CMSgt Richard Hall Jr. Oral History Part 1


CMSgt Richard Hall Jr. Oral History Part 1


The first part of an hour long interview of CMSgt. Richard R. Hall, Jr. - an original Tuskegee Airmen who fought in WWII.


Winter Park Public Library


September 13, 2019


WAV file




WPD TUS OH Richard R. Hall 1


Interviewer: “Alright, we’re going to go ahead and get started. Mr. Hall, can you give us your full name?”
CMSgt. Hall: “I’m Richard R. Hall, Jr.”
Interviewer: “Okay, and what year were you born?”
CMSgt. Hall: “I was born September 25, 1923”
Interviewer: “1923, okay, and where were you born?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Morven, Georgia.”
Interviewer: “Okay, and when did you come to Winter Park?”
CMSgt. Hall: “I was about five months old when my parents brought me to Winter Park.”
Interviewer: “And can you tell us a little bit more about your family?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Well, I have two brothers and one sister.”
Interviewer: “Okay, and what were their names?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Dr. Clyde W. Hall, Willard Sylvester Hall, and Mabel Elizabeth Hall.”
Interviewer: “Okay, and are any of them still living today?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Only one brother, Clyde Hall. Dr. Clyde Hall.”
Interviewer: “And what were your parents’ names?”
CMSgt. Hall: “My father’s name was Robert Richard Hall my mom was named Maddie Elizabeth Hall.
Interviewer: “Okay, so when you moved to Winter Park, where did you go to church?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Um, Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church.”
Interviewer: “Do you still go there?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Yes! I know most of the folks there.”
Interviewer: “So when you started school, where did you go to school here?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Winter Park Elementary School.”
Interviewer: “Okay.”
CMSgt. Hall: “It was located on Pennsylvania Avenue, it was.
Interviewer: “So uh...”
CMSgt. Hall: “Now it’s the Community Center.”
Interviewer: “Now that – Oh! So that’s where the Community Center is located, okay. So that’s over where Shady Park is.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Yeah”
Interviewer: “Now I saw that you went to Hungerford?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Robert Hungerford Industrial High School.”
Interviewer: “Okay and that’s over in Eatonville?”
CMSgt. Hall: “A boarding school.”
Interviewer: “It was a boarding school?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Yes.”
Interviewer: “So you lived at that school for four years?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Four years. Yes.”
Interviewer: “So how did that work? Did you get to come home on the weekends?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Oh, I think the first weekend was almost three months before we got to head home. We had to meet certain standards there.”
Interviewer: “Ok, gotcha.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Clean room, you had to pass inspection.”
Interviewer: “And then you got a four year full scholarship to-”
CMSgt. Hall: “Xavier University.”
Interviewer: “Xavier University, and that’s in New Orleans.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Mhm”
Interviewer: “And how long were you there before you were drafted into the army?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Well, I was there two years. My junior year.”
Interviewer: “So you would have been just starting your junior year?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Mhm.”
Interviewer: “And you showed us the green cap.”
CMSgt. Hall: chuckles “Yeah all the freshmen at Xavier wore green caps. That meant their heads were green.”
Interviewer: “So what were the other caps?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Oh, just the green for the freshmens”
Interviewer: “Just the green for the freshmens, so other folks didn’t have to wear the caps.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Oh no, once you were a sophomore-”
Interviewer: “You could stop, okay.”
CMSgt. Hall: “You could pass it to some freshmen, some greenhead.” chuckles
Interviewer: “Gotcha, alright. Now, can you tell me more about your elementary school and what those classes were like?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Well, let’s see, hmm. They had this one teacher by the name of Mrs. Clovin[?], she taught the fifth grade. Back in those days, the average boy would drop out around fifth or sixth grade, and Mrs. Clovin was very tough. She was built very heavy, especially around the arms. Her arms were about like that, and she was very short. She made perrymeadows [?] switches, so she would have the boys go down into the swamp and gather switches. She would give them specifications, ‘I don’t want them too long, not too small, just right. I want them just right.’ You had to meet her specifications. Chuckles And these guys are gonna get whooped with these. I know that one. And she only sent me down one time to cut up perrymeadows [?]. Just one time.”
