Thursday, November 13, 2014

Published 10:24 AM by with 0 comment

Montford Point Marines: The first black Marines

Montford Point Marines: The first black Marines | Yes, We Rise (military integration, Marine Corps, Montford Point NC)
Montford Point Marines brochure cover

The First Black Marines

As we celebrate Veterans day 2014, I am reminded that it is also the day after the United States Marine Corps birthday on Nov 10th 1775. To that end, I have decided to give honor to the Montford Point Marines.

In 1942. the USMC allowed Blacks to join for the first time since the American Revolution, The belief behind the segregation had been that there would be more unity in units without Blacks or Mulattoes. When the Marine Corps was reinstituted in 1798, Sec. of War James McHenry stated:
“No Negro, Mulatto or Indian to be enlisted”. 
That philosophy would hold true for almost 150 years.

Executive Order 8802

President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802, which eliminated racial discrimination in the federal government; including the military. This happened after civil rights activists, A. Philip Randolph and others, applied pressure. After the Executive Order was signed, Howard P. Perry was the first recruit in 1942.

During the American Revolution roughly a dozen black Marines served in the conflict. 16,000 men, however, would pass through the training center at Montford Point, NC. after the desegregation of the military.

The black Marines served in all-black segregated units. They fought and battled racism before they ever fought the enemy. Many members of the Marine Corps didn’t believe in the need for black Marines.

The recruits continued to arrive and as the war continued, soldiers rotated out. Eventually, the original white drill instructors and sergeants were replaced by black drill instructors. They would prove their mettle repeatedly during the war in the Pacific theater. Roughly 19,000 joined during this time and the vast majority served overseas.

Following the Battle of Saipan in 1944, Gen. Alexander Vandergrift, stated,
  “The Negro Marines are no longer on trial. They are just Marines period.”

The Marines continued to have all black units even after President Truman integrated the Armed Forces in 1948. The Marines began to train together and by the start of the Korean War, the black Marines were integrated into combat units.

Integration of the Marine Corps

There would be more conflicts and the activism of the Civil Rights Movement would be felt in the Marine Corps. The USMC was fully integrated by 1960. They integrated faster than the nations schools.

I have had the honor of knowing several Marines in my life time. They are all honorable men and women who served their country well. I was always interested the history of all the branches of the Armed forces. While the Army and the Air Force are more easily accessible, the Marine Corps history isn't as widely known.

The brave men who wanted to join, despite of all of the obstacles, show that the Black community always considered themselves part of America. Even when America seemingly didn't believe the same.

** Dr. Headley **

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