you know anything about any of that?

SHEPPARD: No. See, Joe was there before me, before I got there.

ALLEN: 'Cause, what I was wondering was, if the men were considering that they didn't get ratings, and a lot of them -- like yourself -- didn't want to be there in the first place -- You couldn't get transferred.

SHEPPARD: No, they got you there. You stayed there.

ALLEN: So I was wondering if the men were getting together to, I don't know, 20:00maybe get a petition, or something like that.

SHEPPARD: That's what we got together. Decide to exercise the American way, you know. That's what we thought we would do: get a petition together.

ALLEN: When was that?

SHEPPARD: This was after the explosion. And we felt we couldn't -- we got the petition together and everybody signed it, and then the Navy Department -- see, they brought in those investigators. They would bring this in -- see, first of all, it was 735 men that initially refused to go to work. See, when they called us up, and then they would have us in front of the barracks -- you know, when you march down here if you make a left turn, you're heading towards the docks. 21:00See, but the docks hadn't been built up yet. So we never went that way, we always make a right turn and they drill us for a while, you know. So when we get down there, when that guy -- when that officer gave the column left -- boy there was confusion right then and there. Everything was all jumbled up and together. Guys bumping up on each other. And a lot of them was crying. They didn't want to go down there. Then they brought the chaplain over. He started talking, "Come on, fellas. I'll go with you," and all that kind of stuff. We know that he ain't going to stay there. All them officers, man. They get you down there and then as soon as you get down there and start working, they're gone. So, each time when they would bring a high-ranking officer to talk, more and more of the fellas 22:00would leave. I said there was 735, and every time, like Chaplain get finished talking, then they'd have about 720 left. Then the commanding officer, maybe another hundred or something like that would leave. So, then it got down to Shoemaker, California, where they had the whole bunch of us was in makeshift stockade.

ALLEN: Was that at the Ryder barracks in Vallejo?

SHEPPARD: No, not there. This was --

ALLEN: Oh yeah, that was after.

SHEPPARD: Yes, see we were in Vallejo before the mutiny. We just quartered here. We would go to Ryder barracks. We would go out on liberty every night...But I 23:00think it was Shoemaker, yeah, because it was a big, wide-open space, and they had this you know mutiny going on. What they call a mutiny -- it was just guys refused to go, you know. So then they brought this Admiral over. I never seen an Admiral before in my life. I still only see it once. And he was a cracker, come out here, he say -- talk, lanky guy. Admiral Wright. He said, "And just in case you all -- you want to know who I am, my name is Admiral Wright, I am the commandant for the Third Naval District." And he says, "They tell me that some of you all want to go to sea." He says, "I believe that's a goddamn lie." He 24:00said, "I don't believe none of you got enough guts to go to sea." He had us right around like this. And he must have had about six machine guns on jeeps, you know, pointing right dead at us. He told -- this admiral told the officer, says, "Alright. You count to ten, and whoever it standing up there when you get to ten, I'm going to let you all know that I personally will recommend mutiny, and death will be the penalty." Because this is during war, during wartime. So then he started counting. Like I said, 735 guys -- only when they got finished, only fifty was left. If it wasn't so important, then it would be funny, because 25:00-- when he started get to "eight -- nine -- " Man, them guys. I looked around them jokers were leaving, knocking you down to get the git. When that man said, "Ten," tried to hold nobody else -- they had a wave of men -- knocked the officers down by mistake. They couldn't see -- water all in their eyes. Finally, was only fifty left. So they got us then. They gave the other guys the -- like I said, 735 minus fifty, alright -- they gave the 685 kind of court martial --

26:00

ALLEN: Summary.

SHEPPARD: Summary. They got summaries, and they used them to testify against us. See, they give us the general, and use them -- The Navy Department, they would bring guys in one at a time, and then they were building a case against Joe Small and myself -- like we ring leaders of this mutiny. And they would investigate these fellas there, make them change their stories. And say, "Now, didn't he have a list?" You know, all kinds of shit about the list. We were only just trying to do things the way that we were taught to do.

ALLEN: That's the petition, you're talking about?

SHEPPARD: Yeah, right.

ALLEN: Well, how was the petition circulated? And what did it say?

SHEPPARD: I can't remember what it said. I guess it would say something like, 27:00"We the undersigned, refuse to go back to work" or something like that -- I can't remember, 'cause it wasn't that important to us in the first place. But the Navy made it like -- they built it up like it was a big thing.

ALLEN: Yea, well in the trial they said that was the refusal -- the work refusal list. They never called it a petition. They never -- who got that together, though?

SHEPPARD: I can't remember.

ALLEN: Do you think it was Joe?

