This movie tells a story of people who fought two battles in World War II, battles.
Ossie Davis, one of my favorite actors, stars as the elder Lorenzo DuFau, the rock on whom the story revolves. After being wakened from a sound sleep, and finding the cause to be his grandson (Larry) and his two friends playing the loud noise they called music, Lorenzo tells his grandson to go into his bedroom and get a precious box. He wants them to hear real music.
The young man is surprised because he's never been allowed in the room by himself before and had never gotten to look into the box. Lorenzo gets the one record his favorite singer had made. As the music plays, his grandson looks through the box and discovers the USS Mason. He learns enough to whet his appetite. He gets his grandfather to tell him and his friends the story.
As the movie progresses, we see Larry (Albert Jones) and his two college friends, Kevin (Erik LaRay Harvey), and Marcus (Jeffrey Nash) become DuFau and his two buddies, James Graham and Gordon Buchanan. The story is shown through their eyes.
This was the United States during the ‘30's and ‘40's. Prejudice and racism are a way of life and, depending upon his location, the Black man was either simply ostracized or lived in fear for his life. The military offered one possible exit from part of the problem. At least, in the military, the Black man could get a regular paycheck, even though the rest of his life wasn't much better.
Since Blacks were thought to be incapable of any intellectual activity, they were relegated to being stewards, stevedores, or servants of one kind or another. It was nelieved (among some Whites) that a Black man could never operate intricate equipment such as Sonar or be trusted to fire a naval vessel's heavy guns – after all they mightt sink their own ship.
Then Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States suddenly found itself at war. Despite President Roosevelt's beliefs and activity, the US military was short of everything, including manpower. The call went out:
“Get more Blacks in the military.” At least they could be used in menial tasks and free the White man to do the important work.
A decision is made to crew a warship with Blacks – except the officers, of course. DuFau, Graham and Buchanan join the crew of the USS Mason, the only Black crewed warship to sail into battle in World War II.
During their first trip, they were perhaps primarily responsible for chasing off some Nazi subs. They're shown reaching Ireland. When the other convoy warships offload their crews for much needed liberty; the Mason's crew is told there will be no liberty for them. After all, the US Navy couldn't have these recent escapees from the jungle causing havoc among the Allies and prejudicing them against the United States.
Somewhat heroically, considering the eventual outcome, the Mason's captain, Lt Cmdr Bill Blackford, grants liberty anyway. DuFau, Graham and Buchanan have their first encounter with Irish Whites. Since White men have seen them talking to White women, an almost capital offense in the United States, they are clearly worried when the Whites, who outnumber them, call them over to a building.
Far from wanting to beat them up, the Irishmen stand them to drinks at their pub. The Irishmen laugh when the Blacks try drinking the Irish version of beer. Among other things, many Europeans drink their beer warm. I'm told it's also made differently and has a distinctive taste.
They're made welcome and not only do they speak to White women; they dance with them as well. One of the three friends comments that it was ironic that he had to come so far to be treated as an American.
Following the Mason's involvement in the worst North Atlantic storm in the century, both their captain and the convoy commander, Commodore Alfred Lind, recommended the Mason's crew for commendations. The commendations never come and Blackford is later relieved of command.
Nothing happens for many years until Larry and his two friends get involved. The rest of the movie describes their efforts and what finally occurs.
The review of this Movie prepared by John Mccoy