First Black Marines Awarded Congressional Gold Medal

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

When President Roosevelt ordered in 1942 that the Marine Corps be integrated, around 20,000 African-Americans signed up and were accepted for service. These Marines didn’t train at the boot camps most soldiers went to, in South Carolina and California. They instead trained in North Carolina, at a facility called Montford Point.

The first African-Americans in the Air Force and the Army — that’s the Tuskegee Airmen and the Buffalo Soldiers — have some renown, but the Montford Point Marines have remained relatively unknown.

Last fall, the House and Senate voted unanimously to award the Montford Point Marines the Congressional Gold Medal. And today at 3 p.m., President Obama will present the medals to approximately 400 Marines at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Among those who traveled to Washington to receive their medals in person is former New York City Mayor David Dinkins. Dinkins enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1945.

"I figured the best way to be equipped to survive [in the war] was to be well-trained, and I figured to be well-trained, you should be a Marine," Dinkins recalls. "I was about 130 pounds soaking wet, and 17 years old." 

While many would-be draftees were fighting to be excused from military service, Dinkins had to travel across the Northeast to find a recruiting post that had not, as he puts it, "filled their quota for Negro Marines". He was finally admitted and trained at North Carolina, but the war ended while Dinkins was still in boot camp.

After the war, Dinkins and his comrades found that American society was still far behind in race relations. He recalled living in Washington, D.C. in the postwar years: "There were places where we could not shop. We couldn't go to the movies downtown, yet some of my classmates had shrapnel in their bodies, but were treated differently." 

Dinkins is grateful for the congressmen's efforts. "It's belated in a sense that it should have happened long ago," Dinkins says, "but I'm pleased that it's happened." The Tuskegee Airmen, who Dinkins calls "real heroes", received a collective Congressional Gold Medal in 2007. "It took longer, obviously, to get around to the Marine Corps." 


David Dinkins

Produced by:

Robert Balint, Ben Bradford and John Light

Comments [4]

Brenda Casey from NYC

Dinkins always cries racism if things don't go his way,

Feb. 04 2013 07:39 PM
govinda dalton from montana

Health Care Not health insurance,
dissolve the insurance companies role in Health Care

34% of health oriented expenses going to paper work

In reference to JP Morgan, when you say they lost 9 billion, Did the money evaporate? where did it go?
some one is setting with a nice bundle of cash.
When they say Loss, it is some one else's gain

Jun. 28 2012 09:10 AM
shirley harrow from Quincy MA

The United States Cadet Nurse Corps of WWII, an integrated Uniformed Service under the command of the US Surgeon General, deserve a Congressional Gold Medal. This Corps of young women (180,000 strong at its peak) prevented the collapse of America's Health care system- during the war and for the early post war years They have received no recognition for their service.

Jun. 27 2012 09:49 AM
anna from new york

I would give medals to heroes - whistle blowers at wonderful American workplace, facing brutality of both managers and collaborating employees, losing their jobs, being blacklisted etc. Yes, medals should be given to heroes.

Jun. 27 2012 07:08 AM

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