SHEPPARD: I don't think so. I can remember him walking around like that, talking to different guys and all that kind of stuff. But they -- it wasn't nothing like what they tried to make it. I remember they used to come and bring you in to 28:00question you. I wrote out a statement and give it to the officer. And a week later, he calls me back in. He's typing and everything. "Well now, hey, uh -- Sheppard, you can sign this here." I said, "I already signed it. I already make my statement and signed it." He said, "Well, this is essentially the same as the one you have already signed -- this is essentially the same -- so, you just sign this one." I say, "Now, wait a minute. If this is essentially the same as that one, why don't you just let mine go in the way it is? I ain't signing nothing. I already sign that one that I made up." I just made the statement -- I signed it. 29:00And they want you to come back -- they want to change it around for you. You know, they ain't trying to do you no favors. You can guarantee that.

ALLEN: But you did write out a statement?

SHEPPARD: Mhm.

ALLEN: But that was not the statement that was brought to the trial when --

SHEPPARD: They had to bring that one to the trial, because I wouldn't sign any other one.

ALLEN: The records that I've seen, they said that it wasn't the whole 735 who refused at first. I think they said, 258 or something like that.

SHEPPARD: No!

ALLEN: They tried to say not everybody refused.

SHEPPARD: It was 735 guys refused.

ALLEN: So after that then, that's when you were put on that barge.

30:00

SHEPPARD: Yeah, we was on a barge. I forget about that.

ALLEN: That was for -- what, two, three days on the barge. What happened there, anything that was -- wasn't there one meeting of some sort on the barge?

SHEPPARD: I can't remember, nah -- I guess I had enough of them meetings. We never did have a real meeting in the first place, you know. They make it sound like sinister meetings and all that kind of stuff. I just didn't wanna -- I just said, "No, I ain't going back on that damn thing." Why don't they get them some whiteys and put them down in there, you know? I said, "Hell, I'm a gunneryman. 31:00They teach me how to fire guns. I'm supposed to be on a ship." Now they got -- I'm a stevedore. Only thing I'm not getting, stevedore pay.

ALLEN: What was it like there in general, I mean, aside from what happened? What was a typical day like in Port Chicago?

SHEPPARD: You get up in the morning, we would start -- 8:00, we would start. 8:00 on that ship. Start to working. Nobody stops either. No breaks here. This was solid work. Go down in that ship and you build yourself all the way up. Just 32:00packing till you find yourself way up on top. That's the way they do.

ALLEN: What can you do on your liberty time?

SHEPPARD: Liberty -- we would go out -- go recreation, go to San Francisco. Well, we play a little basketball. Liberty, go to San Francisco.

ALLEN: You could get over to San Francisco?

SHEPPARD: Mhm.

ALLEN: What, they had a bus or something? Or you just had to get there the best way you could?

SHEPPARD: The best way you could.

ALLEN: What was San Francisco like in those days? What was there to do there?

SHEPPARD: I guess it's mostly like what it is now, I guess.

ALLEN: Was there any kind of black community there, or -- places where you could go, and that sort of thing?

SHEPPARD: Yeah, yeah. What they called the Fillmore District. Yeah, we'd go on out there and go to bars and that kind of stuff. Girls, you know.

ALLEN: Did you get any leave time, beside from just the liberty?

33:00

SHEPPARD: No, I didn't see nobody get leaves. [laughs] This was a workhouse base, man. Nobody get no leaves there. Something else...We had a guy there named Glenny -- see, if you don't know the line, you don't get down on them ships. I think Glenny, Glenny was there before I got there, but he never worked. Anytime you see him, they're taking him to the brig. They cut your hair, you know, bald-headed. He never saw the inside of one of those ships. He wasn't going to do it. Time he come out of jail, they give him a couple of days to get straight. And when they come for him, they just pack up his bag and go on to jail. 34:00[laughs] I ain't getting on one of them goddamn ships, {inaudible}. He's usually in New York; I see him once in a while. He sells vegetables on a wagon, push-cart.

