Today marks the beginning of a two-day ceremony honoring the first African-American marines, known as the Montford Point Marines. WHQR’s Sara Wood reports the men will receive the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal from President Barack Obama in the nation’s capital.
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award given to Americans, and for the Montford Point Marines, it provides long-overdue recognition for their dedicated service. Even after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an order to integrate the armed forces in 1941, African-American marines were not allowed to train with white marines. A separate training facility for African-Americans was built just outside Camp LeJeune, known as Montford Point.
During the 1940s, almost 20,000 men trained at Montford Point, serving mostly in the Pacific theater of World War II. Today there are only 120 surviving Montford Point Marines. Thirty-tw0 of the marines attending the ceremony are from North Carolina.