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Honor Unleashed: The Untold Story of the First Black Marines


Erick McNair

Throughout my youth at Gonzaga School Excessive Faculty in Washington, D.C., the ideas of honor and repair have been deeply ingrained in me – a significant facet of changing into a “man for others.” But, the origins of those ideas prolong past my education, reaching again to an distinctive one that I’m proud to confer with as my late-grandfather, Reuben McNair, a Montford Level Marine. The experiences of my grandfather and his corps colleagues embody a compelling narrative of how honor served as a strong and unwavering compass, directing their actions and decisions, even within the face of probably the most formidable conditions.

As we usher in November, a month deeply resonated with gratitude and remembrance, we take the time to commemorate the Nationwide Soccer League’s (NFL) “Salute to Service” Month and have a good time Veterans Day, honoring the courageous people who’ve served in our armed forces. My ideas flip in direction of the quite a few servicemen and servicewomen, whose braveness and dedication persistently encourage us. Amongst these heroes, the Montford Level Marines stand as a towering beacon of resilience, bravery, and honor.

From Segregation to Valor: The Journey of the Montford Level Marines

From 1942 to 1949, African People, for the primary time, joined the U.S. Marine Corps, enduring racial bias and poor residing situations throughout their coaching on the segregated Montford Level Camp in North Carolina. Regardless of these challenges, their unwavering sense of obligation, honor, and patriotism shone by throughout World Warfare II and the Korean Warfare. Initially excluded from fight roles and superior infantry coaching, these Black Marines have been assigned to help items akin to depot and ammunition corporations. Even so, they distinguished themselves in Pacific battles like Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Peleliu, and Iwo Jima, typically straight partaking the enemy whereas performing their help duties.

Peleliu’s “Black Angels”

Within the face of great opposition and after enduring a interval of exclusion from armed fight, African-American Marines have been lastly granted the precise to combat. They proved their mettle in among the harshest situations and battles, together with the Battle of Peleliu. The Nationwide Museum of the Marine Corps described this battle as “the bitterest battle of the warfare for the Marines” (Wheelan, 2023). This was a check of each their bodily prowess and their unwavering braveness.

The Montford Level Marines showcased their tenacity and bravado throughout this battle and McNair, assigned to the seventh Ammunition Firm, discovered himself entrenched in a ferocious firefight. His duties ranged from transporting ammunition to partaking in direct fight, rescuing wounded allies, and persistently returning to the frontline.

In “Love and Warfare: Beneath the Southern Cross,” Edward Andrusko gives a vivid depiction of how the Montford Level Marines earned the nickname “Black Angels.” When the tide of battle grew dire, the seventh and eleventh Marine Ammunition Depot Firm volunteered to help the entrance strains. They tirelessly labored to evacuate the wounded and fallen, typically holding a casualty stretcher in a single hand and a firearm within the different (Andrusko, 2003). Their heroic efforts earned them heartfelt gratitude from a severely wounded white Southerner, giving rise to the moniker “Black Angels” — a testomony to their valor and selflessness.

Past the Battlefield: The Montford Level Marines’ Wrestle for Equality

Throughout a interval marked by stark racial divisions, African American Marines grappled with segregation in amenities and companies. They discovered themselves battling not solely enemy forces on the battlefield, but in addition the ingrained racism inside the establishment they pledged to serve. These Marines skilled isolation from their white counterparts, together with throughout abroad deployments, highlighting a stark incongruity with their mutual dedication to service. Nonetheless, within the face of such obvious inequality, they persevered, their dedication to their obligation by no means wavering.

When the warfare ended, their trials didn’t. The Montford Level Marines returned house, to not a hero’s welcome, however to continued discrimination. The respect and recognition that ought to have been their due have been typically withheld, bestowed freely to their white counterparts as an alternative.

But, within the face of those formidable challenges, the Montford Level Marines stood tall. They upheld their honor, served with distinction, and broke down obstacles. Their legacy was not merely within the battles they fought abroad, however within the path they cast for future generations of African American service members. 

The G.I. Invoice and Financial Empowerment

Following World Warfare II, the G.I. Invoice, formally the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, provided a wide range of advantages for returning World Warfare II veterans. These included inexpensive mortgages, low-interest enterprise start-up loans, academic grants, and unemployment compensation.