Interviewer: “Well, hey, that’s not too bad! That’s a pretty good record.”
CMSgt. Hall: chuckles “That’s right! Especially with her, she was tough!”
Interviewer: “So what kind of lessons, like, what kind of homework and lessons you guys had?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Oh, we had math, geography, history, yeah...”
Interviewer: “So pretty similar to what we’ve got now.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Yeah, y’know you had to write term papers and such...”
Interviewer: “So-”
CMSgt. Hall: “Mrs. Clovin was quite a teacher. Uh, she was very strict, and she would use these perrymeadows and she was left handed, I’ll never forget that. And when she’d drop that arm, the meat [on her arm] would shake all over the place. Chuckles Everybody remembered Mrs. Clovin. She wasn’t very tall, but she was heavy. Had heavy arms.”
Interviewer: “She’d hit you pretty hard, I imagine.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Huh?”
Interviewer: “She’d hit you pretty hard, I imagine.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Oh yeah, just as soon as that arm would drop and that meat would shake see?”
both laugh
CMSgt. Hall: “And a guy by the name of Roy [last name unknown, possibly Years?]...I think, yeah I think he was in the fifth grade. He’d always try to make fun of her and she caught him one day, see.”
Interviewer: “Oh no”
CMSgt. Hall: “And she started whacking on this guy and he just kinda ran – that made her mad, you see. The more he ran the harder she would hit.” laughs
Interviewer: “Well, he ought not to of ran, now had he?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Oh Lord.”
Interviewer: “Well, how did you enjoy being at Xavier?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Oh well, I enjoyed it, but it’s just, you see, I was interviewed by Mother [name unknown] who was the dean, She interviewed all the freshmens, and so when it came my time, I put my tie on, shirt and all to meet her and she said “Mr. Hall, we have awarded you a four year atheletic scholarship.” And then she said, “Now however, [this requires something special from you?], one you must maintain a ‘B’ average.” Then she paused, see, I had a ‘B’ average at Hungerford, you see. She said, “That includes the Catholic religion.” I said “Oh Lord!” laughs I had two years of Latin at Hungerford, see, and that’s what saved me. See, Hungerford was a private school and they had to teach two years of a foreign language.”
Interviewer: “Gotcha, okay.”
CMSgt. Hall: “So like Latin. Now, all the other high schools taught French, Spanish, and Latin. Hungerford only had one, and it just so happened to be a Catholic school. It came in handy.
Interviewer: “Well hey, you went into the military and they’re all about Latin so-”
CMSgt. Hall: “Yeah!”
Interviewer: “So when uh-”
CMSgt. Hall: “So after she interviews me, a classmate, her name’s Catherine Brown – she used to sit right across from me, see. So she’s having problems with her math, now I know she’s a staunch Catholic, all her brothers and sisters had gone to private school, her parents were Catholic, and she’s Catholic and so around the time we had an exam I was invited to, y’know - “Oh I can help you with math, if you can help get me through the catechisms. She didn’t live too far from the campus and so every time I had a test – I made a date with her. So I’d say hey, cause you couldn’t go too far from campus at night, so I’d show up early cause we got a test tomorrow. I’d show up with the book and we’d sit out on her porch and she got me through.”
Interviewer: “Well, okay, that was good!”
CMSgt. Hall: “Without her, I couldn’t have made it. She couldn’t have made it through math, either. They were Catholics at Hungerford, see most schools didn’t teach Catholics at that time.”
Interviewer: “Wait most schools didn’t teach Catholics?”
CMSgt. Hall: “No, not at that time, but Hungerford did, though.”
Interviewer: “That’s… huh, that’s… interesting.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Yeah.”
Interviewer: “Is it because there weren’t a lot of Catholics around here, is that what it was?”
CMSgt. Hall: “I don’t know. There wasn’t that many, cause most of my classmates were from someplace else. Some of them came from New York, and Pennsylvania, Pittsburg there was one from Philadelphia.
Interviewer: “So when you were in high school, going to Hungerford, so what you’re saying is that it wasn’t just local kids.”
CMSgt. Hall: “ No no, they were from all over.”
Interviewer: “Wow, okay.”
CMSgt. Hall: “And incidentally, there was one from Alabama.”