ALLEN: Do you know his last name? Was he in the Fourth Division or --

SHEPPARD: Yeah, he was in the Fourth Division. Glenn. His last name was -- we called him Glenny. He's out there in Harlem on 41st somewhere around that way. I met him down during the summertime, we talked about an hour and a half on the corner here. He told me, "I never did get on one of them ship." I said, "You never been on it?" "Never in my life has I been down to that dock." [laughs] I started thinking -- I said, "I never should have the first day either. I don't know what I was going in for. All I know is, there wasn't no guns there." But 35:00for me to be working on -- and I just come out of school, and that's what they're going to dump me off on. Now, let me tell you something about that explosion. Like I said, I got back at the base maybe about 8:15, you know, 8:30. I was sitting on the toilet -- I was reading a letter from home. See, there was two explosions, you know. The first one knocked me clean off, I found myself flying toward the wall. I just threw my hands up like this, then I hit the wall. Then the next one come right behind that: phooom! Knocked me back on the other 36:00side of the wall. The cats was screaming man, and lights went out, and glasses was flying all over the place. I got out to the door, everybody was -- that thing had -- the whole building was turned around, you know -- caving in. We're a mile and a half away from the ships! And so, the first thing that came to my mind I said, "Jesus Christ, the Japs have hit." Cause see we was fighting the Japs. I could have sworn they were out there pounding us with the warships, or bombing us or something. But -- one of the officers was shouting, "It's the ships, it's the ships!" So we jumped in one of the trucks, and we said, "Let's 37:00go on down there -- see if we can help." The man got halfway down on the truck and stopped. The guy was shouting at him from back of the truck, "Go on down, what the hell? You're staying up here!" The guy says, "Can't go no further." See, there wasn't no more docks. Wasn't no railroad. Wasn't no ships. And the water just came right on up to the -- all the way back. The guy couldn't go no further. Just as calm and peaceful. I didn't even see any smoke.

ALLEN: Were you injured in the explosion?

SHEPPARD: No. Couple of the guys -- well one guy. There that guy Ollie Green. I was hoping that they wouldn't ask him, but I know they were going to ask him. We 38:00got up on that stand there, and he had an arm in a cast at that time. And I was hoping that they wouldn't ask him how he got his hand hurt. So finally the man says, "Anybody want to ask him any more questions?" One of the guys say "Yea, how did you injure your hand?" This guy was thirty-eight years old, and he was the first guy in the chow line all the time. And he say, "I was running to the chow hall and I slipped on the stairs." Everybody in the courtroom broke out laughing. I said, "You son of a bitch, you make a real clown out of us." I caught that guy in jail, and I whipped the hell out of him in jail, too. I was 39:00thinking about that the other day. I say, "Hell, only fight I had that I couldn't hit the guy in the face, because everybody would know that you were fighting, couldn't hit him in the face, and we couldn't make any noise." Fifty guys there just fighting. Forty-eight was watching, and no noise. See, the guard sit at the desk there, he's got a long cell block and it's a {inaudible} like. Desk here you know. Then he's got the cells here, and cells here. But then it goes down here, where this is out of view. The man sitting here. So once we get back here, this man can't see anything happening here. So we had to get back 40:00there, and we fighting. Fighting in silence. Can't hit each other in the face -- 'cause I wouldn't swing at his face anyway. But I know they had to wrap him up. He told the doctor that he slipped on the stairs again. I know I had him walking sideways for a long time. They wrapped him up, you know, cracked his rib.

ALLEN: So they had all of you there together. Separate cells or how did they have it?

SHEPPARD: Well, cells. Some of 'em was in bunks.

ALLEN: How many were you?

SHEPPARD: Three tiers. The bunks were three tiers. But the cells, two men in a cell.

ALLEN: That was at -- ?

SHEPPARD: This was at the Naval disciplinary barracks.

ALLEN: Mare Island?

SHEPPARD: No. This was San Pedro, California. After they had --

41:00

ALLEN: Oh, this was after the --

SHEPPARD: After the trial, after they found us guilty. This was where we did our time -- That's another thing, see, they put us in one of those forced marches. I never did like the idea. They took us -- they got us handcuffed. Now, each one of us is carrying that damn, that big -- the record of the trial. That alone is heavy. Plus our gear, you know. They wouldn't let us ride. They marched us. Cats was falling down. I know them whiteys was laughing, having a good time. We walking behind the truck.

ALLEN: This was when you were going to San Pedro?

SHEPPARD: Yeah, right. The marines there, you know marine guards -- See, marines 42:00handle all the prisoners in the navy. They call us niggers all over the PA system, you know. Bust you upside the head in a minute.

ALLEN: How did you feel about the defense that Lieutenant [Gerald] Veltmann and the other guys?

SHEPPARD: I forget his name, what was it -- Veltmann?

ALLEN: Veltmann, I think, or something like that. He was the chief defense lawyer. There was another -- what did you think of --

