Montford Point Marines: Forced to Weather the Racism of a Segregated Military by Thomas Pearce

86 Year Old George Bennett entered the Marines at age 19 in 1943

86 Year Old George Bennett entered the Marines at age 19 in 1943

“My father was always bitter about his time in the Korean War, the black soldiers were forced to go into the battlefield in advance of the white soldiers to place the ammunition, a lot of black soldiers were killed that way.” said African American Kentucky State Representative Reginald Meeks, upon the passing of his father.

This was the first I had ever heard of the Montford Point Marines. It was Martin Luther King day, January 20th 2014 and i was honored to attend the wake and honoring by the Monford Point Marine Association of Lieutenant Florian Meeks. It was an emotional reminder of the racism that has pervaded the United States since it’s founding. I decided to dig into this history a bit and here is what I found out.

In 1940 the US congress instituted the first peacetime draft in history. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. In 1941 President Franklin Roosevelt signed order 8802 which barred government agencies and federal contractors from refusing employment in industries engaged in defense production on the basis of race, creed, color or national origin. It was the first Presidential decree issued on race since reconstruction. In 1942 around 1500 African Americans began training at the segregated Montford Point training camp. Altogether over 20,000 African American soldiers were trained at the segregated training North Carolina camp. White marines were trained at Paris Island in South Carolina.

To be honest, I am not going to write an article about “Proud patriotic African Americans” who were forced to serve in a segregated military. What I will write about is how working  class African Americans have been forced by either a draft or economic hardship to serve under dangerous conditions the very government that was refusing to let them vote. It is interesting how when the United States was fighting the “fascism of Hitler” the US had a segregated military. In fact up until 1949 African American soldiers visiting nearby Camp Lejeune would have to have a white escort. Let us also be clear that the US needed fresh meat for it’s military machine. The order outlawing a segregated military was not signed until 1949. Just in time for the Korean War. Montford Point was disbanded at that time.

World War 2 and then the Korean War meant that the US was going to need every able bodied man in it’s borders to win it’s imperialist wars. The United States did not enter World War 2 to save Jewish people who were being killed by Hitler, instead the US entered the war only because they were attacked by Japan. I refuse to acknowledge any war the US has participated in as a “good war”. The United States has gone to war to advance it’s imperialist goals. It did not ever go to war to save anyone. Back to the Montford Point Marines.

It was told to me that African American Marines in Korea were usually given suicide missions and dangerous jobs like carrying ammunition to battle points in advance of white soldiers. They were discriminated against. They often had their performance evaluations hijacked by racists intent on disputing black soldiers combat readiness like the sham evaluation that was given the 24th infantry division for abandoning a post overrun by Korean forces whilst they were given zero support or any advance knowledge of what was about to happen to them.

I was honored today to support my brother and friend Reginald Meeks as his family was honored by the Montford Point Marine Association. Here is the thing that really startled me. The Montford Point Marines did not receive the Congressional Medal of Honor until 2012, under president Obama. Florian Meeks was unable to attend the ceremony because of health conditions. His medal was delivered by Congressman John Yarmuth. They received the Medal for serving the US Marines under racist conditions a in the deep south and doing their jobs under ridiculous and harsh conditions. The ceremony was riveting. Congressman John Yarmuth presented his family with a flag that flew in Florian’s honor over the US capitol.

A video recording of Florian Meeks final statement to the world was played he said “I want to be remembered as a Christian, a husband, and a man who did his job, I did my job! I did my job!” Yes you did sir.

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1 Comment

  1. “Let us also be clear that the US needed fresh meat for it’s military machine.” And it always has been. Thank you for reporting and personalizing on this critical piece of US history through the story of Rep. Meeks father.


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