Veterans

June 28, 2012

World War II African-American Marines receive Congressional Gold Medal

by Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

A group of African-American Marines who broke the Marine Corps’ color barrier during World War II received the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol June 27.

The medal is the nation’s highest civilian award given by Congress. The “Montford Point Marines” received the award for serving with valor during the war, even as they were subjected to discrimination.

In 1942, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt allowed African-Americans to join the Marine Corps, they were not sent to the traditional boot camps. Instead, this group of Marines was segregated and completed basic training at Montford Point on Camp Lejeune, N.C.

“African-Americans were not allowed to serve in any wars until World War II in 1942,” said William McDowell, a former Montford Point Marine who accepted the medal on behalf of his fellow Marines and family members in Emancipation Hall at the Capitol. “Unfortunately it took a world war to make it happen, but it happened. I don’t think any of us ever imagined that something like this would ever happen in our lifetime.”

McDowell said it was a “privilege and an honor to stand before [the audience] and receive the Congressional Gold Medal for [them] and 18,700 other brothers who served this nation and the corps, with courage and commitment. This award belongs to them because collectively, [we] did what we thought was impossible … [and] made history.”

Several congressional leaders also addressed the audience. California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, House minority leader, spoke of the Montford Point Marines’ toughness and determination.

“In the time of these Marines – in an age of inequality – breaking the color barrier in the Marine Corps took nothing less than perseverance, patriotism and courage of extraordinary proportions,” she said.

Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader, noted that many of the Montfort Marines seized the opportunity to defend their country in combat.

“Restricted to training for support roles, African-American Marines had to wait for their chance to prove themselves on the battlefield. But the chance finally came in the Pacific Theater, where many saw combat in some of the bloodiest battles of World War II, including Iwo Jima, Saipan and Okinawa, and carried out their duties with great courage and heroism,” he said.

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, Senate majority leader, told the audience that while the African-American Marines fought for the rights of others overseas, the injustice of discrimination still prevailed on their home fronts.

“They were trained to fight injustice overseas; meanwhile, they suffered discrimination every day,” he said. “They were trained to fight tyranny abroad, while their friends and family suffered oppression here at home … Although they were assigned support roles in the Pacific Theater, many had the chance to prove themselves in battle as well … Some cleaned up the ash after the bomb was dropped over Nagasaki.”

House Speaker Rep. John Boehner of Ohio said African-Americans gained respect as full-fledged Marines.

“Letting [African-Americans] serve in the Marine Corps was called an experiment … which didn’t last very long,” Boehner said. “Toward the end of the war, the Marine Corps commandant said the experiment was over, [and] that the men who trained at Montford Point were ‘Marines, period.’”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Marine Corps photograph by Lance Cpl. Joseph Scanlon

Cannon Cockers mark 10-Year anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Marine Corps photograph by Lance Cpl. Joseph Scanlon Danny Acosta, a retired first sergeant who served with 11th Marine Regiment during Operation Iraqi Freedom and a native of Valencia, Calif., poses with his family for a pictu...
 
 
palmdale-army1

Top ten percent

Col. Omar Jones, commander, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division presents a certificate of achievement to Spec. Uritze Snelling, a native of Palmdale, Calif., 2nd Special Troops Battalion, 2nd ABCT, 4th Inf. D...
 
 
Photograph by Linda KC Reynolds

OATH leads to new home for Veteran Jerral Hancock

Photograph by Linda KC Reynolds Kaelynn Edwards, Nicole Skinner and Army Spec. Jerral Hancock have a laugh via Skype with Gary Sinise of the Lt. Dan Band during a conference at Lancaster High School. History teacher Jamie Go...
 

 

Hagel orders overhaul of POW/MIA identification agencies

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced March 31 that he’s ordered an overhaul of the Pentagon agencies responsible for recovering and identifying the remains of America’s war dead. The reorganization seeks to consolidate the mission, improve efficiency and increase the number of remains identified by the two key agencies charged with POW-MIA accounting efforts — the...
 
 

Half of vets on G.I. Bill graduate, report estimates

A little more than half of the veterans who got college money under the GI Bill since 2009 eventually graduated, though many took longer to do it, a new study estimates. The report released March 214 estimated that 51.7 percent of student veterans earned a degree or certificate for some kind of higher education. That’s...
 
 

Veterans unemployment rate dropped in 2013

The unemployment rate for Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans dropped in 2013, according to Labor Department statistics announced March 20. The unemployment rate fell to 9 percent last year for veterans who served on active duty since September 2001. The jobless rate for all veterans also edged down to 6.6 percent. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>