Linton Freeman interview, 2006

Staff Sargeant Linton Freeman gives a reading called "War" of his experiences during World War II. He begins in 1943, somewhere in Germany, but he was not permitted to explicitly state where he was in Germany. He describes what the definition of war is, and what he thinks that soldiers believe the definition of war is: "War is Hell." He states that war will always be a part of the human experience despite of all of the atrocities associated with war. Freeman continues by stating that man becomes self-centered and that is what causes war. Instead according to Freeman, people should give themselves entirely to God. He mentions segregation and ties it into the war. He concludes his story by saying study on those who lead the country before voting, but that voting is necessary. He then relates a second story about the war. This time it is called the "Thoughts of Linton Freeman." Here he discusses discrimination in the workforce at length.

Participants: Freeman, Linton (interviewee)
Collection: Academy of American History
Institutional Repository: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Interview Transcript

Linton Freeman [00:00:00] All right. War by Staff Sergeant Linton Freeman. This is in the year of 1943, the year that I was in the service, and it's somewhere in Germany. As you know, those of us who were in the war, World War Two, we were not permitted at all times to tell where we were. So we just say somewhere in Germany. Webster's definition of the word, or term war is a contest between states carried on by forces and conflicts, state of hostility and so forth. It also says that the word has many self-explanatory compounds. But I am certain that the one definite that most soldiers would give for war would be war is hell, with fervent emphasis on hell. But even if that is the consensus of opinion and definition of most soldiers, those who are endowed with keen foresight and vision can see some advantages as well as the many disadvantages of war. Wars have always been and always will be, even if on smaller scale. The Bible tells us that there will be wars and rumors of wars. And I believe all persons who read the Holy Bible with unbiased conception can see the Bible fulfilling itself each day, week, month, and year. And I pray that if, for the sake of Christianity only, God's word will always come to pass. Yes, it is true that with war always come sacrifices, suffering, grievances, disappointments, oppression, and last, but certainly not least, death to untold millions. It is true that God has created man in his own image and likeness. He has given him dominion over every living creature on earth. He has given him a brain. And as a result, man has exhibited much ingenuity to the extent that he can think and make plans by which mountains can be tunneled and the mighty deep bridged. As a result of his scientific knowledge, he can create the most deadly weapon for the destruction of mankind and plant life. But how sad a thought it is that man will, with all his ability to think and create, and with all the Christianity that he confesses to have, cannot make nor agree on a plan, instrument, system, nor cause strong or great enough to bring about everlasting, wanted, desired, and prayed-for peace. As before stated, there are certain advantages, or should I say, benefits, derived from the war. But it is too bad that men must sacrifice, suffer, and die to attain these benefits. As a result of the war, man is forced to exert every fraction of his thinking ability to combat his enemy, and as a result, he is able to tell, for the most part, the kind of human creature God has created. And the realization comes of the unquestionable power of our creator. As a result of war, man comes to realize that he of himself is nothing, but it's through and by the power and grace of his creator that he lives and has his being. And this, of all the effects and expressions of war, is one of the greatest. I might add here that one of the reasons for war is that man becomes self-possessed, self-centered, thoughtless, and mindful of his own guilt, unto him all that possesses. Another significant and real benefit derived from war is the elevation of oppression and bondage of a race of people. the liberation of people of the above mentioned evil can only come as a result of the loss of many men. Free, enslaved, white and black alike. War is an epoch of new avenues for opportunities. If I would say that the loss of lives in the above respect is worthwhile, I would contradict myself in a previous paragraph. I firmly believe that if men were to adhere to and live according to the Ten Commandments, we would be a most happy people and have a peaceful world, because embodied in those Ten Commandments are the requisites necessary by which men live a happy and peaceful life. I now think of the travel experience, opportunities, and advances of achievement. Yes, there are deprivation, but less chance for dissipation as a result of being regimented. This is another advantage effect of war, and if an early start is made, man has a chance to mold and make of himself a strong body and mind. But of all things stated above, war is hell. The war has helped the Negro in several ways. For instance, it has broken down many barriers which confronted him before the war. But I am not forgetful of the fact that there are yet unsurmountable obstacles which we as a race must overcome before we can say we enjoy the same democracy that other races are now enjoying. It is my belief and observation, along with others, that we shall be confronted with problems of economic equality in the postwar world, and we can never be satisfied nor happy and enjoy democracy in its fullness until we are in the realization of equal rights and opportunities. In my close observation of the Negro soldier and his attitude toward unfair treatment, I feel that we can visualize clearer now than ever before the job of rectifying