Interviewer: “Well my apologies on that one. So when you graduated and went on to Tuskegee [correction: Xavier], you went on an athletic scholarship so what teams did you play on while you were there?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Football”
Interviewer: “Okay and what teams did you play on? [Correction: interviewer mean position]
CMSgt. Hall: “Half-back, er, running back.”
Interviewer: “Okay, so you were a running back, then?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Yeah, that’s what’s wrong with my legs now.”
Interviewer: “Oh bless – I’m sorry.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Yeah got scars all over them. Back in those days, we used those old quilts.”
Interviewer: “Oh I see.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Now they use a hard rubber, and when you’re a running back, they try to get you to stumble over your legs to slow you down.”
Interviewer: “Did y’all have hard helmets back then or the leather?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Soft.”
Interviewer: “Oh y’all had the soft helmets.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Yeah, and when I went to Hungerford, we got the hand-me-downs from Rollins College.”
Interviewer: “Y’all got the hand-me-downs from Rollins?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Yeah.”
Interviewer: “Huh.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Soft helmets, the hip pads – you had to wrap them around about twice and tape.”
Interviewer: “And y’all had your own jerseys too?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Yeah”
Interviewer: “Okay”
CMSgt. Hall: “I got a picture just over there. That case that’s hanging on the wall was the first athletic team from Hungerford, and the letter from it.”
Interviewer: “That’s cool. So then you got drafted- ”
CMSgt. Hall: “Oh that, now that’s a doozy. Now what happened was the sisters says, ‘Now Mr. Hall, if you stay in school, we can protect you from the draft.’ Well, they didn’t have that much power, so then they said, ‘If you join the reserves, that’ll protect you and keep you in school. So I joined the reserves. Sounded good to me, y’know? Well, it didn’t my sophomore year. Something happened that year and they called me into duty. So when I took the exams – they had to give you exams – they decided ‘Well, we’re gonna send you to Aircraft Manual School’ at Chanute Aircraft Base in Illinois.’ I had heard about it but aside y’know, I had no idea what it was. It was nothing but corn fields, so, flat. It was good for flying. It wasn’t anything like the Appalachian mountains or the Caracas[?]. They call it the ‘breadbasket’.”
Interviewer: “Gotcha, okay.”
CMSgt. Hall: “And that’s where I ended up.”
Interviewer: “And where was that located again?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Chanute Airforce Base in Illinois.”
Interviewer: “In Illinois, okay. Wow, y’all really were in the middle of corn country.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Yeah, and I’m from Florida, so it was cold to me. The first time I saw snow was in Louisiana.”
Interviewer: “Yeah you probably were cold!”
CMSgt. Hall: laughs
Interviewer: “Lord have mercy.”
CMSgt. Hall: Back during the first time I saw snow, all the guys – they were all from northern places. They were all, “What do you mean you’ve never, it’s just snow?” and I was just - “Man, it’s beautiful! I’ve never seen snow before!”
Interviewer: “You probably got a bate of that pretty quick, I’d imagine. So then you went to Illinois, is that where you got your mechanical training?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Right, Aircraft Maintenance School.”
Interviewer: “So you were never a pilot.”
CMSgt. Hall: “No, I was flight engineer.”
Interviewer: “Gotcha, okay. So, when you were serving, where, when they finally deployed you- ”
CMSgt. Hall: “Well when they deployed us, they sent me to France, when I first joined the Tuskegee Airmen.”
Interviewer: “Okay so you were deployed in France during WWII.”
CMSgt. Hall: “That was one of the places, yeah. After I left this country I went to France. After France we went to Germany!
Interviewer: “So what was that like?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Oh, terrible! War torn country, people hungry. Kids- babies starving to death. Hitler had drafted - I saw boys about that high holding a rifle and the rifle was dragging the ground. Cause he’d killed off all the men, so he decided to draft all the males.”
Interviewer: “So these young boys wouldn’t have been no more than what? Twelve?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Twelve? Yeah. Cause one had his rife over his shoulder and the butt was dragging the ground and he was holding onto the muzzle.”
Interviewer: “Wow, bless his heart.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Yeah, small boys.”
Interviewer: “And how long were you serving there?”
