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Unrecognized History of Revolutionary America: Montford Point

Updated on April 26, 2019
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years of success in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, and aerospace education for Active USAF Civil Air Patrol.

From the American Revolution to WWII

Minorities like groups of the Eastern Woodlands Native Americans that are my ancestors have served in the English, Canadian, and American military forces since the French and Indian Wars and the Battle of Fort Pitt. African Americans have served with the United States at least since the American Revolution and need to be recognized as having done so.

It is indefensible for American leaders and the population at large to have been uneducated about the important contributions of minority groups to the United States in wartime since the beginning of the New Nation.

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Print of "The Siege of Rhode Island on the 25th of August, 1778."  The Rhode Island Regiment was the first in the Colonies to allow African Americans to enlist.Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812-1814.Civil War Battle of Chaffin's Farm: Company I of the 36th Colored Regiment.Buffalo Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Regiment, 1890African Americans in the Spanish–American War; Camp Wikoff 1898.WWI: U.S. Army 369th Infantry Regiment won the Croix de Guerre from france for gallantry in action, 1919.  Men pictured are  Pvt. Ed Williams, Herbert Taylor, Pvt. Leon Fraitor, Pvt. Ralph Hawkins. Back Row: Sgt. H. D. Prinas, Sgt. Dan Strorms, Pvt. Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group in WWII: Robert W. Williams,William H. Holloman III, Ronald W. Reeves, Christopher W. Newman, and Walter M. Downs.Black Marines at Iwo Jima.
Print of "The Siege of Rhode Island on the 25th of August, 1778."  The Rhode Island Regiment was the first in the Colonies to allow African Americans to enlist.
Print of "The Siege of Rhode Island on the 25th of August, 1778." The Rhode Island Regiment was the first in the Colonies to allow African Americans to enlist. | Source
Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812-1814.
Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812-1814. | Source
Civil War Battle of Chaffin's Farm: Company I of the 36th Colored Regiment.
Civil War Battle of Chaffin's Farm: Company I of the 36th Colored Regiment. | Source
Buffalo Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Regiment, 1890
Buffalo Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Regiment, 1890 | Source
African Americans in the Spanish–American War; Camp Wikoff 1898.
African Americans in the Spanish–American War; Camp Wikoff 1898. | Source
WWI: U.S. Army 369th Infantry Regiment won the Croix de Guerre from france for gallantry in action, 1919.  Men pictured are  Pvt. Ed Williams, Herbert Taylor, Pvt. Leon Fraitor, Pvt. Ralph Hawkins. Back Row: Sgt. H. D. Prinas, Sgt. Dan Strorms, Pvt.
WWI: U.S. Army 369th Infantry Regiment won the Croix de Guerre from france for gallantry in action, 1919. Men pictured are Pvt. Ed Williams, Herbert Taylor, Pvt. Leon Fraitor, Pvt. Ralph Hawkins. Back Row: Sgt. H. D. Prinas, Sgt. Dan Strorms, Pvt. | Source
Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group in WWII: Robert W. Williams,William H. Holloman III, Ronald W. Reeves, Christopher W. Newman, and Walter M. Downs.
Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group in WWII: Robert W. Williams,William H. Holloman III, Ronald W. Reeves, Christopher W. Newman, and Walter M. Downs. | Source
Black Marines at Iwo Jima.
Black Marines at Iwo Jima. | Source

The first African American USMC recruit to arrive at Montford Point/Camp Johnson was Mr. Howard P. Perry on August 26, 1942. The first black women permitted to enlist in the USMC did so in 1949.

The Thirteen Colonies' revolution against England brought forth the formation of the United States Marine Corps in 1775 to become a part of a long military history that included fighting along with allies at various times among the French, the Spanish and Mexicans, Germans, Native Americans, Native American Code Talkers of several tribes, Chinese individuals, Japanese US Citizens, former black slaves, and African Americans.

The largest number of African American Marines to see combat in WW II fought in  Okinawa. At least 2,000 of these Marines took part in the operations.
The largest number of African American Marines to see combat in WW II fought in Okinawa. At least 2,000 of these Marines took part in the operations. | Source

Captain Frederick Clinton Branch (May 31, 1922 – April 10, 2005) was the first African-American officer promoted in the United States Marine Corps (to Lieutenant), serving in WWII, the Korean Conflict, and the Reserves.

Frederick Clinton Branch stands as the crowd applauds during the dedication of Branch Hall at the Officers Candidate School. at Quantico, Virginia; September 9, 1997.
Frederick Clinton Branch stands as the crowd applauds during the dedication of Branch Hall at the Officers Candidate School. at Quantico, Virginia; September 9, 1997. | Source

Fair Employment Practice Laws

Many African Americans served in WWII, winning medals that have not been awarded as of the end of the 20th century.

Few people have not heard of the Tuskegee Airmen and their record of never having a lost a single Flying Fortress or any other plane they escorted during the first year of their service. However, the USMC may have been the last hold out against racial integration among the military branches. What happened?

On June 25, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued his Executive Order No. 8802.

Well before EEOC and the Civil Rights Movement, this 1941 order put into motion a fair employment practice law or regulation against discrimination in the United States Armed Forces. That included all the forces: Army, Army Air Corps/US Air Force, Navy, Merchant Marine, Coast Guard, and USMC.

A special board of research under FDR studied full racial integration among servicemen in the Composite Defense Battalion.

In 1942, FDR proclaimed that African Americans could serve in the USMC.

