Loading the player...
Interview conducted with William Franklin “Frank” Wright as part of the Nash County Oral Histories Project. Wright, born 12/23/1918 in Washington, NC, talks about his military service during WWII. He says he was working at a Navy shipyard in Norfolk, VA when he was drafted by the Army in November of 1941. He arrived for basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri on Dec.6, 1941, just one day prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As part of the Army Corps of Engineers, he was sent to MacDill Field, FL and assigned to the 823rd Engineer Aviation Battalion, an all-black unit which built runways, roads, and more for the Air Force. Wright speaks about boarding the SS Santa Paula in Charleston, SC, traveling to an unknown destination in a convoy across the Atlantic. He mentions the ship stopping briefly at a port in western Africa before heading to Durban, South Africa, and eventually Karachi, Pakistan. From there, his unit and their equipment went by a series of trains and boats across India to the Assam Province. Wright’s unit was tasked with building a section of the Ledo Road. He details why the road was constructed, mentioning Gen. Joseph “Vinegar Joe, Stilwell. Wright talks about working on a particularly dangerous section of the road vulnerable to Japanese snipers. He says the construction on the road occurred 24/7 with units working in shifts. He reflects on meeting units from different parts of America, and interactions with some of the Chinese officers who used the road. Wright describes the various illnesses, animals, and insects common to the area which were a threat, mentioning that he was hospitalized twice for malaria. He remembers the groups of native Indians who followed the Allied units, helping with loading and unloading equipment, doing laundry, etc. Wright points out the abundance of different plants in the area, and praises bamboo for being such a versatile resource. He recounts hiding in a trench during a Japanese bombing run on a fuel supply depot where he was sent following his time working on the Ledo Road. Wright speaks about spending time in Kolkata, and details his voyage back to the NC. He talks about his time at Officer Candidate School, and mentions being the only black graduate out of 75-85 officers in his class. He was served as an officer at Ft. Leonard Wood before fulfilling his obligations and being discharged in September, 1946. After retiring for the service prior to the Korean War, Wright moved back to NC. He finishes the interview by speaking briefly about Gen. Colin Powell.