MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP JOHNSON, N.C. --
Although the history of the Montford Point Marines is not very well known, these Marines played a significant role in shaping the Marine Corps of today, said Ronald K. Culp, author of the new book The First Black Marines.
“Before I began researching the history of Montford Point, I realized that everyone knew about the Tuskegee Airmen and the Buffalo Soldiers, but no one really knew about the Montford Marines,” said Culp.
Culp has spent more then four years researching the Montford Point Marines, who were the first black men to enlist into a then segregated Marine Corps.
This is only the tip of the iceberg regarding their story, said Culp.
The book covers the history, life and legacy of the Marines who went through the training at Montford Point from 1942-1946. Training at Montford point began on June 25, 1941, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 establishing the fair employment practice that began to erase discrimination in the armed forces.
Following its implementation in 1942, Montford Point opened its doors to the Marine Corps’s first black recruits at what is now Camp Johnson, a satellite facility of Camp Lejeune.
Even though the executive order allowed blacks to serve, America was still racially segregated. This separated the black recruits from training with everyone else.
More than 20,000 Marines graduated from Montford Point. Training continued there until July, 1948 when President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981 ending segregation in the armed forces. September 1949, Montford Point was deactivated. According to the Montford Point Marine Association Web site located at www.montfordpointmarines.com.
Although the camp is a large piece of history, the Marines who passed through are what captures the story, he said.
“I enjoyed meeting these men and hearing their stories,” Culp said. “I wanted to get their story out so everyone could know who they were.”
Culp presented the book to Maj. Gen. Robert C. Dickerson, Marine Corps Installation East commanding general and Finney Greggs, the director of the Montford Point Marines Museum on Camp Johnson.
“I believe that history is an intricate part of our lives, and I believe that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” said Greggs. “This book will let everyone know about the amazing things these men did and the things they’ve endured. These men fought for the right to fight, and without them I might not have been able to wear the Eagle, Globe and Anchor.”
For more information contact the museum at 910-450-1340. The Montford Point Marines Museum is housed in the east wing of building M101 on Camp Johnson. Museum hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.