Rev. Dr. Raymond R. Wilkinson
Roanoke, Virginia's Civil Rights Pioneer
WORLD WAR 2 NAVY
Raymond R. Wilkinson at age 18 in the US Navy during World War 2 in early 1942.
JOINING THE US NAVY
On December 7th, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on a US Naval base in Honolulu, Hawaii. The United States were now at war with Japan and the US draft started for men to fight in World War 2. Raymond R. Wilkinson joined the US Navy at age 18 serving 4 years. During that time, the US Army and Navy were both segregated. Life for African American men in the army or navy were not easy. Black men who served were either assigned as cooks or dug graves for soldiers killed during the war. Some black men never saw combat and never fired a weapon because black men were not allowed to point guns at white officers. The only time black men were allowed to hold a gun was during a military photo shoot. White officers always made sure that there were no bullets in their guns when African American soldiers took pictures.
Instead of being assigned to combat while serving in the US Navy, Raymond was assigned to numerous other tasks and duties. A few of his assignments were cleaning the barracks on the ship, cooking for the white officers and white navy crewmen, scrubbing down Naval artillery on US Destroyers, shining officers’ shoes and belt buckles. But the most heart wrenching jarring task of all for Raymond was digging graves while counting and burying the bodies of the dead in the South Pacific. This task was only assigned to black men in a segregated Navy. Burying numerous amounts of bodies of dead men who had fallen during World War 2 would have a profound scarring effect on Raymond.
BATTLE OF OKINAWA
(Press play button)
Okinawa Japanese Kamikaze Attack on US Navy Fleet WW2 Footage on April 1945.
From April 1st, 1945, through June 22nd, 1945, in Okinawa, Japan, thousands of Japanese Kamikaze aircraft viciously attacked thousands of US Navy Fleets. The Japanese also attacked the US Army by land with thousands killed on both sides. This battle became known as the Battle of Okinawa. By sea approximately 177 US Destroyer ships were being attacked under heavy fire every minute by Japan. Raymond was on one of those US Destroyers which was endlessly under attack by enemy fire.
RAYMOND'S SACRED VOW TO GOD
During the Japanese attack amid the massacre, destruction, horror, blood, and death that surrounded him; it was there in that chaotic moment that Raymond got down on his knees and spoke to God. He made a sacred vow that he will dedicate the rest of his life to serve and spread God's word if he made it back home alive. When the battle ended over 386 US Destroyers were damaged and over 105 ships were sunk by enemy action. The Battle of Okinawa was one of the bloodiest in the Pacific. There were approximately 160,000 casualties on both sides. Through all that horror God answered Raymond prayers, he survived and decided to become a minister. But little did Raymond know this path would lead him to fight another battle called segregation.