They boarded buses and trains, where white drivers sent them to the back. Careful with their first steps away from home, they complied. They headed First black marine a new world, built in the snake-infested woods of Montford Point Camp, North Carolina. Recruits marched over bear tracks, stomping out a place of their own as the Marine Corps begrudgingly opened its ranks to blacks for the first time.
Only a year before, then-Commandant Maj. But Holcomb had little sway when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued executive orderwhich prohibited racial discrimination in the services.
"First black marine" they knew was the Marines were accepting blacks and they wanted in. Numbers would hover between percent until the end of the Korean War. When the war broke out he was in high school, and a Marine recruiter came calling. But cold nights in tents during basic training had him missing home.
It was on the black and white screen that he and his friends first saw Marines. The World War I-based films showed jarheads fighting on the battlefield or slugging it out in bar fights. Navy Yard when he learned he could join too. Ivor Griffin went with his buddies to sign up for selective service.
Many waited months to find out if they would be called. The official lined the three up, told the first he was headed to the Army and the next he was headed to the Navy. Montford Point Marines, though fewer in "First black marine" than Army and Navy counterparts, played an outsized role in the acceptance of blacks in the military, said Robert Jefferson Jr. In many ways, Jefferson said, black Marines got little recognition for their sacrifice, despite First black marine proven themselves in bloody Pacific island battles.
Some military leaders pointed to that service to later support future integration. Blacks had served in various capacities since the Revolutionary War. Despite these contributions, Jefferson said many isolated black communities away from military posts knew little about black military exploits.
And even that order was restricted. Quotas allowed no more 10 percent black troops per unit, though numbers would never reaach that level during the war. And assignments kept most black troops in noncombat jobs such as cook, supply or steward.
But they were followed closely by the black press. The horrors of war were rarely reported either. Both angered many blacks, Jefferson said. As they arrived in North they confronted segregated transportation, restaurants and bathrooms. On one side were the white townspeople. On the other were a handful black families. Today, more than 67, people live in Jacksonville and 20
First black marine of them are black, according to Census data.
In Decembernearly four months after the boot camp opened, the men got their first liberty and headed into town to celebrate and catch a ride to the nearest cities. Town merchants, startled by the sight of a hundred black Marines in green, shut their stores, the bus and train station. Griffin, Carpenter and Manuel said they mostly bypassed white establishments, looking for juke joints run by black owners and getting meals from side windows or backdoors of restaurants, as was the rule at the time.
White Marines barred blacks from leaving First black marine Point on one occasion, Carpenter recalled. But soon, Carpenter said attitudes among some white Marines stationed on nearby Camp Lejeune, changed. Carpenter was returning from leave and fell asleep in the white section. When the bus driver stopped and told him to get off, white Marines came to his defense, telling the driver to shut up and keep driving.
When this happened to some of his friends, both white and black Marines would kick the driver from his own bus and drive it back to the gate themselves.
The first year the training cadre, commanders and support staff were white. Despite his rank, or perhaps because of it, he drove the recruits hard. The black drill instructors were tougher on them than the whites, because they wanted the recruits to be tested. Some of the Marines who are now charged keeping the history and significance of Montford Point alive had little to no knowledge of its existence when they were in uniform. Much of that changed when former Commandant Gen.
Everett Wills, a retired gunnery sergeant and association member, enlisted in Even then, nearly 35 years after Montford Point opened, Wills said there were few blacks serving as First black marine or in the senior enlisted ranks.
Only a few years before, in the late s, large-scale riots and race-charged brawls between white and black Marines had led to stabbings, beatings and deaths at Lejeune, Okinawa and in Vietnam.
InHeadquarters Marine Corps began compiling briefs on race-related incidents in the Corps. The 2nd Marine Division commanding general created a committee to address the issue.
Through the years much of the tension subsided as blacks attained higher ranks, including generals and sergeants major of the Marine Corps.
Spencer said honoring the past, even if it was segregated, can help people appreciate the present.