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An Interview With Herbert Fennel
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TitleAn Interview With Herbert Fennel
AbstractInterviewer: Edward Scott. Interview recorded January 13, 1976. 1 sound cassette (ca. 60 minutes): analog, stereo.; 5 7/8 x 2 1/2 in., 1/8 in. tape; 1 sound disc; digital; 4 3/4 in. Has printed guide to contents.
NotesSgt. Major Herbert Fennel was born June 11, 1920 in Dallas, Texas, coming to Kansas City at the age of two. He discusses in the interview his early life in Kansas City as well as his experience in the military during World War II and as part of the 242nd Engineer Batallion.
Date1976-01-13
SourceKansas City Public Library; Black Archives of Mid-America, Inc.
LocationSC69-2, Tape 22, CD 22
Local SubjectAfrican Americans
Military
Oral History
World War II
Fennel, Herbert
Item TypeArchival Material
TranscriptionInterview Outline:

Sgt. Fennel's home, located at 3536 Askew, Kansas City, Missouri. Sgt. Major Herbert Fennel was born June 11, 1920, in Dallas, Texas. He came to Kansas City at the age of two and has been a resident ever since. Life for his parents was hard - they picked cotton and did other hard labor. Mother worked in a hospital because of some education. His father's name was Crockett Fennel; mother's name was Lizy Fennel. There were three boys born to his father and mother.

Educational background, attended Attucks, Lincoln High until his junior year. He took trades of shoe repairing and carpenter work. He went to work at Tuskegee Shoe Shop on 18th Street for Mr. Huey Thomas in late 30's. He and his brother, who also was a dropout, picked up coal in railroad tracks to heat their home. He helped younger brother through school while in service. They lived at 1609 East 19th Street which is still standing. The railroad tracks at 20th & Vine. Had gas only sometimes when they could pay bills.

He describes conditions that existed overseas in England. Supply Sgt. was his first post. In Africa he was a motorcycle rider. There were quite a few disturbances except in combat zone. They all got along. He says the Black man was not too bitter about fighting. Their morale really lifted when 92nd Division came over on all which was Black Infantry United. Sgt. Major Fennel says some Black units put up more than 1,000 bridges in Europe. He was in the regular Army for 5 years until 1945. Then he worked at the Post Office in Kansas City.

In August 4, 1949, Capt. Charles E. Gates talked to him about a job with an all Black National Guard. Representative McKinly Neal got it started from Jefferson City, Missouri. They started the 242nd Engineer Battalion (all Black) at 1701 East 18th with 300 or more men and 2 units. They excelled in any type of equipment operations. They had the stamina to go on and always hold their heads high, he says. Service schools were available, and he had 12 or 15 certificates from different service schools.

January 15, 1958, was the year when all units were integrated. Major John L. West over for Colonel Gates. Colonel Gates has Silver Star, Purple Heart, and Bronze Star. The 9th and 10th Cavalry consisted mostly of people from the Kansas City area. It was all volunteer. The role of the women in the military was basically nurses in World War II. Now there are a lot of jobs open to the women now in service. There were no Black nurses in the combat zone that he knew of. His opinion of the all volunteer army is that it is a better army compared to soldiers who were drafted. Youth today can count on job security in military, he says. He feels that draft dodger issue was a touchy situation. He recommends youth get education before entering service. He says if he had to do it all over again, he would.

He was married in September, 1944 on a 30 day furlough from Italy to Mildred, an old school sweetheart. They have three children, Jackie, Gwendolyn, and Herbert Jr. He has five grandchildren. He is thinking about retirement.
Access This ItemYou may come to the Missouri Valley Room to listen to the interview.
Item ID210210
CONTENTdm number36283
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