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A 96-year-old man's reflections on his time as a young Black soldier in World War II


Time now for StoryCorps's Military Voices Initiative that records and shares the stories of service members and their families. A note now - this piece contains offensive, racist language. When Nazim Abdul Karriem was 18 years old, he was drafted into World War II. It was 1942. Many Black men were being called up to serve in segregated units. Abdul Karriem spent four years overseas. He survived the battle at Normandy, and at the age of 96, he came to StoryCorps to reflect on his time in the service and what he found when he came home after the war.

NAZIM ABDUL KARRIEM: I was in the amphibious outfit. We drove out in the Atlantic Ocean, picking up dead soldiers, pulling them in and bringing them back to shore. You would have to build up a resistance, that you would do your job regardless to feelings. And you thought about it later. And sometimes I think about it now. Well, when I was discharged January 31, 1946, the MP came to me and asked me for my discharge. I told him it was in the bottom of my duffel bag, and he said, [expletive], the war is over. Get in your place. I can't describe it - all that time, sleeping in the rain, snow and sleet on the ground all up through Europe, to come back here with the same old attitude. If I knew then like I know now, I would not have gone. I would have gone to jail. I learned that I was more than what I thought I was, what I was told that I was. And I learned how to love myself.


SIMON: Sheikh Nazim Abdul Karriem died. In the year after this recording, he was 97 years old. His final resting place is the Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia. This interview is archived at the U.S. Library of Congress.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.