SHEPPARD: I thought that he -- well, there are certain areas where he -- where he couldn't go but so far. That's when I first saw Thurgood Marshall. This was an open court. Maybe four, five newspaper men, you know, would come in and sit down. But then I noticed this colored fellow coming in every day. And he's the 43:00only one there that wasn't taking notes. Seem like he must have known what was going to be the conclusion, you know. He didn't even bother taking notes. He just sit around there -- And after about four, five days of that I noticed that he spoke with the -- our head chief counsel. They closed the court room with him in it. And them Marines, the guards, they looked around, you know. Our officer told them to step outside. They didn't want to go. He says, "Our prisoners here." He says, "I said for you to step outside." Almost had an argument right there, because they want to hear everything that was being said in the 44:00courtroom. Especially with this black man coming up there. He didn't know who the hell this guy is. We didn't know him. Course, I'd read some of the work that he'd done already -- he was Chief Special Counsel for the NAACP, and some different cases throughout the country. 'Cause I used to get Pittsburgh Courier, and Baltimore Afro-American.. wherever I went, I always get it. I always see something in there about Thurgood Marshall. So I did know -- I didn't know who he was when I saw him, but then he came in and he told us, "Well I -- I'm Thurgood Marshall. I'm the Chief Special Counsel for NAACP. And we have taken an interest in this case, and we're watching this -- so, I'd like to take over the case." He was going to take it over right then and there. So then they had a 45:00meeting, you know, a vote. And so most of them guys say, "It looks like this lieutenant here is going a good job." So they let him stay on. So then, Thurgood Marshall say, "Okay, I'll stay around here for another couple of days and then we'll see what happen." And when we were found guilty, then he took over the filing the brief -- filing the appeal and everything.

ALLEN: In the defense -- did this navy lieutenant who handled the defense did he come around and interview each man individually? Or, what was the strategy of him putting the defense together? How was that figured out?

SHEPPARD: Let me see now -- Well, I really don't know. Can't remember that. I 46:00know that -- I guess he would start off with the statement that you'd made.

ALLEN: He had a copy of the statement.

SHEPPARD: Yeah, and he worked around that. Looked like nobody did have a valid reason not to go -- except that guy Ollie Green, because he did have his hand in a cast.

ALLEN: That's true. Right. So, it was decided then that the strategy of the defense would be --

SHEPPARD: Well, first of all, they are trying to prove that what we did, we did it for trying to exercise our rights as citizens, and all that kind of stuff. 47:00But those jokers gave us fifteen years. Did twenty-two months.

ALLEN: That was at San Pedro?

SHEPPARD: Yeah.

ALLEN: What happened when you got out?

SHEPPARD: When I got out -- see by my name being Sheppard, they was starting from the A's -- they would let out five or six at a time. So when they got to me and Joe Small -- we're together all the time -- when we got to the base, we were riding for about an hour in the truck. "Where in the hell are they taking us?" Another five, six men together. "Where in the hell are we going?" We got on the 48:00Navy uniforms and everything -- could still see the base. And I read the base, it said some kind of -- what in the hell you call it, you know -- a base where they send guys back and forth, you know, out. Send them home, send on different ships, and all that kind of stuff.

ALLEN: Like the discharge, or for processing?

SHEPPARD: Yeah. So I see all these guys, taking showers and getting all cleaned up. I ask some questions of the guys. He says, "Oh yeah, we go out every night." I say, "Yeah? Well, we ain't been out in almost two years." So I waited and waited and waited. I was in charge of the draft. I says to one of the bosun's mate I say, "We've been here for about an hour, hour and a half, sitting over there in the corner, or sitting on top of our bags, you know. Where is our 49:00bunks? See all the other guys have bunks. Where is our bunk?" He says, "Well, you ain't got no bunk. We've got a ship for you." I said, "You've got a ship already?" I said, "Guys been here eight or nine months waiting for a ship." He said, "Yeah, well they already found one for you." Yeah, a regular Shanghai, you know. So then finally when they put us in the wherry, I forget the name of the {inaudible} wherry. W-h-e-r-r-y. That's a little boat -- Going-going getting dark. And we're going underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. I said, "Where in the 50:00hell is this ship that this guy talking about?" And sure enough, I could see an aircraft carrier way the hell out there. You climb aboard, rope ladder, climb up there. And as the last of the five or six men I had with me -- as the last man got on top of that ship, I can hear the winch bringing up the anchor.

ALLEN: What carrier was that?

SHEPPARD: It was not one of those big ones that you can remember. It was one of those ships that they made into a carrier. Auxiliary carrier. Shot us overseas.

ALLEN: So, that would have been 1946?

SHEPPARD: Let's see, now when'd we come out? We must have come out of there, let's see the war was over in 1945. So, it was a few months after that. Yeah.

51:00

ALLEN: So you went right overseas?

SHEPPARD: Right on overseas.

ALLEN: Where did you ship out to?

