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Unrecognized History of Revolutionary America Brought to Light

Updated on October 24, 2011

American Revolution to WWII

The American Revolution brought the formation of the United States Marine Corps in 1775. The Corps became a part of a long military history that included fighting along with allies at various times among the French, Germans, Native Americans, Japanese US Citizens, former black slaves, and African Americans. Other ethnic groups fighting for America since the beginning of the New Nation are coming to light every month through research publicatons and media spotlights.

A very effective security guard I once employed had served in the US Navy, worked in the private sector and continued to work throughout his retirement years as well. Rarely have I seen an individual work so long in life. He used to tell stories about his days in a US submarine during World War II. Although he showed no acrimony, one situation must have been hard to take.

This US Navy man worked and fought side by side with all the rest of the crew and officers on board his submarine. However, at night, he was required to sleep in the boiler room, because US laws required separate quarters for blacks and he was the only black on the sub. This cannot have been easy to swallow.

US Submarine Command Center
US Submarine Command Center | Source

Fair Employment Practice Laws

Many African Americans served in WWII, winning medals that have not bee awarded unto the end of th 20th or early 21st centuries. Currently, 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 there were assigned to escort and protect. 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.

Later on, in 1942, FDR proclaimed the African Americans could serve in the USMC. The 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 away and sent to Montford Point at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina from 1942 through 1949.

show route and directions
A markerMontford Point -
Montford Point, Jacksonville, NC 28543, USA
get directions

B markerCamp Lejeune, North Carolina -
Camp Lejeune, NC, USA
get directions

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

Eventually, in the spring of 1974, the Montford Point Camp received a new name: Camp Johnson. This name honors one of the first recruits at Montford Point. This is 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.

During WWII, the Montford Pointers 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 back together the living among the 20,000 recruits from the early years. Quite successful, the association is enjoyed in state branches in over 70% of the USA.

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

More USMC History: Maj. Gen. Ronald Bailey

Commanding General, First Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California. First African American to hold this post.
Commanding General, First Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California. First African American to hold this post. | Source

Autumn 2011

While most of the original USMC recruits at Montford Point are deceased, the remaining number were honored in October 2011. Those survivors are in their late 80s at least and those are the men that were barely 18 when they signed up to become a US Marine. Some are older.

Some shed tears when they recall 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 Point Marines must have felt worse. Living condtions at their portion of Camp Lejeune were much less than optimal.

The Tuskegee Airmen have movies (Tuskegee Airmen, Red Tail) documenting their accomplishments, but the Montford group has no recognition and is largely unkown. However, the US Congress is considering the Congressional Gold Medal for them iin 2011.

Regardless of the medal, USMC Commandant Gen. 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.


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    • Nils Visser profile image

      BOOK REVIEWS 6 years ago from The Low Countries

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

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      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, 6 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 6 years ago from Foxboro ma.

      Very nice piece of work.

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Sad stuff.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      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 6 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

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

    • feenix profile image

      feenix 6 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).