certain evils that are now present and await him upon return to civilization or civil life. And if he, after returning to his civilian status, carries with him the same alertness and indignation to the unfair practice of inequality, segregation, prejudice, there won't be any existing forces to keep the Negro race from rising to untold height. It is also my belief that as a result of this war, and because of such dire need, we are going to have much better leaders among us. There has never been a time in the history of our civilization that we have had need for real leaders more than now and in the future. And if any race of people or a nation is to succeed in its efforts, real leaders are needed. From here on, we must have leaders who are fully aware of our need and are willing to work, fight, and, if necessary, die for those things we feel and know we are entitled to by the right of the Constitution of the United States of America. Nanny H. Burroughs, a writer for the People's Voice, makes references to some leaders as being hungry, climbing, clowning, handkerchief-headed, hat in hand, handpicked behind closed doors, bread and butter, and self-appointed political parasite. We must be very careful not to select nor appoint leaders of the kind mentioned. We need dynamic leaders with abilities, vision, foresight, who can bring about the kind of unity and oneness that is so necessary to achieve the most of our effort. We need true, real, honest to goodness leaders. One of our greatest weapons in our effort to assure ourselves of the real leaders is the vote. Because should we elect the man of our own choice to a position of high representation, and during the course of his administration, we find we have made the wrong decision in our choice, then it is up to us to make sure that the same isn't given a second chance to impede our efforts and progress. Then, as a result, future candidates seeking to represent us or take leading roles will know what we expect from those who we choose by vote as our leaders. I behold, it beholds every negro man and woman armed with the weapons of vote to study carefully the background and platform of every office-seeking candidate. And after the close study, don't sit back and wait for your fellow countrymen to do your job, but you will go to the polls and exercise your own right, power and weapon. Vote. Some of the things in our minds as we fight. And this again, is in 1943 by Staff Sergeant Linton Freeman. I have written this article on the strength of the things I have seen, observed and felt, and the absence of my wife and family. The sacrifices and efforts I have made have affected me the same as other men. These and other unmentioned facts constitute my thoughts and feelings that cause me to express the hell of war. The things we fight for and the things we hope to enjoy as a result of fighting are not realized in full. We are fighting to preserve a democracy that is not yet for all the people, by all the people, nor of all the people of the United States. But as a result of our fighting, we hope to help make the ideals set forth in the Constitution of the United States realized by all the people of the United States. We are not just fighting and dying to be heroes, decorated with a lot of fancy metal, to be distinguished, nor to see how many countries we can invade for sightseeing, but we fight to keep tyrannical forces from invading our homeland. We fight to enjoy freedom and enjoy rights to be the same extent as all of the people of the United States. The right to be trained in any school, university, or church, or of our choice. The right to work on any job training and qualification called for the right to vote for any candidate seeking public office. The right to eat in any restaurant, build or buy homes, enter theaters, or walk on any side of the street and feel free to do so the same as everyone else, regardless of race, color, or creed. Any infraction of the above and all rights and freedoms are acts of discrimination, prejudice, and injustices to those affected. Since being in the Army, I personally have tried to defeat and prove my fallacious thoughts and ideas that some people have in their minds. For instance, I have tried to defeat the idea of keeping a man down simply because of his color or some personal disabilities. And I've tried to prove by my achievement that only in my giving every man an equal chance, an opportunity can hope to find who is the best man for the job. Of course, I realize that it isn't practical to try all men before making a decision. Nor is it logical that every man is qualified for every job. But don't be so stupid, biased, prejudiced, and narrow minded as to refuse a willing man a job simply because of his color or personal dislike. The courts and laws read that every man is innocent until he is found guilty. And I say that every man who wants to work deserves a chance to do the job he is best qualified to do until he proves himself not worthy of the job. It is undemocratic to have jobs waiting to be done and calling for able-bodied men to do them. And when a man applies for the job, he is refused because of his color or the race to which he belongs. We can never hope for a democracy in the fullest sense of its meaning until fair practices and equal opportunities are granted to all men, regardless of race or color. These and other things are causes and reasons for the thing we hate most. War.

Academy of American History

These interviews were conducted between 2004 and 2006 by public school teachers in the Teaching American History (TAH) grant-funded Academy of American History summer institute at Cleveland State University, sponsored by the US Department of Education. The project was a collaboration between CSU, the City Club of Cleveland, Western Reserve Historical Society, and St. Clair-Superior Community Development Corporation. Interviews in this series focus on the Civil Rights movement in Cleveland, Carl…