The 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion spent a brief, but blissful, time in the villages ringing Pontypool in southern Wales. Here, the men were welcomed as friends. Jessie and Godfrey Prior family took in homesick GI WIlson Monk, who became a surrogate son. Members of the Prior family helped in the research for Forgotten and several attended Linda's talk at the Pontypool Museum on Dec. 10, 2016. It was a great day!
The months the men of FORGOTTEN spent training in the villages of Wales before D-Day left a lasting impression. For the black GIs of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, it was the first time in their lives they were welcomed as men, worthy of respect, just like the white Americans soldiers. To the Welsh, it was a brush with foreigners that they would never forget. For most of them, it was the first time they had men people of color. The black GIs -- the "tan Yanks" as they were affectionately called -- were the talk of the towns ringing Pontypool, Wales.
At an event on Sept. 24 to commemorate the black soldiers, historians, descendants of the soldiers, local residents and descendants of the families who welcomed the African Americans gathered at Trinity Methodist Church in Abersychan. Some of the men of FORGOTTEN like Wilson Monk were billeted there in early 1944. I was honored to be a part of the ceremony organized by the BBC to remember the black soldiers. Footage will be used in the upcoming series Black in Britain, set to air in November. The plaque affixed to the church wall behind me and historian Neil Sinclair honors the black soldiers. I'm looking forward to returning to the area on December 10 for a launch at the Pontypool Museum. See my events.