History of Integration of the United States Marine Corps
The orps provides detachments for service aboard warships and for the protection of naval bases and stations. It guards U. S. embassies, legations, and consulates in countries abroad. The corps also guards the White House, the annual presidential retreat at Camp David, as well as the U. S. Naval Academy. The Marine Corps also performs other duties as directed by the president, who ranks as the Commander in Chief. Present day, the Marine Corps is a completely desegregated military force, compiled of men and women of many races, various sexual orientations, and ages.
In fiscal 2007, which ended September 30, blacks made up 10. percent of Marine recruits, up from 7. 8 percent In 2006. the smallest proportion of black recruits for the Corps since the all-volunteer force began 33 years ago. Today, black men and women constitute almost one-fifth of their strength. However, as early as the Revolutionary war there have been scores of regulations and occurrences preventing and thus finally allowing the enlistment of blacks into the Marines. It wasn’t until 1941 , that the very first steps toward ending segregation in the armed forces were taken.
Just as every single struggle that blacks in the United States have fought for Justice gainst, the Marine Corps Is no different struggle. The Marine Corps was the last branch of the Armed Forces to allow the enlistment of blacks, yet these people still found themselves facing prejudice aimed at them from many angles. Almost ironically, with the newly Instituted independence, the racial ideology and economic realities of slavery prevented the new nation from fully redeeming Its supposed promises of equality and freedom.
The Constitution of the united States, ratified in 1789, protected the institution of slavery, and prejudice against blacks was widespread even within the states that had rejected slavery. This prejudice was written Into federal military policy when, In 1792, congress limited service In state militias to “free able bodied white male citizens. ” Then, six years later, In 1798 that the secretary of war officially declared that “no Negro, Mulatto, or Indian” could enlist in the United States Navy or Marines (McLaurin).
It is probable that more blacks served as Marines in the Revolution who were not identified as such in the rolls (Shaw). Throughout World War l, the Marine Corps refused, as It had since the Revolution. to enlist blacks. It wasn’t until June 25, 1941 that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 or the Fair Employment Practices Commission, which forbade governmental agencies or firms receiving government contracts from ‘Ofs because of race, creed, color, or national origin” (McLaurin).
This order directly affected the Marine Corps which was the only branch of the United States military that still excluded blacks despite many demands from other branches, such as the Secretary of the Navvy Frank Knox who insisted that the Marines take a thousand black recruits per month. Secretary Knox’s statement was followed on May 20 by an nnouncement from the Navvy Department that on June 1 the Navvy would begin recruiting 1,000 blacks a month for shore and high seas service and that during June and July a complete battalion of 900 blacks would be formed by the Marine Corps (Shaw).
For the moment, the Corps insisted, Just as the Army and Navvy, on a policy of racial segregation within its ranks. Rather than send black enlistees to the East Coast training facility at Parris Island, South Carolina, the Marines sent these men to a separate facility, opened in 1942 which was a segregated training facility on an area of Camp Lejeune, called Montford Point. The first black recruit to arrive in camp was Howard P. Perry on August 26, followed that day by 12 others. He was Joined on that eventful first day by Jerome D.
Alcorn, Willie B. Cameron, Otto Cherry, Lawrence S. Cooper, Harold O. Ector, Eddie Lee, Ulysses J. Lucas, Robert S. Parks, Jr. , Edward Polin, Jr. , Emerson E. Roberts, Gilbert C. Rousan, and James O. Stallworth. The rest of the 23 men who eventually arrived in August came in over the next five days. These and subsequent recruits were organized into the Battery A, 51st Composite Defense Battalion, with Second Lieutenant Anthony Caputo as commanding officer, a static rtillery unit intended to hold land against attack (Shaw).
Since the unit was eventually to be composed entirely of black enlisted men and white officers, blacks would have to learn on the Job to fill all NCO (Non-commissioned Officer) billets. Although black Marines continued to be quartered on a segregated basis, increasing numbers of blacks began to work side by side with whites on the basis of common military occupational specialities. Letter of Instruction 421 of March 20 1943, which had directed that no black Marines would be placed in positions where they would ommand whites, was repealed on February 14, 1946.
As the natural course of events evolved, situations arose where black NCOs of necessity were placed in the position where they were responsible for giving orders to white Marines Junior to them. Such events were not common yet they did occur, and it was prejudicial to discipline to allow any exception to the general rules of military precedence and order. Promotion was to be governed by length of service, experience, and demonstrated ability, and controlled by changes in the training allowance for the battalion (Shaw).
