- Associated Press - Monday, February 10, 2014

BELOIT, Wis. (AP) - Today, every February, the nation celebrates Black History Month and the accomplishments of African-Americans.

But for many blacks, those recognitions came late. Or never.

For William Cole, 90, of Racine and formerly of Beloit, those days remain implanted in his memory as a bleak reminder of the way things used to be. Cole, a proud veteran of the 93rd Infantry Division, served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Many people never knew much about the 93rd Division or what it did.

“We were in almost every campaign,” he said. Yet, little recognition was given to the all-black division of enlisted men led by white officers.

At the time of his induction, Cole was 19 and didn’t realize he would be separated and segregated while serving his own country.

Cole and all the other recruits from Beloit were first sent off to Camp McCoy in Wisconsin. From there, they were moved to Fort Custer for training in Michigan.

“That’s where we found out the color lines were changing,” he told the Beloit Daily News (http://bit.ly/1c1mKTV).

On the next journey in their training, the units were separated by race.

“By that time, we got the message,” he said of being part of an all-black unit heading for Camp Wheeler, near Macon, Ga.

Cole said among the training concerns was that many of the black units were given wooden rifles with which to march. Those concerns were raised and finally, real rifles were provided.

Eventually, they were sent to the South Pacific in 1944. There they were trained in jungle-type warfare, Cole said.

The 93rd Division campaigns included New Guinea, Northern Solomons (Bougainville), Bismarck Archipelago (Admiralty Islands).

While Cole was in combat from time to time, he was mostly behind the lines working as a communications technician with a radio.

“I was fired on but never injured,” he said.

Cole worked with his unit in covert operations.

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