These newly eligible men signed up from all over the USA. However, when they reported for duty, they did not report to the usual San Diego or Parris Island boot camps. The were segregated and sent to Montford Point at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina from 1942 through 1949.

A
Montford Point:
Montford Point, Jacksonville, NC 28543, USA

get directions

B
Camp Lejeune, North Carolina:
Camp Lejeune, NC, USA

get directions

Lt. Col. Frazier, Commanding Officer, Montford Point Camp, presents WWII Victory Medal to members of the Montford Point Camp, and the 51st, and 52nd Defense Battalions.  From the collection of Joseph H. Carpenter.
Lt. Col. Frazier, Commanding Officer, Montford Point Camp, presents WWII Victory Medal to members of the Montford Point Camp, and the 51st, and 52nd Defense Battalions. From the collection of Joseph H. Carpenter. | Source

Montford Point Marines Were a Success

The Montford Point Marines Association and a number of historians feel that the USMC had originally planned to train and hold 20,000 African American marines until after the war and release them without combat service or any service outside Camp Lejeune.This was racially and politically motivated.

So many troops were lost in WWII, that the Montford Point servicemen were sent on to the battlefronts, where they proved as effective as any other Marines.

In the spring of 1974, the trainee camp received a new name: Camp Johnson. This name honors one of the first recruits at Montford Point, the legendary Major Gilbert H. "Hashmark" Johnson, who was among the first group of black drill instructors in USMC history. After WWII, he also fought in the Korean War.

The Camp Johnson group served not only at Montford Point, but also in Allen Island, Guam, Iwo Jima, Maui, Nagasaki (cleaning up the ash from the bomb), New Caledonia, Oahu, Okinawa, Saipan, and Sesebo.

Jumping ahead to 1965. the Montford Point Marine Association began holding National Reunions to gather together the living among the first 20,000 recruits. Quite successful, the association is now enjoyed in state branches in over 70% of the USA.

US Submarine Command Center
US Submarine Command Center | Source

Segregation on an American Submarine

Back in the early 2000s, a security guard who worked for me related the story of how he served in a submarine during World War II. The only African American on board the vessel, he was treated equally and made many friend on board; but at night, he had to sleep alone in the boiler room. This was no adequate place for anyone to live.

I have never forgotten these stories and how African Americans overcame discrimination and served wit honors in all branches of the United States military, including not only men, but also women in the nursing corps.

The Congressional Gold Medal awarded the Montford Pointers in 2011, decades after the war.
The Congressional Gold Medal awarded the Montford Pointers in 2011, decades after the war.

Honors Finally Bestowed During Autumn 2011

While most of the original USMC recruits at Montford Point are deceased, the remaining number were honored in October 2011.

The survivors were in their late 80s and older and were barely 18 when they signed up to become a US Marine.

Some shed tears when they recalled coming back to the USA from fighting - and cleaning up - in Japan and the South Pacific, then facing forced use of the "colored entrance" or sitting like Rosa Parks at the back of a bus.

Vietnam Veterans overall felt disrespected and unappreciated when they returned home, but the Montford Pointers must have felt worse. Living conditions at their portion of Camp Lejeune were much less than optimal.

The Tuskegee Airmen have movies like "Tuskegee Airmen" and "Red Tail" documenting their accomplishments, but the Camp Johnson group had no recognition. However, the US Congress considered awarding them the Congressional Gold Medal in 2011.

Regardless of the medal, USMC Commandant General James Amos has declared mandatory training for all Marines of all ranks on the subject and history of the Montford Point Marines from here forward. They will no longer be forgotten.

As of 2019, the USMC has never had an African American four star general.

USMC Major General Ronald Bailey, Retired

Commanding General, First Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California. First African American to hold this post, he retired on July 31, 2017.
Commanding General, First Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California. First African American to hold this post, he retired on July 31, 2017. | Source

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Patty Inglish MS

Comments

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    • Nils Visser profile image

      Nils Visser 

      7 years ago from Brighton UK

      I cannot even begin to explain how superbly excellent this Hub is. Thank you.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      It is all rather sad, as you say, Maren. And thanks, meteetse.

      Hello, hello -- You certainly had a diffcult early life, but I'd have liked to see your expression when saw the orange! I think a lot of black soldiers did very well, doing their jobs and being kind to the people.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      It is so unfair and so unjust and that is what it hurts most because there is nothing you can do anything about. You get crucified for something whichis not your fault. I have seen the American Army in Germany and we couldn't belief how unjust the whites were to the black. Yet, the blacks were always corteous to us and fine people. While most of the whites were rough to us. I remember one tall black soldiers tried to give me quickly an orange. I was about five. I never saw an orange before and near fell on my bottom with shock. He risked an awful lot. My mother quickly took it to save him not to be seen. Another one in another town stood outside a sugar refinery and he too was so tall and tried to give a piece of raw sugar on a string. There again I nearly fell down for somebody giving me something.

    • meteetse profile image

      meteetse 

      7 years ago from Foxboro ma.

      Very nice piece of work.

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Sad stuff.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I appreciate all the services and thank feenix and Dave for their service and rememberance of the Army and the Corps.

      feenix - Thank you for your service in Vietnam and congratulations on promotion to Captain in the US Army! I lost many Army and Marine friends during that war.

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 

      7 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      Semper Fi; the USMC. Cries the proudest of all are they.

    • feenix profile image

      feenix 

      7 years ago

      Hello, Patty Inglish,

      Thank you very much writing and publishing this useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting hub.

      I identify with this post very closely because I am black and served in the Vietnam War from 1967 to 1969 as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army (I advanced to the rank of captain).

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