All the while, lack recruits were forced to face the same legal segregation both inside the walls of Montford Point and out, in the civilian world. During this period of time, the men of Montford Point served the nation in three wars, all during a time when it was nearly impossible to escape the permeation of segregation. Despite the hardships faced, the record of service set by these men stands as a remarkable testament of their devotion to and faith in their country. On July 26, 1949, President Harry S.
Truman signed Executive Order 9981, the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, establishing equality of treatment and opportunity in the U. S. military within the Corps (Nalty). Marines were not seeking to expand the number of blacks within its ranks, so most of the men trained at Montford Point who remained on active duty continued to serve in segregated units. Commandant Clifton B. Cates publically stated that segregation was a problem that was to be solved solely by the American people and society and not the armed forces.
At this time, there were approximately 2,200 blacks among the 75,000 active duty Marines. The first department to be integrated was the Marine athletic teams. At Camp Lejeune black all stars from the Montford Point teams which played in camp intra-unit competition were selected to play on camp teams which engaged in inter-service play. In the 1947-1948 seasons, the Montford Point basketball team won the intra-unit competition and some of its star members became part of the team that represented Camp Lejeune.
In other sports, the athletic abilities of some black Marines won them a place on other camp teams, particularly in track, football, and boxing. Boxing had been an integrated sport overseas during the war and it continued to be one after he fghting ended; it was foolish to deny men a place on the team on the basis of race when Montford Point harbored men like Sergeant Charles W. Riggs, formerly of the 35th Marine Depot Company, who had been the All Service Heavyweight Champion of Pacific Ocean Areas, Forward, on Guam.
The all black boot camp at Montford Point was closed in September 1949; a year after the Executive Order was issued, sending new black recruits to training camps previously reserved for whites. Coincidentally, that same month Annie E. Graham and Ann E. Lamb became the first black women Marines. Shortly after in November of 1949, the Corps ordered that all individual black Marines be assigned to any vacancies in any unit where they could be used effectively (Lawliss). By the end of the Korean Conflict the Corps was fully integrated.
The nation, too, was experiencing a fundamental change in race relations, in large measure because African American veterans of both World War II and Korean War refused to accept second-class citizenship in the country they had fought to defend. The growth in the number of black Marines from two percent of the Corp’s strength to six percent accurately reflected the end of segregation. Certainly the manpower demands of the war hastened the change, but the combat performance of black Marines in integrated units did nothing to lessen the pace.
In July 1950, a thin sprinkling of blacks went out to Korea with the first units to see combat in the Pusan Perimeter, the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, which included the 5th Marines and Marine Aircraft Group 33 (Shaw). Throughout the nation, even in the Deep South, black veterans occupied leadership positions in a variety of civil rights organizations and were determined to end legal segregation in the United States (McLaurin). The Montford Point Marines were presumed unsuited for combat and not allowed to fight alongside their white counterparts until the Korean War.
Still, they underwent intense fire in their supporting roles in the Pacific during World War II, serving at Okinawa and Iwo Jima. By the 1960s the Marine Corps often stated that there were no black or white Marines, only “green Marines”. Of the 448,000 Marines that served in Vietnam, 41,000 were black. Out of this time, there were a total of five black Medal of Honor winners, recipients were Private First Class James Anderson, Jr. , Private First Class Oscar P. Austin, Sergeant Rodney M. Davis, Private First Class Robert H. Jenkins, and Private First Class Ralph H. Johnson.
Despite the major setbacks that blacks had broken past, they still had a long way to go in the Marines. There were only 48 black officers in 1964, 282 in 1973 out of an officer corps of 20,000 and only 24 were majors or higher. It was no better in the enlisted ranks. In 1964 there were only 184 blacks in the top three enlisted grades, 1,394 in 1973, out of some 29,000 enlisted black Marines (Lawliss). The men of Montford Point gained entry into the nation’s most celebrated elite ighting service, a branch of service that to this day carries enormous significance in American culture.
Their determination and perseverance made possible a career in the Corps for thousands of younger African Americans who followed them. Montford Point veterans who made the Corps their career created the opportunity for young black Marines to obtain commissions, rise in the ranks, and eventually obtain the rank of general and become base commanders. These Montford Point Marines, the first noted black Marines, received a rare national tribute October 25, 2011 as the House voted 422-0 to award the Marines with he Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor given by Congress. People forget they were fighting two wars both foreign and domestic,