The Montford Point Marines: A Case Study on Integration
When President Franklin Roosevelt signed a 1941 executive order banning discrimination in the military and all other government agencies “because of race, creed, color or national origin,” the then-Commandant of the Marine Corps made his objection clear. “If it were a question of having a Marine Corps of 5,000 whites or 250,000 Negroes,” Maj. Gen. Thomas Holcomb infamously said, “I would rather have the whites.”
The Montford Point Marines provided powerful rebuttal.
In an online discussion following the nation’s observance of Black History Month, Jeremy Maxwell of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College examines the unit that successfully integrated the Marines in 1942. From training at Camp Montford Point in Jacksonville, North Carolina, it went on to distinguish itself throughout the Pacific Theater in World War II – most notably on Okinawa, where approximately 2,000 members saw intense action.
Holcomb’s successor, Lt. Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift, was moved to declare, “The Negro Marines are no longer on trial. They are Marines, period.” The unit paved the way for the integrated armed forces of today.
Maxwell, an assistant professor in the Command and General Staff College’s department of history, is the author of two books including Brotherhood in Combat: How African Americans Found Equality in Korea and Vietnam. He’s now writing another on the Montford Point Marines.
His presentation is co-presented by PNC Bank. Watch it live online at YouTube.com/kclibrary.