CTX veteran one of first black men in Navy - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |

CTX veteran one of first black men in Navy

(Source: KXXV) (Source: KXXV)
WACO, TX (KXXV) -

George Vance was born on August 4, 1926 on a farm outside of Little Rock, Arkansas. He said his mom refused to work in the fields, so they both left the farm for the city looking for opportunities.

Never did he imagine that he would make history by being one of the first black men to serve in the U.S. Navy during WWII.

At the young age of 17 in 1943, Vance was approached for a historic opportunity that would change his life.
 
"President Deleanor Roosevelt, he signed the bill for us black men to go in the Navy, and I was selected," recalled Vance.

A high school teacher of his told him that the Navy was working to put together one of the first companies made up fully of black men.

Vance said that was an opportunity he was not willing to give up.

“He picked me, and I liked it because I was getting out of the--first time I had ever been on a train,” said Vance.

Up until then, Black men were not allowed in the operations of ships, only in the kitchens as cooks.

"We was trained as deck seamen. You know, tie them knots. Tie the ship down, this type of thing,” said Vance.

In 1945, he was deployed to Okinawa Island in Japan where he witnessed horrible things by the Japanese.

"They would behead and leave it so you could see it, and it affected you,” said Vance.

Although the perks that the Navy would bring would serve as a beacon of prosperity in Vance's life, he went through tough times while he served.

Even in the Navy, Vance was not spared from prejudice actions toward him during the Jim Crow era.

"I didn't fare too well on the deck. See, I was a seamen first-class. And, they used to tell me 'this is a white man's neighborhood. What are you doing here?'" said Vance.

Now, he thinks he was treated unfairly. At the time, though, he didn't make much of it.

"I didn't know the difference because that's all I knew. That's all I knew,” said Vance.

Even though he's dealing with health effects of his time in the Navy today, he has no regrets.

"I am grateful. I am grateful. I didn't have nothing, and I've been practically all over the world,” expressed Vance.

A humble man, Vance says serving in the Navy was the right thing to do.

"I don't feel that I should be honored. I did my duty,” affirmed Vance

At 90 years of age, Vance is full of energy and optimism for our country. Vance was honored at an event in Austin on Veterans Day.

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