June 1 marked the 75th anniversary of the Montford Point Marines authorization, which first allowed African Americans to serve in the Marine Corps.
The U.S. Marine Corps Twitter page recently announced a new documentary that explains the history of the Montford Point Marines and their contribution to the United States Marine Corps.
"Between 1942 and 1949, roughly 20,000 African Americans decided to enlist.," Capt. Lisa Lawrence, public affairs officer of the 1st Marine Division, said in the documentary.
Initially, according to the official website of the Montford Point Marines, the Marine Corps intended to discharge the newly accepted African American service members after the war, forcing them to return to civilian life and leaving the Marine Corps an all-white organization.
In the documentary, retired United States Marine Corps aviator Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden, former NASA administrator, said "everybody expected ... they’ll quit. They won’t stick it out, yet they did, and they kept coming."
Soon it became impossible to deny that the Montford Point Marines were just as capable as their white counterparts.
"Those Marines did everything the white Marines did, whether it was segregated camps or whatever, they were not going to be denied the title of U.S. Marine," Col. Grover Lewis III, at the time the director of security and emergency services at Camp Lejeune, said in the documentary.
The camp was renamed in April 1974 to Camp Johnson in honor of the late Sgt. Maj. Gilbert H. "Hashmark" Johnson. Johnson was one of the first to enlist, a veteran of World War II and Korea, and a distinguished Montford Point drill instructor, according to the website.
Recognizing contributions of these Marines is important, because, as Lawrence states within the documentary, the Montford Point Marines "took the first steps to making the Marine Corps what it is today."