CMSgt. Hall: “I got there in ‘43 to ‘45.”
Interviewer: “So 43 to 45. That would have been about-”
CMSgt. Hall: “Wait, 42 to 45. Well, no that would have been 44 to 45. That time.”
Interviewer: “So you served there for about a year.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Yeah, but you see I went to Europe 3 times altogether in WWII.”
Interviewer: “So when you were deployed, did you ever come home at any time?”
CMSgt. Hall: “No! Back in those days, when the war’s over I came home.”
Interviewer: “Okay, so you were truly there several years then.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Well the war was over in ‘45 and I went over in 43-44. I came out of school in 43… I came out of school and [got trained] and went directly to Europe.”
Interviewer: “Gotcha. So you were in Europe for probably about 2 years.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Yeah that time, that was my first trip. I went back after then.”
Interviewer: “So you’d never been out of the country before that point.”
CMSgt. Hall: “No, that was my first time out of the country.”
Interviewer: “Wow, have you been back – back to France since then?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Well yeah, after the war, during my 20 something, 30 years. I went back twice.”
Interviewer: “What do you think of it now?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Well, it’s quite an improvement!” laughs “You don’t seen any more hungry people now. All the houses where people live are on the street and not in basements.”
Interviewer: “Now you were primarily an aircraft mechanic, but did you ever serve in trenches or infantry at all?”
CMSgt. Hall: “No, never. The only time I had to dig a trench was when I went to Korea. I was on Okinawa, and my wife – I was waiting for over a year for house and my wife was supposed to travel to Okinawa and join me. I waited for about 9 months for that house. If you’re on the housing list, you have to wait til someone else moves our or dies or something. And so I was talking to my wife by phone, it was one of those that you had to wait til the other person was done talking before you talked back. And I talked to her at night, certain times of night directly, that was in November of ‘49. Yeah, and I was gonna get the house sometime in ‘50 cause I was supposed to get it on the 25th of June and I said ‘Don’t take that house back because my wife is supposed to be here the 1st of July.’ I wanted to get flowers in the yard, build me some bamboo furniture, get the house ready on the inside. So they let me off, gave me a Jeep, let me off because my wife’s coming down. Colonel came by one day didn’t have a radio or nothing, I was just getting my house together and he came by one day and he says ‘Hall when was the last time you qualified for the rifle range?’ I said ‘Man, don’t you remember? We qualified together! Don’t you remember’ I remembered that they’d already asked me this question so I wondered, ‘I’m already qualified, why would you ask me this question?’ He says ‘Get in the Jeep and we’ll go by supply and draw a couple of rounds [?] See the rifle range wasn’t too far, and on our way over there, he says ‘Look a country up north just decided to fight among themselves.’ Now I don’t have no radio, been out of contact for a couple of weeks with my outfit while putting my house together, I had no reason – and he says ‘A little country up north has decided to fight among themselves.’ and I said ‘Well, Colonel, what does that have to do with us?’ says ‘We already fought one war.’ ”
Interviewer: “Yeah, we just got done with one.”
CMSgt. Hall: “ He said, ‘Well, we’ve been selected because because of the type of aircraft we have” - We had night fighters at that time. I said, ‘You can’t find somebody to send over there? We’ve already been to war.’ He said, “Well, we’ve been selected because we’ve got nightfighters. That was in June and by September I was on my way to Korea.”
Interviewer: “And WWII had only been over for just a little short while, hadn’t it?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Yeah, ‘45.”
Interviewer: “Which one do you think was worse?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Both of them! Oh Lord! When I got to Korea, Colonel says ‘Find a place for your outfits.” I had a platoon, and we all found an old school house that was on base that didn’t have no top on it, but it had a pot belly stove in the middle of it. Now when I was in Okinawa, Okinawa at that time was like Florida, Korea was like New York or Maine! That’s the difference: north and south. So we out of the south, no winter clothes – cold. They took our warm clothes away in Okinawa because it was hot, like Florida. And so I – and now [unintelligible] moved next to us and they used our runway since they had their own aircraft, so we’d use the same runway. So I got to know the suppliers over there and I told them, ‘Y’know what? I have an aircraft going back to Japan to take aircraft parts everyday, now I could have a case of whatever you like to drink on the next one’ Since I wrote the messages. And he went for it! They all these new clothes, brand new skates that buckled like this – they had these clothes where you zip the legs out like this- . They had hoods goggles, hoods attached to coats on the collars, the whole nine yards. So I made a deal with him. I said ‘Now I can have a case of whatever you drink on that manifest since I’m getting aircraft parts every other day from Japan.’ And that’s how I got my whole outfit clothes.”
