On April 26, 1942, the United States Marine Corps opened Montford Point at Camp Lejeune, specifically for the training of African American recruits.
Before President Harry Truman’s 1948 executive order that ended segregation in the armed forces, blacks who served did so in segregated units, like the one at Montford Point. In the era of strict segregation, interaction between white and black Marines during training was practically nonexistent.
The larger base, Camp Lejeune, had been established one year earlier as part of mobilization for World War II. Shortly after that time, the Corps constructed barracks and support facilities including a chapel, mess hall, steam plant and recreational area on the 1,600-acre peninsula that became Montford Point.
More than 19,000 black Marines served in World War II, all in units trained at Montford Point. Among the units organized there were the 51st and 52nd Defense Battalions, which were dispatched to the Pacific but saw no combat action, and 11 ammunition and 51 depot companies that did see action.
The 51st Battalion Band, led by musician Bobby Troup, lent to the sense of esprit de corps.
The facility became obsolete after Navy Secretary Francis Matthews ordered the end of racial division in the Navy and Marines in June 1949.
Other related resources:
· Explore the African American Experience from the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
· A History of African Americans in North Carolina from N.C. Historical Publications
· Resources related to black history from the State Library
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