The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories
Oral history interview Bruce E. Willett
Repository: Wisconsin Veterans Museum. Research Center
Collection Description (Extant): The Chippewa Falls, Wis. native, discusses his World War II service as a radio operator with the Signal Corps and the relationship of his military experience to his post-war involvement with the peace movement. A high school student when the war began, Willett talks about the changes in gym class to prepare students for military service, the attitude that all students would serve, and the reaction when one of his classmates was killed in action. Willett's father was a Methodist minister and he describes the effects of his upbringing on his attitude toward war and military service. After attempting to enlist in both the Navy and the Coast Guard, Willett joined the National Youth Corps (NYC) and comments on the role of this group, his reasons for leaving, and being drafted into service. He mentions duty shoveling coal at Fort Snelling (Minnesota), basic training at Camp Crowder (Missouri), and Signal Corps training in Missouri. While in Missouri, Willett saw segregation for the first time and recounts seeing Black soldiers drilling and riding on segregated busses. He mentions learning Morse Code, assignment to the 2nd Armored Division, daily briefing on the progress of the war, and V-E Day emotions. After V-E Day, Willett was assigned to the JASCO (Joint Assault Signal Company) unit and he discusses training for landing operations, visiting his brother who assisted with development of the nuclear bomb, and his feelings about dropping the nuclear bomb. He talks about military life with the JASCO unit including drinking, gambling, marching in parades, and going on scavenger hunts with other service personnel. Willett became involved in the peace movement after his discharge. He touches upon protesting mandatory ROTC training at the University of Wisconsin, joining the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), marching with Father Groppi in protest of discrimination, and his relief work in the South. He discusses his work against the Vietnam War such as counseling young men on ways to avoid Vietnam, the number of veterans in anti-war protest groups, and reactions of people to veterans in such organizations.
Origin Info: Interviewed by Mark D. Van Ells on April 9, 1996 in Wisconsin as part of the Wisconsin Veterans Oral History Project.
Access Copy Note: User copy available: 2 sound cassettes analog 1 7/8 ips mono (ca. 95 min.).
Collection URL: http://wisvetsmuseum.worldcat.org/oclc/56882411
Digital Status: No
Existing IDs: (ocm)56882411; OH 227
Extent: 0.1 linear ft. (1 folder); 1 sound cassette analog 1 7/8 ips mono (ca. 95 min.)
Interviewees: Bruce E. Willett
Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights
Civil rights movements--Wisconsin
Civil rights workers--Mississippi
Discrimination in the military
Fellowship of Reconciliation (U.S.)
Groppi, James, 1930-1985