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Marine Recon Legend

Capers’ biography does in fact read like a Hollywood script and what is even more incredible is that it probably is understated. Capers fought plenty of our nation’s enemies during the course of his storied and amazing career. He also fought against racism and prejudice in our own country, where some NCOs and Officers refused to believe that he was worthy of being counted among the best in Special Operations.

COMMANDO HALL OF FAME MEMBER

MARINE RECON LEGEND 

By STEVE BALESTRIERI - SOFREP

 Capers was recommended for the Medal of Honor but it was downgraded to the Silver Star. There is now an active push to get his award upgraded but it remains to be seen whether or not it will ever happen during the Major’s lifetime. He’s now 82 years old. Capers was born in Bishopville, South Carolina, in the Jim Crowe south, just three generations removed from slavery. His father moved to Baltimore and it was a while before the rest of the family could move up with him and be reunited. Capers graduated high school in 1956. He remembers the military recruiters coming to the school looking for recruits. “You had to register for the draft, back then,” he said.  “You had the obligation to serve your country and it started with registering for the draft. I liked what the Marine recruiter had to say and the opportunities that the Corps had available, so I joined up.” Capers was in the infantry and after his first hitch would be up, he would have to face the possibility of getting out with little hope of finding a job on the outside at that time.  But he had found a home in the Marine Corps: it was a good fit for him and vice versa. Capers asked his girlfriend, Dottie, to move out to California, where they would marry and start a new life together. Capers reenlisted to go to the Marine Corps’ Force Recon, the Marines’ Special Operations component. He would spend the next three years with Force Recon at Camp Pendleton.  He would go to jump school and scuba school; yet, still, some old prejudices remained. “Black people can’t swim was all I heard,” Capers remembered. “And I conducted three combat dives and a combat swim in Vietnam and people still persisted with the ‘Blacks can’t swim’ narrative around me.” Capers was the first African-American to get a battlefield commission in the Marine Corps Force Recon. He went from Staff Sergeant to 2nd Lieutenant and took over the unit.  “It was an adjustment for some, having never seen a black officer before… I wasn’t an African American back then, I was a Negro, and for some people, they couldn’t accept a Black officer doing the job.” Capers said he learned about himself as well during that time. 

COURTESY OF MJC ENT.

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