SHEPPARD: Well, there was a little confusion there too. We was supposed to go to New Caledonia. That's where we were supposed to go. And after we was out, we out to sea for damn near thirty days, this Captain called me upstairs and says, "You're supposed to go there, we were going there, but we've had our orders changed. We're going now, we're going to Okinawa. So when you get to Okinawa you have to take these orders to the office and then you will have to go there." When I looked at the map, in his offices -- it looked like, it seemed like this 52:00was Okinawa, we had started from San Francisco over here, in a line like this, and this took thirty days. He showed me where I had to go. "This is where you are now, you've got to go here." I said, "You mean to tell me it took us thirty days from here to here, and now you're gonna send me here?" I said, "Well, do you have a ship going from there to here?" He says, "No. You just have to get one going that direction." That's the way they did us. Every time we looked around -- I used to tell the guys, "All you do is use one outfit, dungarees, just use one. That night you're gonna wash it, then get up in the morning put 53:00them back on. But keep everything tied up ready to go." 'Cause you never know when the hell they're gonna come. So we went to about three or four different islands like that, trying to get here.

ALLEN: Now this was Okinawa you were trying --

SHEPPARD: No.

ALLEN: You were at Okinawa.

SHEPPARD: We're at Okinawa in order to get to New Caledonia. When we got over here, Guam -- a guy come running in there, said, "Goddamn, you guys sure is lucky." I look at him, I say, "We lucky?" [laughs] I look at him and say, "Yeah, we sure is lucky." So he say, "You cats ain't been here but three days, and you're on the draft going to the States already." I say -- I thought he was kidding, you know. They've made a mistake. So I got down there and looked at the 54:00names -- holy mackerel, I run out and get them other guys. They've made a mistake. See we're supposed to spend one year overseas. That's like --

ALLEN: Like probation.

SHEPPARD: Probation, yeah. We got to spend that overseas. They made a mistake -- We just left San Francisco and we're coming right back to San Francisco. [laughs] Yeah, we come in there, they found out, and they send other guys away. I don't know where they went. They went to Alaska, Iceland, all that kind of stuff, you know. So I was the last one. I was determined not to go. I say, "Damn, I ain't going to. Put my name up on the wall." And I was working in the 55:00cleaners. They found out I -- they called my name out, and if you don't be there and miss that draft -- your name is on there and you ain't there, they call you. And then they come get you. So every time they call my name out, I'd be out there -- w-w-h-i-s-h zoom -- all the {inaudible}. Nobody could ever hear my name being called. So when they came to get me -- the officer say, "Look, what do you mean? Yeah, we had him, about four times this man was up on the draft to go out there and he never went." I say, "Well, we never heard nothing like that." I say, "That's right. I didn't see my name up there, working in here all the time." So -- took me upstairs, he say, "Alright, you come up there." And so I 56:00went up there, and there was a young kid, just come in the Navy. So, he says -- a white guy, you know, he's making out these papers. When he come to my record -- you know, everybody's records look like this. You know, my look like about this high with all that stuff. So the guy said, "This is your service records?" I said, "Mhmm." "Goddamn." He turned another page, he said, "A general court martial?" Now, they've never seen nobody with a general court martial. Now, they've never seen nobody with a general court martial -- got a summary court martial, but you don't get no general one. And then he said, "Mutiny? Oh God have mercy. Look at this!" Then he called everybody in the office. "Hey, look! Joe! Jack!" Well, one of them felt sorry for me and sent me on home. So there 57:00I'm getting to New York.

ALLEN: To New York, huh? [laughs]

SHEPPARD: Yeah, they are trying to send me to Iceland, I wind up in New York. [laughs] -- You know, my discharge -- when we got to the naval base at St. Albons, the officer got enough nerve to ask me would I like to re-enlist. I said, "Oh lord, have mercy! Man, you don't know what you're talking about." [laughs] Then right up to the very last minute, I had my fingers crossed, 'cause I figured something gonna go wrong you know. The very last minute, when they call 'em -- See, they got you seated alphabetically. So, they call your name, and you shake hands with the Chaplain, and he hands you your discharge. So when 58:00they come to me -- like my name is Sheppard, he say something like, "Williams -- Williams?" Now, everything was in order and when he got to my name, they call me the wrong name. I say, "No, that's not me." I knew something else was going to happen. So then they said, "Oh -- " Mine was the only one they had underneath the desk. My discharge doesn't say -- like, the discharge says "Honorable Discharge from the United States Navy." That's the way it's supposed to go. But mine just say "Discharged from the US Navy." Then a real small line says, "Under honorable conditioning." So, that was the one they had underneath the desk. That was mine.

ALLEN: But it is an honorable discharge?

59:00

SHEPPARD: Yeah -- I folded it up just like it is a newspaper. I folded it up like that, put it in my pocket. I think I still may have it. I don't know.

ALLEN: That would have been -- what year was that then?

SHEPPARD: '46. I come home the summer of '46. August. Yeah.

ALLEN: Did you ever meet or talk directly with Marshall?