Nonetheless, because of persistent racial discrimination, many African American veterans, just like the Montford Level Marines, initially struggled to totally entry these advantages. They performed a pivotal position in advocating for equal entry to those advantages for all African American veterans. This act not directly contributed to the rise of the African American center class within the post-war period and laid the groundwork for the civil rights motion.

The G.I. Invoice led to important change by offering a path to the center class for hundreds of thousands of veterans, together with African People. Entry to schooling, housing, and enterprise loans facilitated financial prosperity and development. This provision of financial alternatives performed a vital position in mitigating systemic inequality and selling financial progress inside the African American neighborhood.

Acknowledgment and Legacy

In 2012, the collective sacrifice and repair of the Montford Level Marines have been lastly acknowledged once they have been bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal, the best civilian honor in america. This recognition acknowledged their invaluable contributions throughout a tumultuous interval of racial rigidity.

As we stand getting ready to the NFL Basis’s celebration of servicemembers together with the Medal of Honor Museum in Arlington, Texas, it’s becoming to replicate on the legacy of the Montford Level Marines. Their story serves as a strong reminder of the braveness, honor, and resilience of our servicemen and servicewomen.

To complement your understanding of influential figures just like the Montford Level Marines, we suggest educators discover EVERFI’s 306: Black Historical past and 306: Black Historical past – Persevering with the Story programs. A brand new module, sponsored by the Medal of Honor Basis, can be accessible within the Character Playbook course. Specializing in braveness, dedication, and integrity, these assets enable college students to be taught in regards to the attributes of those figures and way more.

As we commemorate the legacy of the Montford Level Marines throughout this Salute to Service Month, we hope it continues to encourage and foster optimistic change. Discover these programs right now.


Andrusko, E. (2003). Love and Warfare Beneath the Southern Cross. Self-published.

Astor, G. (1998). The Proper to Combat: A Historical past of African People within the Navy. Presidio.

Hazard, A. (2012). Dwelling Historical past: Montford Level Marines. Cross in Evaluate, July/August/September 2012. Retrieved October 29, 2023, from https://www.barracks.marines.mil/Portals/74/Docs/PiRpercent20JAS.pdf

Heng, D. (2020). Strolling the Blood-Stained Pave: The Experiences of African American Marines within the Second World Warfare from Enlistment to Montford Level (Grasp’s thesis, Clemson College). TigerPrints. https://tigerprints.clemson.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4312&context=all_theses

Kotz, N. (2005, August 28). ‘When Affirmative Motion Was White’: Uncivil Rights. The New York Occasions. https://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/28/books/assessment/when-affirmative-action-was-white-uncivil-rights.html

Lutz, S. D. (2019). The Few, the Proud, the Black Marines in World Warfare II. Warfare Historical past Community. https://warfarehistorynetwork.com/article/the-few-the-proud-the-black-marines-in-world-war-ii/

MarineParents.com. (n.d.). Montford Level Marines. https://marineparents.com/marinecorps/montfordpointmarines.asp

McNair, R. (2005, June 29). Oral Historical past Interview. Randall Library Oral Historical past Assortment – Montford Level Marines. Retrieved October 29, 2023, from https://library.uncw.edu/net/montford/transcripts/McNair_Reuben.html

Peleliu Tribute. (n.d.). Peleliu Fight Staff 7 (Seashore Orange 3). Retrieved October 29, 2023, from https://www.peleliutribute.com/Vets5.html

Wheelan, J. (2023, March 5). Peleliu – Contained in the Pacific Warfare’s “Bitterest Battle”. MilitaryHistoryNow.com. https://militaryhistorynow.com/2023/03/05/peleliu-inside-the-pacific-wars-bitterest-battle/

In regards to the Creator: 

Erick, a Senior Supervisor on the Buyer Advertising crew at EVERFI, holds a grasp’s diploma in Sports activities Administration from Georgetown College. With over a decade of expertise within the sports activities and media sector, Erick has cultivated a deep-seated ardour for making a significant distinction in marginalized or underrepresented communities. Earlier than becoming a member of EVERFI, Erick labored for Occasions DC, Washington, DC’s Sports activities & Conference Authority. He now helps EVERFI’s sports activities partnerships crew, spearheading advertising and marketing and occasion initiatives that interact college students round vital matters together with character schooling, psychological wellness, and STEM. 



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