Robert Carter, who joined B-1 at Pearl Harbor’s Manana Barracks, was one of the Lambert Field bandsmen who got busted for refusing to clean latrines. He had been recruited by Bowden, who recounted the incident for Samuel Floyd:
I had an order to check the band in St. Louis. I got many of those orders when something went wrong. So, I wanted to get back home, so I dashed in to St. Louis. The guys there should have been out, but they were not allowed out. They were restricted. So I went out to this base, and they didn’t know I was supposed to be there, so I got to the [Black] guys. This piano player from Kansas City was in charge of the band. He told me that the musicians that were assigned to the base–that was our unit–were not performing musical duties.
I asked, “Well, what are you doing?”
“Well, we’re doing the latrine, we are doing all the other dirty work that the sailors should be doing, and the sailors are taking care of our duties.”
I said “Well, how can this happen?”
“Well, they’re St. Louis boys. The white boys wanted to come in just like we did. So the white boys got in there first, the musicians, and they had the musical chores to do.
So when our unit went down there, the official music unit, they were given all of the dirty work and not any of the music duties. So, the guys rebelled. I said, “Now, wait until I get out from here and get back to Great Lakes, and you do your thing.” Well, this piano player-I can’t remember his name, quite an outstanding guy in Kansas City. But anyway, he gave the order; he had charge of the band. And the guys, the next morning, they didn’t go on latrine duty. And they court-martialed them.
Well, when I got the order from Commander Denfeld, there was nothing I could do then because I hadn’t gotten through to Commander Denfeld. So these guys were court-martialed and sent back to Great Lakes, where they were busted. After they had the trial, my orders were to send them to the worst places that could be found, to replace them with anybody! So then, I had to find places throughout where there were bands that needed other guys. I sent the guys out in twos.
The guy who had charge of this got the worst deal. He was assigned–and he was a musician first class–he was assigned to Kodiak, Alaska. There was no band in Kodiak, Alaska, and that poor guy had to stay up there. I visited from time to time. He was up there, a man without a country-musician first class, tremendous pianist, marvelous conductor-he was there on the base doing nothing for the duration.
• • •
U.S. Navy photos depict a 22-piece band stationed at Lambert Field, directed by white bandmaster T.R. Hardin and led by P.H. McDavid, Mus2c.
Identified as members of the dance band: W.C. DeLaRose and P.I. Dougherty, sax; W. Seals, baritone; V.L. Page, bass; J.I. Dudley and E.B. Leadbetter, drums; B.M. Booker, bass; H. Lumpkin, trombone; C.H. Holmes, J.A. Terrell, and W.M. Marchand, clarinet; C.E. Pittman, clarinet; E.M. Douthitt, R. McDuffie, W.H. Matthews, L. Goatley and W.H. Washington, trumpet; R.B. Venn and S.C. Green, Jr. alto. The photo accompanying these only shows 16 players and clearly depicts 4 trumpet players, 3 trombonists, and at least 5 saxophonists.
Several if not many Black Navy men formed baseball teams, too:
“A Little Known Legacy: The Great Lakes Experience: A Salute to African American Navy Bandsmen at the Great Lakes Naval base, 1942-1945. A Weekend of Nostalgia.” Feb. 28 – Mar. 2, 2003, Chicago, IL: 29.
“Navy Band Goes in for Baseball Too.” Pittsburg Courier. 3 July 1943: 18.
August 16, 2023