SHEPPARD: No. You know, he didn't realize it, but every time he came over -- see, this guy was so nonchalant. He was -- he walked right in there, and he struck up a conversation with one of the reporters -- a woman, nice looking broad you know. It looked like everyday he's riding -- she's got a convertible 60:00car. I think he must have taken a plane out there. They would come to the courtroom in the morning, and go to lunch, and then come back and finish up the end of the day. Then he would ride with her again -- you know, go out there. Every single time he got in the car with her, the marines turned {inaudible} -- soon as they took off, as soon as they go out there, the marines would {inaudible} detail "Tention!" I say, "Here we go -- " "Double time!" Then he'd run us like horses -- up, down, you know, just riding. It didn't bother us because we know that they had to run too -- you know, the guards. They be 61:00running -- boy, with them rednecks with the water running all down their back. Man -- they kept us in good shape. [laughs]

ALLEN: Did twenty-two months, then out for a few months. Floating out there around in the Pacific.

SHEPPARD: Yeah. See, my whole naval career was a little different from everybody else's, because I went to two boot camps. See, when I first went in 1943, they sent me to Virginia -- where you go through about a one-month boot camp. One-month boot camp. Then they send you out. So when I got the ship in New Orleans -- and then I was on the ship for about six months before I got 62:00transferred back to boot camp again. Right away, I started -- in Great Lakes, all these new guys. And I'd already been in the navy about eight, nine months already when I went to this boot camp. My dungarees was a little different from theirs, because it's been worn, you know. And aboard ship, you just tie them on a rope and throw them over. It bleaches, I mean it cleans them but you know. So everybody got these brand new dungarees on, and I stood out like a sore thumb. They wasn't about to give me any more dungarees. And I wasn't about to buy none cause I didn't need none. There were good, but it just that faded because of the salt. I had twisted 63:00naval career all the way.

ALLEN: What have you done -- well, when you got out and came back here to New York? Settled down, got a job?

SHEPPARD: Yeah, I worked in the subway. Took the civil service exam. Then I left there, went to Albany; was there about six, seven years. I drove a bus for the city. But when my mother was sick, I knew she was dying...so I came back.

ALLEN: Are you working here?

64:00

SHEPPARD: Right now, I'm not working.

ALLEN: When you look back on this whole thing that happened, out there in Port Chicago -- what do you make of it all now? How do you feel about it?

SHEPPARD: I don't even think about it. This story here that I'm telling you, you know, I've never told this to anybody. Men talk about their stories in the Army and Navy -- I don't say nothing. I never even told my son.

ALLEN: You've never seen or had any contact with the other guys except for --

SHEPPARD: Once in while you bump into the guys you know. Like little Willie 65:00Banks. I heard he went to Chicago and K.C. Dixon that was my buddy. He worked with me all the time. They tell me that he got an arm cut off -- But I would have like to seen Joe Small. But I never seen him --

ALLEN: Was he your same age, or was he older?

SHEPPARD: Yeah, about the same age.

ALLEN: I'm trying to locate him. Well, I'm trying to locate all the guys.

SHEPPARD: Joe from New Brunswick.

ALLEN: New Brunswick, yeah -- that's where he was from originally.

SHEPPARD: He was -- I think he said he worked on a farm. His father had a farm. He was a hell of a guy. The guy could fix things, you know. When they put us to work out there, he used to -- he was always fixing things. They should have sent him to school to learn something. That guy would be out there working in that 66:00San Pedro place there, he'd go out there, the work is outdoors. And Joe used to -- in no time at all, he'd have a washing machine, washing machine that's been discarded, can't work. He made it work. Joe was good with his hands. He should have been anything but what they had him doing. They just disregarded black people. "Put them niggers down there at that ammunition place." That's what they do.

ALLEN: During that twenty-two months at San Pedro, did you all have knowledge there of the campaign that NAACP was organizing?

SHEPPARD: Yeah, see, that white woman, I never did know her name.

67:00

ALLEN: The reporter.

SHEPPARD: Yeah. She would come up and visit us sometimes. She'd come from San Francisco, and I guess she took the train. But she'd come out there -- 'cause this is in San Pedro, this is southern California. And every once in a while, she would come out and tell us to "have heart," you know. "Hold on." And Mr. Marshall was doing so, and so he asked me to come by and say, "So and so."

ALLEN: Is that so? That's interesting. I bet I know who she is -- because in looking at the newspaper accounts, I noted that there was a whole series of 'em written by this woman reporter.

SHEPPARD: Yeah, it must be her.

ALLEN: And that her articles are the only ones that quoted Thurgood Marshall. The other reporters, you know, you would never have known that Thurgood Marshall was there.

SHEPPARD: That was her. Nice looking broad.

ALLEN: Was she very young or how old was she?

68:00

SHEPPARD: Oh, I'd say she was about his age -- at that time, he was about thirty.

ALLEN: Okay, yeah. Maybe I can find her, then. She worked on a San Francisco paper.

