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Jun-19-2012 23:52printcommentsVideo

WWII Montford Point Marines Receive Congressional Gold Medal

"The Montford Point Marines' selfless service and sacrifice during a time when their contributions to our nation were not fully appreciated or recognized have made this country a better place for all Americans.” –Commandant of the Marine Corps General James F. Amos

LtCol Joseph Carpenter, USMC (Ret), Sgt Earl Evans, USMC (Ret), SSgt Eugene Groves, USMC (Ret), and GySgt Reuben McNair, USMC (Ret) on the Capitol Steps.
L to R LtCol Joseph Carpenter, USMC (Ret), Sgt Earl Evans, USMC (Ret), SSgt Eugene Groves, USMC (Ret), and GySgt Reuben McNair, USMC (Ret) on the Capitol Steps. (Photo: Courtesy of the office of Rep. Corrine Brown)

(WASHINGTON DC) - Seventy years since the first African- American Marine recruit reported to train at the segregated camp called Montford Point at Camp Lejeune, N.C., the Montford Point Marines are finally getting the recognition they deserve.

The fact that African-Americans went through the rigorous training of Marines when the Corps was segregated and while they were treated as inferiors in our society, speaks loudly about the courage and dedication of each and every one of the Montford Point Marines.

There are approximately 500 surviving members of the almost 20,000 original Montford Point Marines. Every properly documented surviving Montford Point Marine or lineal descendant of one who was alive as of Nov. 23, 2011 when the President signed the bill into law will receive an invitation to the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony.

The Congressional Gold Medal ceremony, in honor of the original Montford Point Marines, is scheduled for Wednesday, June 27 at 3 p.m. at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, Washington D.C. The Montford Point Marines will be recognized by Congress for their contributions to the Marine Corps and our nation. At this ceremony, one Congressional Gold Medal will be accepted on behalf of the Montford Point Marines. Attendance at this event is by invitation only.

There will also be a Commandant of the Marine Corps hosted parade in their honor on Thursday, June 28 at 9 a.m. at Marine Barracks Washington. At this parade, each gentleman will receive a bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal.

Live Broadcast of both events will be available for the public:

Congressional Gold Medal Presentation for Montford Point Marines at Capital Building: June 27, 3-4 PM EST
http://www.dvidshub.net/webcast/2453

Parade at Marine Barracks Washington in honor of Montford Point Marines: June 28, 9-11 AM EST
http://www.dvidshub.net/webcast/2454

For more information regarding the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony and Marine Barracks Washington Parade, please contact: Captain Kendra N. Motz, 703.614.4309, kendra.motz@usmc.mil

The Congressional Gold Medal

Designed and approved by the Montford Point Marine Association, the U.S. Marine Corps, and the U.S. Mint, the Montford Point Marines Congressional Gold Medal will be preserved and displayed at the National Museum of the Marine Corps http://www.usmcmuseum.org located in Triangle, Va., near Marine Corps Base Quantico. The display will be available to the public on June 29th. The Museum will be expanding the Montford Point Marine Exhibit in the World War II Gallery http://www.virtualusmcmuseum.com/ in the near future.

The Congressional Gold Medal is, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award. Duplicate bronze medals will be made available for purchase from the U.S. Mint.

The design specifications describe the Congressional Gold Medal as a three-inch circular medal made of bronze metal. The U.S. Mint will sell the three-inch medal to the public for approximately $45. There will also be a one-and-a-half inch medal sold for approximately $11.


MONTFORD POINT MARINES AT CAPITOL, October 25, 2011, with
Congresswoman Corrine Brown. (Photos: Courtesy of the office of
Rep. Corrine Brown)

The Marine Corps Association and Foundation is proud to have coordinated and provided the funding for 550 bronze replica medals for every living Montford Point Marine veteran or their direct lineal descendants.

The U.S. Senate voted unanimously to pass a bill awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the Montford Point Marines on Nov. 9, 2011. On Nov. 23, 2011, President Barack Obama signed the bill awarding the Montford Point Marines a Congressional Gold Medal.

Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL) introduced and sponsored this important legislation. The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James F. Amos, was a strong supporter for the passage of the Congressional Gold Medal bill, as well as General James T. Conway, 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps. For the past several years, the leaders and chapters of the National Montford Point Marine Association

http://www.montfordpointmarines.com/index.html also assisted in advocating for this important legislation as well as numerous military and civilian supporters throughout our country.

The last time African-American military pioneers were honored was in 2007 when the Tuskegee Airmen en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuskegee_Airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

HISTORY

The Montford Point Marines were the first blacks to ever serve in the U.S. Marine Corps. There were approximately 20,000 enlisted African-American men trained at the segregated Montford Point Camp in Jacksonville, N.C. from 1942 to 1949.

The Marine Corps was the last service to be integrated. The Montford Point Marines were strong enough to take on the challenge that appeared to be insurmountable at that period of time and joined an organization that initially did not want them.

While American troops fought the horrors of World War II, the Montford Point Marines fought a second battle – one for equal treatment. African-Americans fought for a country that had yet to recognize them as real men and equals. Even though the Montford Point Marines had to face many indignities, they prevailed.

The Montford Point Marines saw action and service on the Mariana Islands, Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Japan and China.

"Every Marine from Private to General will know the history of those men who crossed the threshold to fight not only the enemy they were soon to know overseas, but the enemy of racism and segregation in their own country," said Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen James F. Amos. "My promise to you is that your story will not be forgotten. It will take its rightful place and will be forever anchored in the rich history of the United States Marine Corps." 1.

“The Marines of Montford Point" is being considered by Gen Amos for The Commandant’s Reading List for Marines.

Today there are thousands of African-Americans serving in all fields and every occupational specialty of the Marine Corps. African-Americans comprise approximately 10 percent of the Marine Corps today.

In its almost 237 year-old history, the Corps is still an institution that is predominately white, especially in the higher ranks where five percent of officers are black.

The Commandant, the first Marine aviator named to the Corps' top position in 2010, has made diversifying the traditional branch a top priority. Gen James F. Amos has ordered commanders to be more aggressive in recommending qualified black Marines for officer positions. 2.

Montford Point Marine Pre-Civil Rights History

The military was the first institution to become completely integrated. In time, civilian institutions began to follow. The Montford Point Marines helped to change history by demonstrating racial harmony on the chaotic beaches and battlefields around the world.

Many of the Montford Point Marines would help influence the Civil Rights movement that was to come. When the troops returned to America, they returned to the rules of segregation. The lessons the Marines had taught each other on the battlefield would become the seeds of change in the pre-Civil Rights era, which would begin to transform society.

It is through the first-hand experiences, side-by-side, in war that black and white Marines became Marines. The conditions of war forced men to look at their similarities instead of their differences. They were Americans first, fighting for their country.

SPEECH AT MONTFORD POINT CAMP by Technical Sergeant James E. Stewart Sr.

PRIDE frequently inspires whole armies to triumphs seemingly beyond human reasoning. PRIDE sometimes causes men broken in spirit after having tasted the bitter fruits of defeat and failure, to arise and ascend to the heights of the ladder of success. PRIDE, if correctly used, is one of our best guides as Marines, but we must ever remain vigilant lest we find ourselves guilty of living off the other fellows’ glory.

Yes—the Marine Corps has 167 glorious years of tradition of which we are all proud, but no chain is stronger that its weakest link and if we as individuals fail to uphold our responsibilities, thinking that we can hide behind glory of men long since dead, then we are victims of FALSE PRIDE. In other words, we are kidding ourselves into believing that we take pride in an organization of which we are a part, yet do nothing worthy of its glory.

Yes—being a Marine means more than just wearing that BLUE UNIFORM or THE GLOBE & ANCHOR. The MAN in that "blue" or behind "the globe and anchor" makes the MARINE. It is this fact that many of us must keep in mind while thinking, acting, and living as Marines.

Men of color have fought gallantly in every war since the Boston Tea Party for American Freedom. Men of color fought nearly all of this time for the rights and privileges to fight for America as all other Americans, and now that the opportunity had arrived and we have been made a apart of the fightingest outfit on the face of the earth, and that is as it should be, we must not forget that along with RIGHTS and PRIVILEGES go DUTIES and RESPONSIBILITIES. DUTY, to God and Country, comes first to the Marine.

