Some of the Montford Marines at Congressional Medal Ceremony
President Barack Obama recognized the Montford Point Marines recently.
On June 27, the Montford Point Marines (MPM) were honored with a congressional medal at the Emancipation Hall of the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C. In 2011, President Obama signed an order for MPM to receive the honor for their service and dedication. The MPM were the first African-Americans to become marines during segregation.
In the early 1940s, until the early 1950s, around 20,000 Black men were recruited to the Marine Corps due to President Roosevelt’s Executive Order No. 8802, which called for fair employment in the Armed Forces.
Although recruited into the Marine Corps, Black marines were segregated from White marines and trained at Montford Point in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. From 1942 to 1949, African American Marines received basic training at Montford Point during WWII.
“It was rough because they did not want us in there to begin with,” said Montford Marine, Vaughan Whitworth. He remembers his time at Montford and recalls a time of segregation.
“They did not want the Blacks training with the White Marines,” said Whitworth. “Across the river, in the swamp they built [Camp Lejeune] for the Black Marines.
“When I arrived in 1943, they built a couple of barracks and that’s where we [trained]. [The camp] stayed put until 1949 and full integration for the Marines [was passed].”
There wasn’t any real intention to use the MPM during the war but as it progressed, they were needed. The MPM proved that they were just as capable as the White Marines and were stationed in various locations.
African American recruits, who showed exemplary skill, were assigned to train over their own platoons. Some of those elite Marines includes Mortimer A. Cox, Arnold R. Bostick, Edgar R. Davis, Jr., Gilbert H. “Hashmark” Johnson and Edgar R. Huff. Their skills and leadership led to them becoming the First Black Drill Instructors. Their roles as staff at Montford Point would help develop African American Marines for support roles in the Corps, following their graduation.
Among being honored the congressional medal, they were also the honored guests of a parade hosted by the Marine Corps at the Marine Barracks in Washington June 28.
Florida Congresswoman, Corrine Brown was one of many to help spearhead for the recognition of the MPM. As she stated on her website:
“Certainly, it is necessary to honor all of America’s war heroes’ selfless service and sacrifice, and in particular, those who served at Montford Point.
“They answered our nation’s call at a time when our society was deeply divided along racial lines. As such, many of their contributions went unrecognized and many times they were not given the respect and recognition they deserved as Marines, as Americans, and as patriots. Today’s ceremony will go a long way towards correcting this past injustice, as this Gold Medal will forever anchor their role in the history of our nation’s great military.”
“By attending the congressional awarding of the gold medal of honor and to see two, Black generals in the Marine Corps, that I thought would never happen—that did me more good than anything that I can explain,” said Whitworth.
Six of the Congressional Gold Medal awardees reside in Los Angeles, CA.
Some of them reside in Council District 8. For more information, please contact Jim Cannon of the Montford Point Marine Association, Los Angeles Chapter #8 at (562) 595-8008 or by email at email@example.com. You can visit the Montford Marines website at www.montfordpointmarines.com
“After 69 years, to see this happen—I thought I would never see this happen,” said Whitworth.