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Montford Point Marines: Black Marines in World War II


In June of 1942, the United States Marine Corps began admitting black recruits for the first time since the American Revolution. The men received their training at a segregated camp in Montford Point, North Carolina. They never forgot the welcome bestowed upon them by their racist Drill Instructor, Sgt. Germany.

"The Marine Corps is not for cooks and janitors. Which is about all you son of a bitchin' people are qualified to do as far as I can see. Just remember, that I am going to try and get as much out of you people as I would from a platoon of white recruits. If I have to kill you to do it then you are dead. My name is Sergeant Germany and I’m a red neck peckerwood.”

Of the more than 19,000 African-American Marines, who passed through Montford Point during World War II, almost 13,000 were assigned to overseas defense battalions or combat support companies. Many of the units were directly in the line of fire. The men were often clearing a jungle one moment, then fighting for their lives the next. A white Lt., Joe Grimes, wrote about it.

”I watched those Negro boys carefully. They were under intense mortar and artillery fire as well as rifle and machine gun fire. They all kept on advancing until the counter attack was stopped.”

Private Kenneth J. Tibbs would become became the first Montford Point Marine to die in action when he fell on the beach at Saipan. The national press took note and Time magazine wrote, "Negro Marines, under fire for the first time, have rated a universal 4.0 on Saipan."

Iwo Jima was a critical link in the United States quest to construct a chain of airstrips across the Pacific. Allied planes needed the island as an emergency runway for their bombing missions over Japan. Black Marines of the 8th Ammunition Company landed in the early stages of the battle. Much of the ammo was delivered aboard amphibious transport vehicles called “Ducks.”

“One of the bravest sights I’ve seen was a black driver of a Duck. Time and time again he delivered much needed ammunition to Marines fighting at the foot of Suribachi. The Japanese shot two trucks out from under him, but he came back every time.”

On D-Day day plus 4, it was Sergeant Jim Rundle's turn. He boarded an LST and made for the shore.

"As we headed toward the beach, I glanced up and pointed my field glasses toward Suribachi, and there she went. They were raising the flag… God, what a beautiful sight I thought.”

Black Americans began serving their country in revolutionary new ways. See their story in the documentary about Black military history, For Love of Liberty.

The heroic black soldiers of World War II are featured in the documentary of Black Military History, "For Love of Liberty."