Baker & Taylor Traces the enlistment, training, and selection of 10 of the 12 African Americans to be aboard the first ship during World War II whose entire crew of enlisted men were Black
Blackwell North Amer At a time when most black American sailors were relegated to service as cooks and waiters, the African-American crew of the USS Mason made history by escorting six convoys across the Atlantic, performing all the duties of seamanship needed to take a warship into combat. This is the story of their experiences as part of the U.S. Navy's tentative moves toward racial integration in the enlisted ranks during the war. It is a collective memoir, compiled by best-selling author and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Mary Pat Kelly from extensive interviews with surviving crew members and new research in Navy records made public for the first time. Never before has the story of the Mason been told from the crew's point of view. They recall incidents of prejudice exhibited by other ships' crews and discrimination at most port calls, but mostly their story is a positive one that focuses on their highly successful shipboard experiences. They mastered all rates and skills, moving at accelerated paces from lowest to highest enlisted ranks, and proved they could perform combat duties as well as or better than white sailors. In October 1944, during a fierce storm in the North Atlantic, they shepherded some twenty vessels to safety despite serious damage to their own ship. With the storm still raging, the crew braved forty-foot waves to weld together open seams in the Mason's deck and to make other dangerous repairs before persisting in rejoining the convoy, while similar escorts sought out the safety of port. These actions earned the respect of many and the recommendation that a Letter of Commendation be included in each man's file - a recommendation that was not acted upon. The men's candid comments about race relations both in the wartime Navy and American society at large contribute significantly to the social history of the United States as well as to the history of the U.S. Navy. A documentary on the men of the Mason has also been produced by the author for public television.