Goals of Camp Officials in Setting Up Two Units Attained.
By EARL OVERHOLT.
Charleston, April 8. – With the arrival Sunday morning of 36 Negro World War veterans from Washington, the metamorphosis of Camp Alan Johnstone, one of the two veteran rehabilitation projects near the navy yard, becomes complete, an objective long sought by state FERA officials, being attained by the aggregation of Negro veterans in the camp.
With the arrival of these 36 men from Washington at Ashely Junction, Camp Alan Johnstone becomes a solid Negro unit in the set-up from Washington to bring back into useful occupations men who have been temporarily dependent members of society by Virtue of hurts sustained in the performance of their duty during the World War.
One mile away from Camp Alan Johnstone, white “buddies” of their dark-skinned compatriots will carry on in the campaign to regain their status as civilians, the activities at the James H. Palmer, Veterans lodge only being augmented by the new set-up as ordered by Col. James H. Palmer, state veteran rehabilitation director, with officers at Columbia.
Heretofore, the James H. Palmer Veterans’ lodge had an approximate enrolment of 245 men. Today, there is 315 on the roster of that organization. The segregation program was completed by the transfer of 100 men from the Palmer Lodge and the Alan Johnstone camp to Camp Williamsburg, Kingstree, where they will be under the command of Lieut. W. Pierce Pagett, late of the Third Division, and after a brief period of service in Charleston, given command of the Kingstree camp.
In the state set-up as now outline by Colonel Palmer, there will be 115 Negro veterans at Camp Alan Johnstone in Charleston. At Kingstree, where the 100 men from Alan Johnstone and Palmer Lodge were assigned, there will be approximately 200 ex-service men, with none but white veterans on the roster.
At Blaney, near Camden, another 250 men will be quartered, there to take up reforestation activities.
Speaking last night from Columbia over the long distance telephone, Colonel Palmer had this to say about the abrupt shift in the veteran rehabilitation program in so far as it affects South Carolina:
“Since my entry into this work of bringing back World war veterans whose morale has been shattered by their injuries sustained during their service and since by the troublous times of the depression, I have never witnessed a more remarkable ‘comeback’ by the so-called ‘down-and-outers.’
“Previous to the time I embarked upon this veteran rehabilitation program in South Carolina, I was engaged in similar work for the PWA and other relief organizations. It is, therefore, with complete assurance of the benefits being made among these men who gave their best for their country, that I heartily endorse the program of relief being for their country, that I heartily endorse the program of relief being pushed by the authorities at Washington in regard to the men who were heroes in 1918 but forgotten men today.”
“When the first contingent of these veterans arrived last October from Washington in Kingstree. I was aghast at the condition in which I found these men. First flush gave rise to the impression that they were all suffering from some malignant ailment which has reduced them to mere skeletons. Soon, however, I was enlightened. There square meals a day, plenty of sunshine and sleep, made themselves evident, and I discovered that these men were not ill, but merely suffering from malnutrition – in other words, they had not been getting enough to eat to keep body and soul together.
“A sad commentary, indeed, on those who were so loud in their assurances two decades ago that ‘nothing was too good for the veterans.’
“Eighteen years ago yesterday, the United States declared war upon Germany.”
“We all recall the thrilling hours attendant to that stupendous announcement.”
“Now, let us not break faith and give these men a hand up in their battle to regain that which we all prize – a right in the race for pursuit of peace and happiness.”
Captain Gibbes Lykes camp superintendent of the James H. Palmer Veterans’ lodge, last night had only praise to give his new charges.
“These men, while they have been under my observation only a short time, have proved themselves to be what they were trained to be – good soldiers.” he said.
Captain Lykes explained that these men will be under the direct supervision of a non-commissioned personnel, headed by Chief Senior Leader James L. Hall. Mr. Hall has long been identified with Veteran rehabilitation in South Carolina and enjoys the confidence of not only his superior officers in Charleston and Columbia, but of the “recruits” themselves.