Our next great DUTY and RESPONSIBILITIES here at Montford Point, and as Marines of color, is to some 14 million black Americans whose prayers, blood, sweat, and tears have gone with us and before us to place us in the position that we now hold.

Men of color have never failed the call-to-arms, from Crispus Attacks on Boston Commons, to Robert Brooks, first American to die in combat against the enemy on the Philippines after the treacherous sneak attack of the Japanese or the new famous 99th Pursuit Squadron knocking arise airmen from the skies over Pantelleria, Sicily and North Africa in our current operations in the Mediterranean Theater of War.

As these men have made history, for which we all take pride, so shall we of Montford Point catch the spirit and shoulder our DUTIES and RESPONSIBILITIES. It is our DUTY to be good Marines. If we are good Marines, we will be good AMERICANS. If we are good AMERICANS, we will be good CITIZENS. If we are good CITIZENS, we will know how to respect the rights of others and accept the responsibilities of good CITIZENSHIP. GOOD CITIZENS never stoop low enough to take advantage of position, and GOOD MARINES never try to use the "globe & anchor" as a shield of fence for wrongdoing.

If we continue to practice GOOD, SOUND JUDGEMENT, work for the benefit of the group and our organization, rather than for selfish gains, protect our rights and privileges by fulfilling our duties and responsibilities, and above all—do unto others as we would have them do unto us, our future as Marines shall be unlimited and glory with honor shall be ours.

Technical Sergeant James E. Stewart Sr.

Original Montford Point Marine

Montford Point Camp

The structure of the military is a great equalizer and teaches people to rely on each other for survival. When you depend upon someone else for your life, you forget about color, race and religion. All you can remember is that they were there for you and they saved your life. When you have been through hell and back you think about a man's character, not his skin color. These are the conditions that are missing in the "civilian life experience."

The Corps became an example of how change could and would happen. Even though the Marine Corps had integrated, the civilian world had not.

The Montford Point Marines fought with courage, served honorably and won the respect of those who served with them. Many of the Marines who served together in the war went back to the States as changed men. War is hell, but from that hell the transformation that was needed in America began.

The Montford Point Marines wore their uniform with great pride and laid the foundation for many other black Marines to follow. The indignities they endured opened the doors to people like Sergeant Major Alford McMichael, USMC, Ret, Major General Clifford Stanley, USMC, Ret, Major General Charles Bolden, Jr., USMC, Ret, Lieutenant General Walter E. Gaskin, Sr., USMC, Deputy Chairman, NATO Military Committee, and Lieutenant General Willie Williams, Director of Marine Corps Staff.

We must learn from our history, try and understand the pain and suffering the Montford Point Marines were willing to endure, and build a better framework for our future upon that foundation. The bonds of Marines will be strengthened when each person recognizes the significance every Marine played in molding the Marine Corps future.

May we all continue to take the steps of change that were started on those beaches of hell, by black men and white men fighting to erase hate from the world as we know it… together.


Footnotes:

1. Operational Planning Team for Institutionalizing the Legacy of the Montford Point Marines in the Marine Corps -Date Signed: 9/15/2011 MARADMIN www.marines.mil/news/messages/Pages/MARADMIN525-11.aspx/ - Captain Kendra Motz, spokeswoman for the Marine Corps, Headquarters Marine Corps Division of Public Affairs

2. The Commandant states clearly in his Planning Guidance that we will "improve diversity representation throughout our Corps." It is important to note that the push is for increasing diversity in all areas, not with African Americans alone. While the Marine Corps is working to diversify the entirety of the force, African Americans are currently the least represented group in the officer corps. Our survival, status, and reputation depend on our special relationship with the American people--diversity broadens the base of support. The Marine Corps is committed to making concerted efforts to attract, mentor, and retain the most talented men and women who bring a diversity of background, culture and skill in service to our Nation. Investing in a diverse and representative officer corps will help generate and sustain a future force that has the cultural expertise, language skill sets and a variety of philosophies needed to meet the operational requirements of the Marine Corps. - Captain Kendra Motz, spokeswoman for the Marine Corps, Headquarters Marine Corps Division of Public Affairs

Film of Black Marines - Iwo Jima Landing Video used by
permission: Courtesy of the James E. Stewart, Jr., Collection.

