ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- William Chase, 93, is almost completely gray headed and his steps are feeble. But spend a few minutes with him and he will walk with you through yesteryear when he served in Italy as part of the last generation of Buffalo Soldiers.
"I'm going way back now," he said with a smile.
Chase became part of the 92nd infantry division during WW II they were called Buffalo Soldiers, a name native Americans gave to black soldiers in the 19th century.
"We were all blacks we did not have no association with (whites)" said Chase. "I don't want to go into that, that is too far."
Chase was a radio operator and remembers his days as a young recruit at the Camp Blanding reception center.
"We were classified as nothing," he said. "but we did everything."
Chase said over the years he was in touch with some of the soldiers he served with but he has lost contact and don't know how many are still here. But as he talks about his tour of duty during the Italian campaign his memory is clear.
He remembers General George Patton.
"Greatest man that ever lived," he said. "He had a heart."
He remembers the famous boxer Joe Louis being a member of his company.
"I was right there with him," said Chase. "I'm in the picture standing up there next to him."
He also remembers the casualty of war.
"We lost a couple of friends," he said.
And the victories during the Italian campaign.
"Rome is where we captured Mussolini," said Chase.
After the war the Jacksonville native went to mortuary school and was an embalmer for a period of time but changed career. He retired as a machinist. Now as he approaches his 94th birthday he talks about the past while looking to the future. He hopes that history will remember the last generation of Buffalo Soldiers.
"We made it," he said. "Here I am. I've been through it all."
This segregated unit was the only African American infantry division to see combat in Europe during World War II, the Buffalo Soldiers served in the Italian Campaign from 1944 to the war's end.