On Wednesday, June 27, the first African Americans inducted into the Marines Corps received the Congressional Gold Medal. The group is generally known as the "Montford Marines" because they were trained at Camp Montford Point in Jacksonville, North Carolina, which was segregated. From 1942-1949 over 20,000 men were trained at Montford Point. The Marines were the last branch of the military to integrate.
The Congressional Gold Medal ceremony took place in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. The Tuskegee Airmen, African-American pilots who fought during World War II, were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007. The legislation to honor the Montford Marines was introduced by Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) in the House last July. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) pushed Brown's legislation through Senate and President Obama signed the bill honoring the Marines in November 2011.
The Montford Point Marine Association says there are 400 Montford Marines still living. About 100 are expected to attend the ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
In July 1948, President Truman signed Executive Order 9981, requiring the desegregation of the military. In 1949, Montford Point was closed and new Black recruits went to Parris Island and Camp Pendleton.