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Brief History of Montford Point Marines

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Brief History of Montford Point Marines…….our Courageous African American Marines (Dark Green Marines) ooorah

Since 1775, the United States Marine Corps has served our country in peace and war. Today, the Marine Corps still serves the nation as a force in readiness, prepared to serve whenever the nation calls. The Montford Point Marine Association (MPMA) is proud to be a thriving part of the “Marine Corps Family.” 

On the 25th day of June 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 8802 establishing the fair employment practice that began to erase discrimination in the Armed Forces. A board headed by Brigadier General Keller E. Rocher was organized to study the integration of African Americans being assigned to the Composite Defense Battalion, which included coastal artillery, antiaircraft, infantry and tanks. 

In 1942, President Roosevelt established a presidential directive giving African Americans an opportunity to be recruited into the Marine Corps

These African Americans, from all states, were not sent to the traditional boot camps of Parris Island, South Carolina and San Diego, California. Instead, African American Marines were segregated – experiencing basic training at Montford Point – a facility at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Approximately twenty thousand (20,000) African American Marines received basic training at Montford Point between 1942 and 1949. 

Twenty years after World War II, in the summer of 1965, an enterprising group of Marine veterans residing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania formulated and developed plans to hold a national reunion of the Montford Pointers. Among them was the late Civil Rights Leader, Attorney Cecil B. Moore. 

From September 17th – 18th, 1965, over four hundred former and active duty Marines, representing seventeen States attended the reunion held in the Adelphia Hotel in downtown Philadelphia. The great response led to the establishment of the Montford Point Marine Association, a non-profit veteran organization chartered in Philadelphia. Subsequent charters were immediately organized in more than eleven additional cities. Today the Association proudly boasts 33 active Chapters.  

Legacy of Montford Point Camp

Approximately 20,000 African American recruits received training at Montford Point Camp (less than 10% of the Marine Corps end strength) during World War II.  The initial intent of the Marine Corps hierarchy was to discharge these African American Marines after the War, returning them to civilian life – leaving the Marine Corps an all-white organization.  Attitudes changed and reality took hold as the war progressed.  Once given the chance to prove themselves, it became impossible to deny the fact that this new breed of Marine was just as capable as all other Marines regardless of race, color, creed or National origin.  

Exceptional recruits were singled out to assist in the training of their own platoons.  Mortimer A. Cox, Arnold R. Bostick, Edgar R. Davis, Jr., Gilbert H. “Hashmark” Johnson and Edgar R. Huff were selected for their leadership’ and maturity and became the First Black Drill Instructors. These first DI’s would join the staff to reinforce the training mission at Montford Point which was to develop African American Marines for support roles in the Corps, following their graduation.  

In July of 1948 President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order #9981 negating segregation.  In September of 1949, Montford Marine Camp was deactivated – ending seven years of segregation.  

Camp Johnson (formerly Montford Point Camp) remains the only Marine Corps installation named in honor of an African American.

On April 19, 1974, Montford Point Camp was renamed Camp Johnson, in honor of the late Sergeant Major, Gilbert H. “Hashmark” Johnson.  Johnson was one of the first African American’s to join the Corps, a Distinguished Montford Point Drill Instructor and a Veteran of WWII and Korea. The Camp remains the only Marine Corps installation named in honor of an African American.

Camp Gilbert H. Johnson

Camp Gilbert H. Johnson Jacksonville, NC (Montford Point Camp)

 Visit the Historic Reading Room (building M-100) aboard Camp Johnson to learn more about the Montford Point legacy and feel the presence of this special breed of Marine.

Official site of the Montford Point Marine Association

 

Quick Facts:
Q: Who was the first Black Marine Officer in the United States Marine Corps?
A: Fredrick C. Branch

Q:Who was the first African-American member of the U.S. Marine Corps?
A: Alfred Masters

Q: Who was the first African-American U.S. Marine Corps aviator?
A: Frank E. Petersen

Q: Who was the first African-American U.S. Marine Corps general officer?
A: Frank E. Petersen

Q: Who was the first African-American Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps?
A: Alford L. McMichael

Q: Who was the first African-American to command a United States Marine Corps division?
A: Major General Walter E. Gaskin

This should answer the questions:

When did African American Marines begin serving in the Marine Corps?
Are any US Marine bases named after African Americans?
Where did black Marines first go to boot camp?

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