With no official record of those who served from 1942 to 1949, the Montford Point Marine Association has sought to recognize the families of the men who served but were not recognized.
We recently visited Jacksonville, N.C., primarily known for Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, home of the Second Marine Expeditionary Force, which was established as the United States entered World War II. Today its 14 miles of beaches remain a major area for amphibious assault training, and its location between two deep-water ports (Wilmington and Morehead City) allows for fast deployments.
Pride, of course, runs deep here, and it's proper that the Freedom Fountain, Lejeune Memorial Gardens, the Beirut Memorial, the Onslow Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the 9/11 Memorial Beam stand to honor heroes.
Each is worthy of a visit, but the Montford Point Marine Association has a message waiting to be fulfilled. The U.S. Government is searching for lost members of the first African American Marines who trained here to fight in WWII.
After Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D Roosevelt issued the order to admit African Americans into the Corps. From 1942 to 1949, approximately 20,000 African American men were admitted to the Marine Corps, the last branch of the service to do so.
Segregation caused these men to train at a separate part of Camp Lejeune called Montford Point, where they had to "fight for the right to fight." In doing so, they faced some of the strongest drill sergeants the corps could find, other African Americans to push them physically and mentally to withstand tests that surpassed the high standards used for white Marines.
During the Pacific Campaign, the Montford Point Marines were called into service, first as defense units holding land far behind the front or as ammunitions carriers; they saw little action. Later, about 8,000 black Marine stevedores and ammunition handlers served under enemy fire during offensive operations in the Pacific. After the June 1944 Battle of Saipan, USMC General Alexander Vandegrift praised the performance and heroism of the 3rd Marine Ammunition Company by saying, "The Negro Marines are no longer on trial. They are Marines, period."
However, a bigger problem loomed for these Marines. No detailed records were kept on these thousands of men because they were never expected to succeed. They, however, surpassed all expectations.
The Montford Point Marines' significant service to the Marine Corps and the nation was recognized in 2012 when all men known to have served were awarded a collective Congressional Gold Medal, which is currently housed at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. With no official record of those who served from 1942 to 1949, the Montford Point Marine Association has sought to recognize the families of the men who served but were not recognized. You can help.
Do you have a family member, friend or someone you know who was a Montford Point Marine? Some of these men left the service and rarely discussed this chapter of their lives. At the D-Day memorial ceremonies this year, some of the few servicemen who went back said it won't be but a few more years before all of them will be dead.
If you know a Montford Point Marine, living or deceased, who has not been recognized, contact:
Montford Point Marine Association, Inc
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Please note that we are not in anyway affiliated the Montford Point Marine Association, Inc, or the U.S. Marine Corps, but are travel writers simply trying to get the word out about this cause. Carman Cole, listed at the bottom of this article, is the official person to contact for specific questions.