In his 30 years of Navy service Loftis Benn witnessed monumental shifts in America’s military including three wars and desegregation within the ranks.
Mr. Benn was one of a half-dozen blacks in a white unit numbering more than 300 after President Harry Truman’s historic order to kick start the integration of the Armed Forces in 1948.
“I’m sure there were some whites who didn’t want me, probably didn’t want me to aboard, but I didn’t let that deter me,” said Mr. Benn. He served as a clerk and won praise from his superiors for his organization and high motivation on the job.
One of his commendation letters reads:
It is my pleasure to commend you in your efforts to make the personnel department one of the best in the command.
“I got along with my shipmates, and of course always got along with everybody,” recalled Benn.
He would see tours across theaters in the Pacific, Europe and on several military bases stateside.
“As far as seeing the world, learning people, I think it was a good thing for me,” said Benn.
But he was quick to point out that he did not face combat during three different wars that spanned his Navy service. In WWII, Korea and Vietnam, the Navy yeoman’s role was in reserve.
After his military service Benn was known as master bridge player and square dancer.
The 91-year-old Navy veteran died on Saturday, April 22, just a couple weeks after his interview with 10News.