21:31 ish
Interviewer: “You had to get you something warm!”
CMSgt. Hall: “I gave the Colonel my first box, and he asked me ‘Where’d you get it from, Hall?’ I just gave him that look and he said ‘Oh I don’t want to know.’ I got the second one.”
Interviewer: “So you were stationed in Okinawa first then and then they shipped you over to Korea.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Oh yeah, I went from there to Korea.”
Interviewer: “Okay, because I guess, for some reason, I thought they just sent straight to Korea, but they had the station in Okinawa, first.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Yeah, they had the military station in Okinawa, but they had a bunch of guys from the States, too. The [unintelligible] I had never heard of them before, this was something new. They had their own tanks, field artillery and aircraft. They were designed as a strike-force, to take out tankers and such. So I got to know them, they had new clothes and here my guys were cold.”
Interviewer: “So how cold did it get in Korea?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Just like it did in New York City! It was just like if you moved from Florida to New York. Moved from Okinawa to Korea. Same difference if you look at the map, it’s just as far north as New York.”
Interviewer: “Huh! Really?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Yeah, just look at the map sometime. I had a map around someplace. I had one in my desk, see that desk right there?”
Interviewer: “So, going back to WWI, what-”
CMSgt. Hall: “You mean WWII.”
Interviewer: “Oh you’re right, I’m sorry.”
CMSgt. Hall: “My uncle was in WWI.”
Interviewer: “So what battalion and squadron were you part of?”
CMSgt. Hall: “51st Fighter in Korea, 332nd in Europe.”
Interviewer: “Now, from what I understand they disbanded the Tuskegee Airmen in 1945.”
CMSgt. Hall: “No it was into ‘49. President Truman said we needed to have integrated service. We only had one service. That happened in 1949.”
Interviewer: “So at that point they desegregated it?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Yeah, that’s what I said in 1949. I ended up with Col. Davis, y’know Benjamin O. Davis? He was the first black to finish at West Point. I got his picture around here someplace. He sends out for us and says ‘They’re gonna abandon this outfit,’ and we said ‘Where are we going?’ and he said ‘Wherever the Air Force is.’ At that time the Air Force was brand new. So I ended up on Okinawa, nine of us. And when we got to Okinawa, they promoted once a year. That December all nine of us had been promoted. Everybody else was like, ‘You just got here! How did you get promoted?!’ But what they didn’t realized is that we just fought in WWII.”
Interviewer: “So how long were you in Korea?”
CMSgt. Hall: “Well, that time, let’s see… From September right to December then we came back to Japan, and then we flew back and forth from Japan to Korea. Then the Air Force said ‘You can go home now, or you can have your wife join you in Japan. Now, I’m still on flying status, see, every other day, all of of a sudden I said, ‘Y’know what? This war is still going on, but I think I’ll go home.’”
Interviewer: “So, you didn’t go back, then, after that.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Well, I flew back and forth to Korea for about three months after that. From January into June so almost five months.”
Interviewer: “So at that point you were able to go back and forth then, between Japan and home.”
CMSgt. Hall: “No, my wife – When I got the offer for her to come over, that meant I had enough time for her to join me over there.”
Interviewer: “Oh, so she joined you in Japan?”
CMSgt. Hall: “No, they wanted her to!”
Interviewer: “Oh they wanted her to join you in Japan!”
CMSgt. Hall: “And I said, ‘No, I’m still on flying status, no way, uh uh.’”
Interviewer: “So you opted to go back home.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Right. Because, y’know, there’s still- war’s still going on and folks on flying status could do what they wanted to.”
Interviewer: “Gotcha, okay.”
CMSgt. Hall: “Come back home, then our first child was born, that’s when I got off flying status. That’s when I got off flying status. Flying status meant that they could just yank you out whenever, not that you were qualified to fly.”
[End of Recording]