Kids learn story of black WWII heroes

October 21, 2009 (CHICAGO) On Wednesday morning and afternoon, students filed into St. James Catholic Church to watch the film "Proud." It tells the story of a World War II destroyer with a predominantly African-American crew.

World War II hero Lorenzo Dufau, 89, spoke to students before the showing of a movie based on his war experiences.

"I am glad to be able to speak to you youngsters because you are our future," Dufau told the students.

In Bronzeville on Wednesday morning, students from three schools had the opportunity to see the movie based on the book "Proudly We Served: The Men of the USS Mason."

In World War II, 160 African-American sailors fought the Nazis on a presumably doomed mission and won.

"African-American soldiers and soldiers were lost in our memories of World War II. They served everywhere" said Mary Pat Kelly, author and director of Proud.

"It's a great example of people overcoming obstacles and not letting things come in their way and being determined," said Joel Slave, Bridgeport Catholic Academy.

"I knew that they were treated bad but I didn't know they were treated that bad," said Charles Watson, Santa Lucia School.

Wednesday marks the 65th anniversary of when the convoy was rescued for which they received the commendation 50 years later by President Bill Clinton. The crew of the USS Mason escorted convoys across the perilous north Atlantic leading up the D-day invasions and victory. The men helped win the Battle of the Atlantic. Their success had a direct impact on the decision to integrate all of America's Armed Forces after the war.

The students were glued to the screen. For many of them, it was the first time they had ever seen African-Americans go into combat.

Dufau was in the audience as the students viewed the film and when it was over he met with them in a questions and answers session.

"They can all aim high, even if you fall short, aim high. Be proud of yourself when you stand before that mirror and be satisfied with that image you see," said Dufau when asked what he wanted to convey to the students.

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