Madelyn Hollis grew up in Virginia during World War II. She had older brothers, one of whom was drafted into the service, and a brother-in-law who also served in the armed forces.
In this interview, Madelyn describes the experiences of her brother and brother-in-law serving in a segregated army and the frustrations the latter encountered. She also shares on the experience of returning veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Returning Veterans with Shell Shock
A lot of battle scars. When they all came back they were different, you know, because that’s what they were exposed to. And then to me, I don’t think the medical treatment they got was as good as what the guys are even getting now, because they started acting a little weird. Because I remember even when I was in college, we had a guy in there [who], if an airplane flew over the building where we were having classes, he would just go bananas. And they said it was Shell Shock. It was Shell Shock. Now, I don’t know what the medical term really is but, I think it was post-traumatic – what is it? – Post-[Traumatic] Stress Disorder. But he would just go crazy.
Discrimination towards African-American Servicemen
Oh yeah, there was a lot of discrimination in the service. I have a brother-in-law now, who he was so angry about it because when he was stationed down in one of those southern towns, they couldn’t even walk on the sidewalk – they were serviceman. And a lot of them became very, very angry because they’d been over there to fight to save lives, to save this country, but yet, when they came back, they were treated very poorly, very, very poorly. They couldn’t get jobs, they couldn’t get decent housing, they couldn’t go into places and eat.
Segregation in the Army
Yeah, [the army] was segregated. I know that, because I’d hear [my brother-in-law] talk about it. It was segregated. Now they couldn’t go into certain places with their white fellow soldiers. Particularly when they were in the South. But they fought together in the war, you know.
Oldest Brother in the Service
My brother, my oldest brother, was one of the first young men in my small community that went in the war. At that time, they had what was called drafting. They drafted you. You didn’t go because you wanted to go, like they do now. Once you became eighteen, automatically, you had to go down to the — what’d they call it — the local board. It has a name, (laughs) and you had to sign up. And eventually they’d send would for you, very quickly. I remember one time this farmer, in Accomack County – it’s an agrarian county – this farmer wanted my brother to work on his farm, to do something for him. And he said he couldn’t do it. And I bet it was less than two weeks, you know, where he was, in the service and gone.