A pioneering Black Marine Recalls Iwo Jima

The Montford Point Marines are finally getting recognition.

Gene Doughty, an original Montford Point Marine, recalls seeing the American flag cut through the sky, banner like, as it was hoisted atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was about a mile and a half away, but he recalls the sound of cheers rolling across the island.

Doughty was just about 20 years old when he landed on Iwo Jima on February 29, 1945, during World War II. His story is significant because he was one of the first blacks to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was part of the Montford Point Marines, which was made up of about 20,000 men who trained at Camp Lejeune, N.C., from 1942 to 1949, when the U.S. military was segregated.

James E. Stewart, Jr.

http://www.mpma28.com/intro_to_web_pages.html

President of Montford Point Marine Association Maryland Chapter 28, National Montford Point Marine Association Hall of Fame Recipient. (James’ father, James E. Stewart, Sr., was an original Montford Point Marine)

From Segregation to a Single Corps of 'Green Marines'

Exclusive Interview with MGySgt Robert E. Talmadge, USMC (Ret) by Coral Anika Thiell

Salem-News.com Staff congratulates the Montford Point Marines not only for their sacrifice and valor, but for becoming the seeds of change in the pre-Civil Rights era, which would begin to transform society paving the way for the civil rights movement.

Montford Point Marine Articles by Coral Anika Theill

Leatherneck Magazine

Coral Anika Theill, reporter and advocate, is author of "BONSHEA: Making Light of the Dark." Her published works address abuse, trauma recovery and healing from post-traumatic stress and most recently, wounded Marines, the Warrior Games and Montford Point Marines. Her writings have encouraged and inspired numerous trauma victims and wounded Marines/soldiers recovering from PTS and TBI. Coral's positive insights as a survivor have also earned the respect of clinical therapists, advocates, attorneys, professors and authors. BONSHEA, has been used as a college text for nursing students at Linfield College, Portland, Oregon. Email: coraltheill@hotmail.com

"Those who serve may already know the toll of having to kill or be killed, but civilian society should also recognize that those who go into battle defending our way of life pay a price. I feel a deep gratitude to our servicemen and women and believe our society needs to do more to respect, understand and support those returning from deployment in conflict zones.” – Coral Anika Theill

The Commandant of the Marine Corps on Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury and Invisible Battle Scars: Confronting the Stigma of PTS and TBI http://www.woundedwarriorregiment.org/documents/pao/Leatherneck_Oct_PTS_TBI.pdf

Some of Coral's past military reports:


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John June 26, 2012 12:12 am (Pacific time)

Really good articles, Coral. My dad was a Marine and I remember him talking proudly about the "colored" Marines that fought along side him at various islands particularly Iwo Jima. 


Bob Talmadge June 21, 2012 10:01 am (Pacific time)

Editor: Bob, your comment came through blank with only your name, really sorry about that, if you can resend or email the comment I will gladly put it here, sometimes code strips comments out, thank you and Semper fi!


Steve Collier, USMC, Ret June 21, 2012 8:06 am (Pacific time)

A proud day for all in America. long overdue but will happen. Semper Fi


James Stewart Jr. June 20, 2012 10:54 pm (Pacific time)

Yes, while we should certainly celebrate the demise of overt official racism, we must also critically examine where we are at this historical moment, recognize the many challenges ahead.

Racism is a refuge for the ignorant. It seeks to divide and to destroy. It is the enemy of freedom, and deserves to be met head-on and stamped out. Everybody's scared for their ass. There aren't too many people ready to die for racism. They'll kill for racism but they won't die for racism.

The really important victory of the civil rights movement was that it made racism unpopular, whereas a generation ago at the turn of the last century, you had to embrace racism to get elected to anything.


CALVIN FRYE June 20, 2012 5:38 am (Pacific time)

This was a fascinating article. Very informative. I only found out about the Montford Point Marines a couple of years ago. I want to thank all of them for their service and for paving the way for me and many more dark green Marines to follow in their big yellow foot prints. SEMPER FI!!!


More than Most June 20, 2012 5:01 am (Pacific time)

Deserving! Only seven decades or so but hey...

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