Veteran John Gragg recalls his time in the Army


It may be one of the best kept secrets in Virginia, the Army’s Transportation Museum.

There are dozens of old Army vehicles housed there along with the stories behind them and the people to tell them.

Don Roberts introduces us to a World War II veteran who did some pretty special things while piloting boats for the army.

“Well I was drafted…I was working on a farm with my father…”

Former Army Chief Warrant Officer 3, John Gragg, remembers details from 74 years ago, as if it were yesterday!

In 1945, the Army drafted Gragg while in high school in the “No traffic light town Wilmar, Arkansas.”

Less than a year later, he was 8,000 miles away in the Philippines serving in the Army’s nearly all black 24th infantry regiment.

(Rebecca Brashears, CW4 Rebecca Brashears, USA Ret. )

“there were about 300 colored troops…which was how they were referred to, back then.”

“We started training on duck in the middle of ’47” says Gragg.

Gragg piloted “duck boats” the Army’s version of a floating truck, in the Korean War.

And he remembers coming under gun fire while crossing a river.

“The enemy opened up on us with small arms fire from the beach. Well, thanks to the infantry we was carrying – they opened their weapons from our ducks. We got one duck hit pretty bad.”

In 1966 Gragg completed Warrant Officer School as the first Black Deck Warrant Officer, and the captain of an Army landing craft utility boat.

“We had twelve U-Boats, twelve Army Captains. I’m the only black. Fifteen man crew, all white. They were good men and found out later I knew my job and they’d do anything for me.”

Gragg captained 100 foot tug boats and a 300 foot fuel tanker before retiring in 1973.

Home life? He says he and his wife Anne ran a daycare and school in Hampton.

They raised three children of their own before Anne died in 1989.

Now, at 92 years of age, Chief Warrant Officer 3 John Gragg looks back.

“Well, I had a wonderful ride, I had good days and bad days, more good than bad.”

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