Tucked within the US Army Transportation Museum is the Delevan C. Close Auditorium. Its dark wood paneled walls are lined with photos of the Army’s transportation corps, along with regimental colors, and ornate silverware neatly tucked into display cases. Each artifact adds to the story of how soldiers and their equipment are transported.
The transportation corps would not function had it not been for talented mechanics. During WWII, the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) existed to transport soldiers, equipment and supplies to battle; and also existed to take the fight right to enemy forces via fighters and bombers.
Dr. Harry Quinton was one of those talented mechanics who kept the aircraft in the air. Quinton, a 94-year-old Williamsburg resident, was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen. During a candid presentation for a packed audience, he shed some light on his wartime experiences; including the inequality that he and other Tuskegee airmen encountered during and after the war.
Quinton enlisted in the US Army during WWII; and was eventually assigned to the 477th Bombardment Squadron, 602nd Air Engineering Squadron of the Army Air Corps. He clarified for many, and noted that “I’ve never been to Tuskegee, the pilots trained there.” He indicated that the name was applied universally to African Americans within the USAAC; including him, who served as an aircraft mechanic.
Quinton touched on his initial training in Georgia and noted a period during in-processing. He remarked that “if you didn’t get put on a detail, you stayed in the barracks or took a nap. One thing, the Army always had something for us to do, guard duty, KP, go pick up cigarettes from the ground” was one of facets he mentioned which struck a chord with many soldiers, civilians and airmen in the packed auditorium.
He recalled some of the guard duties he pulled, and that at times, he was assigned to guard African American military inmates. He noted that “if the [African-American] inmate gets away, you have to serve his term,” and even noted that captured German Prisoners of War were treated better and had more PX privileges that he did.
Lastly, among the many other interesting facets of his military service, he touched on his role as a mechanic keeping B-25 Mitchell bombers flying. The bombers were manufactured by North American Aviation, and over 10,000 were produced throughout the duration of WWII.
He remarked that “being a pilot was dangerous work. Just being up flying was dangerous work. Were not birds, we build these machines and we put things up in the air, if its not running right you cant just pull over to the curb or call triple A,” which brought a roar of laughter among audience members. The presentation concluded with some closing remarks by Alisha Hamel, the museum’s director. Afterwards, many in the audience lined up to meet him and thank him for his service; which, for many, equated to a rare photo opportunity.
About the US Army Transportation Museum:
The US Army Transportation Museum is the only museum that is dedicated to preserving the history of U.S. Army Transportation. The museum collects, preserves, educates and exhibits the history of transportation in the U.S. Army, beginning with the Continental Army in 1775 to the present date. It promotes transportation heritage to military and civilian visitors and promotes a source of esprit de corps within the Transportation Regiment. It also communities through exhibit and programs, the role of U.S. Army’s Transportation Corps, and its efforts and accomplishment in the development of our nation. The museum is located on Fort Eustis, Virginia. More information about the museum can be found here: https://transportation.army.mil/museum/index.html
About the Hampton Roads Naval Museum:
The Hampton Roads Naval Museum (HRNM) is one of ten U.S. Navy museums that are operated by the Naval History & Heritage Command. It celebrates the long history of the U.S. Navy in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia and is co-located with Nautilus in downtown Norfolk, Virginia. The museum houses original artifacts which detail over 240 years of naval history; from the Age of Sail through the Vietnam War Era and beyond. Admission to the museum is free, simply by-pass the ticket line and take the stairs or elevator to the museum on the second deck. More information about the museum can be found at https://www.facebook.com/HRNavalMuseum/