SHEPPARD: That's right. She come from San Francisco area.

ALLEN: I was very impressed with her reports because they seem very fair, and they were the only ones where you got some idea of -- she would have reprinted his statement. I guess he must have had a press conference, and she reprinted his statement --

SHEPPARD: Yeah, I take it she was driving him around. So you know they be rapping.

ALLEN: Yeah. Do you have any of your papers, or letters, photographs, things of that sort from that time?

SHEPPARD: No.

ALLEN: What do you think has been the main effect of this on your life, looking 69:00back on it?

SHEPPARD: I don't know, I just threw it out of my mind, you know. I just threw it right on out, like it didn't happen. I know what those marines -- what they did to us. Crack guys upside the head for nothing. All kinds of punishment, you know, for nothing.

ALLEN: At Port Chicago you're talking about? Or this is at San Pedro?

70:00

SHEPPARD: No, while we got the -- at San Pedro, they didn't bother you much. That was a big base, you know -- it must have had about three thousand men up there. Them smaller brigs were where they used to take advantage of you.

ALLEN: This was during the trial, you mean?

SHEPPARD: During the trial. During the trial, they did a lot of things to us.

ALLEN: Would you have handled the trial differently, looking back at it now?

SHEPPARD: I wish that we would have let him handle it -- Thurgood Marshall. But 71:00I don't think he could have won it, anyhow. They wasn't going to let him win it. You know, they don't care what -- how good the defense lawyer was. Them guys sit up there, they disregard every damn -- everything according to the law. They just disregard everything, and do what they -- One time, one or two times, our lawyer would get carried away, and get one of the officers up there and be mailing it to him. I see the guy stop and look at him, and then he'd have to back off, you know. They did what they felt like doing.

ALLEN: Did Delucchi lie on the stand?

72:00

SHEPPARD: Oh sure, sure he lied on the stand. A lot of times he lied. I remember him saying that he heard the guys...he heard the men saying, "Let's don't work for the white motherfuckers." I didn't hear that. And, "We've got 'em by the balls." Yeah, but when he get on the witness stand and they ask, "Lieutenant Delucchi, which one said that?", he can't say that. Maybe it wasn't one of the fifty there. It could have been one of the seven-hundred-and thirty-five.

ALLEN: In fact, he admitted that he was facing the other way, when he supposedly heard this stuff. How old was he then?

73:00

SHEPPARD: I say, he must have been about twenty-six at that time. Twenty-six, twenty-eight -- something like that.

ALLEN: Well, is there anything else you can think of that you can say about this?

SHEPPARD: No, I can't think of anything. I know I had a hell of a feeling when they came into the brig and had us all lined up there, and they had machine guns all around us. And telling you that you've been found guilty by general court 74:00martial, been sentenced for fifteen years. Well, my knees almost hit the ground. I started counting, I said, "Damn, fifteen years." I just had -- my daughter was just born, too. You see, all that -- I never got paid. The twenty-two months, I didn't get paid -- plus, my wife wasn't getting any money either, because they done cut the allotment.

ALLEN: And that would have been true for all the men?

SHEPPARD: Sure, all of us, all of us. Yeah. Whoever had dependents, they cut it.

75:00

ALLEN: Do you know if the men who were killed in the explosion, if their dependents got insurance money?

SHEPPARD: I don't see why not.

ALLEN: I would have thought they would, but so far I haven't found any evidence. I've just been wondering if in fact they got insurance money.

SHEPPARD: I couldn't tell you about that.

ALLEN: Well, I think I've asked all the questions I had. If I think of some more, say, over the next month or so -- it's possible I'll be coming by this way to work on this, if I can stop in again.

SHEPPARD: Yeah. You got my phone number.

ALLEN: Because as I work on it, you know, and think more about it, I may -- 76:00Also, I should tell you, you're the first of the fellas there that I've been able to talk to about this.

SHEPPARD: What, you couldn't contact nobody else?

ALLEN: I'm trying to. You got the letter I sent out. The way that worked, by the way, was when I went down to the Navy Department I said I want to talk to -- they said, "Well we can't give you the addresses." But finally they said was, "What we'll we do is if you write a letter, we won't give you the address; but we will send the letter out to the last address we had."

SHEPPARD: I imagine lot of the fellas, they've moved.

ALLEN: That's what I'm worried about. Yours is the only one that came back so far. There may be, when I get back, some more -- but yours is the only one that 77:00came back.

SHEPPARD: I wish you could get a hold of K.C. Dixon. Put down Kenneth Carlton Dixon. That was my best friend out there, you know. And I've tried to find out where he lives, but I can't find him. I sure would like to see old Joe Small, too.

