What's a Commie Ever Done to Black People?: A Korean War Memoir of Fighting in the U.S. Army's Last All Negro Unit

Overview

On March 27, 1950, the author turned 17; ten days later he enlisted in the U.S. Army. During his training in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, he first learned of the "police action" in Korea, and like many others he volunteered for duty there. His biggest fear was that the action would be over by the time he arrived in Korea.

Private Morrow was assigned as a rifleman in the 24th Infantry Regiment Combat Team, one of the most outstanding units in Korea and the last all black army unit; he...

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Overview

On March 27, 1950, the author turned 17; ten days later he enlisted in the U.S. Army. During his training in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, he first learned of the "police action" in Korea, and like many others he volunteered for duty there. His biggest fear was that the action would be over by the time he arrived in Korea.

Private Morrow was assigned as a rifleman in the 24th Infantry Regiment Combat Team, one of the most outstanding units in Korea and the last all black army unit; he served with distinction until he was wounded. After a short stint in Pusan, he became a paratrooper and rigger in the 8081st Airborne and Resupplying Company stationed in southern Japan. Throughout his time in the service, Private Morrow had to face the institutional racism of the U.S. Army where black soldiers consistently served longer and performed more dangerous duties than white soldiers. The effects of this on the 18-year-old private were longterm—and are described here.

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Editorial Reviews

MultiCultural Review
a significant contribution to the still-developing body of literature on African Americans in the Korean War
VOYA
"fast-paced...gripping"
VOYA - Jamie Hansen
Morrow, a seventeen-year-old black youth from Chicago, enlisted in the United States Army in April 1950. Eight months later, he landed in Inchon, Korea, to serve on the front line of the bloody "police action" of the Korean War. In the next nine months, Morrow would be forced to fight in a horrifying war to support a racist United States against an enemy who seemed to pose less of a threat than "Whitey." Morrow's fast-paced memoir is both a gripping war story and a coming-of-age saga. The cold, hunger, and terror of reconnaissance marches through the bleak Korean winter are described in blunt and matter-of-fact prose. The descriptions of enemy engagements and night marches are interspersed with the soldiers' discussions of their resentment at giving their lives for the white America that had enslaved and abused the black race. Out of these bitter and poignant remarks, Morrow began to formulate his own mature political consciousness. The memoir includes frank and often vulgar language and detailed descriptions of the author's encounters with Japanese and Korean prostitutes. It should be popular with older teenagers who have enjoyed recent works on the Vietnam war. The stark black-and-white photograph and snappy title certainly will attract readers. Index. Illus. Photos. VOYA Codes: 3Q 2P S (Readable without serious defects, For the YA with a special interest in the subject, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786403332
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/1/1997
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.48 (d)

Meet the Author

A goldsmith and jewelry maker, Curtis "Kojo" Morrow has been very active in African American affairs in Chicago. His writings have appeared in such publications as the Chicago Defender and Afrique.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2001

    ONE OF THOSE FORGOTTEN WARRIORS OF A FORGOTTEN WAR.

    'What's a Commie Ever Done to Black People' A Korean War Memoir by Curtis James Morrow (McFarland & Company, Inc., publishers) Reviewed by Barbara Kensey, freelance critic On March 7, 1951 the African American soldiers in the 24th Infantry Regiment Combat Team, the last of the celebrated Buffalo Soldiers, made the Han River Crossing - one of the most treacherous battle grounds in Korea. For Curtis James Morrow, only 20 days short of his 18th birthday at the time, the Crossing is still a vivid memory in his memoir, 'What's a Commie Ever Done to Black People?' (McFarland, 1997). It is the story of his service in the United States Army during the Korean War (1950-53) as a member of the army's last all-black and most outstanding combat units. Fifty years ago this year, the U.S. military was engaged in a war in Korea that, like all wars, left thousands of American boys as well as Chinese and Korean boys crippled, maimed, crazy or dead. This was before the War of Enlightenment - Viet Nam. The Korean War was probably the last war entered with a degree of innocence not to be experienced again in the 20th century. Morrow's memoir begins with his landing in Incheon, South Korea on December 4, 1950 - a scrawny boy of 17 pumped up by a steady diet of John Wayne war movies - ready to fight for the American way. So gung ho, in fact, that he cut short an eight-day leave to be sure he wouldn't miss anything. 'My worst fear was that the action would be over by the time I arrived in Korea,' he says in the preface. From his first reconnaissance patrol to his last front-line battle, Morrow writes of his transformation from an innocent boy to a man questioning the irony of fighting a war for a freedom that he himself had yet to achieve. It is a personal story of a boy becoming a man in a time of war. There are several things that make this memoir an important contribution to American military experience. One, it is a first-hand account of the horrors of war from the perspective of an African American - a voice not heard from often enough. Although Morrow's memoir takes the reader from one skirmish to another, one foxhole to another and one fatality to another, leaving the reader to ponder the garlicky smell of napalm or the stench of death in summer, what makes this memoir so memorable is the way in which he paints a picture of the horrors of war in plain, simple human terms. The constant hunger while in combat, the lack of simple entitlements like bathing, the deadening cold, the perpetual exhaustion, and the choices that have to be made. Should you brush your teeth or save that canteen water for drinking? Should you forgo sleep to stand guard for your comrade? And, always, the fear. Underneath all of this, but ever-present, is the racism that African American soldiers had to contend with from white soldiers and officers during their tour of duty and at home. 'What's a Commie Ever Done to Black People?' is another kind of coming of age story. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Korean War, Morrow's Memoir deserves a second look. It might also be enlightening for young

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