ALLEN: I tell you well if I find them, I'll let you know. I sure will. I'm going to really try. What I'm doing is -- the first step is this mailing I did through the Navy. If that doesn't work, I'm just going to start going through the telephone directory, 'cause I know everybody...in the trial transcript, they have a list of where everybody was born, or what was their home town at the time they entered the Navy. So, I'm just going to start with the telephone directory in the home towns and start looking. And hope I can either find the fellas that were there, or maybe their children, their kinfolks or something like that. 78:00Locate them that way.

SHEPPARD: I guess a lot of 'em not alive any longer, you know.

ALLEN: Well, most of them were -- like you -- fairly young fellas. I mean, there were a few older guys, like Ollie Green --

SHEPPARD: Ollie Green, yeah...Smith. A guy named Smith. Smith, he was only the only one that -- he was about thirty at the time, and he was the only one that refused to talk. When they had these investigators, they got us quartered, but you know, and then they would call you.

ALLEN: This was up at Shoemaker?

SHEPPARD: Like Shoemaker, yeah. Every time they called him in, he say he ain't got nothing to say. He didn't even make a statement. He say, "I don't want to make no statement." He didn't want to talk; didn't want to do nothing. They 79:00didn't like that, so they made sure that they gave him fifteen years. See, mine is fifteen, but they cut it to twelve. Gave him fifteen -- made sure he got fifteen, 'cause he didn't -- he didn't talk. He didn't try to cooperate, in other words. I would tell him what I tell you. It wasn't what they wanted to hear... See, they try to get you to talk about somebody else, you know. They trying to build up a case against somebody else. That's what they wanted to hear. "Well, what about so-and-so?" Look, I don't know nothing about so-and-so. All I knows is about what I did. I didn't give a damn what they did to me. I wasn't going back -- I wasn't going on that ship. I don't care what they hell 80:00they did. I can remember those guys that died. Martin, Ross...laughing all the time. There wasn't enough of them left to stick into cigar butts. Then they got enough nerve to tell you, "Come on, and do it all over again."

ALLEN: In Fourth Division, did you -- after, you all stayed there to clean up?

SHEPPARD: No, we didn't do no work at all.

ALLEN: You moved right out to --

SHEPPARD: Yeah, Mare Island.

ALLEN: Because some of the men they kept there to actually clean up, after the explosion.

81:00

SHEPPARD: Yeah, that place was all twisted around. I keep thinking -- I looked at sort of once in the daylight, 'cause at nighttime, you can't see too well. But the next day, I could see it all. Looked at the building done turned completely around. They never did find out what happened; sabotage or what --

ALLEN: Well, what they found in that investigation was that they didn't know what caused it. The burden of what they said, though, was that they said it was -- well, they tried to blame the men. Carelessness, you know; not being concerned about safety, things like that, because -- see, Captain Goss -- who was the Commander for all the Mare Island -- and the captain who was head of 82:00Port Chicago, Captain Kinne -- when they had the investigation, they were up there. They called them "interested parties," but it meant, like, they could have been defendants. They could have been charged with negligence. When I read that report, the only people who testified in that was the white officers, and they had the white marine guards come and testify. They had people who were witnesses of various types. I think that in that whole investigation of the explosion, they only had three black men. One of them was a driver for one of the white officers, who was basically -- I guess they had driven up on the pier or something, that afternoon or that evening before the explosion, and he just testified that he hadn't seen anything. Then they had the guy who taught -- who 83:00had the winch school; the Jolly Roger winch school, where they taught the guys how to run the winch.

SHEPPARD: Did they have a school?

ALLEN: That's what he said. He said that he came in and testified as to how they train them and so on.

SHEPPARD: I tell you, that guy latching on to the comb...bringing it out to the door. Bam! Bam! Bam! Jesus Christ, man. "Don't you know how to work this thing?"

ALLEN: That happens all the time?

SHEPPARD: Sure, that happen all the time. Them guys on the winch they gave the net down there and you hang on them bombs and them boxes and everything. But you see how them guys do. See, you've got to take it off the pier, bring it up on the side of the ship, and then bring it down, you know. Like that, all the way down. Guys be down on the bottom, loading them up on {inaudible}. Guys used to 84:00say "b-b-b-b-a-a-a-!" That's the way they used to do it. Start off speeding from there up in the air; he didn't even try to get there steadily. "B-b-b-a-a-a!" Then get this far from your head and stop it. It's a nightmare, man.

ALLEN: Well, they didn't call any of the enlisted men to testify. Nobody from any -- they said only three men. I don't think they called anybody like from the Fourth Division, the division you were in. The men who actually did the loading, they didn't call them.

SHEPPARD: Hey, you want a drink or something?

85:00

ALLEN: Well, that'd be mighty nice. Thank you.

[End of Interview]