First African-American Marine Corp Trained at Montford Point in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

Written by Jae Jones

The beginning of World War II was about to start, and African-Americans would get their chance to fight. Years before the Marine Corps had been all white. The first African-American recruits would report to , a small section of land that was located on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, on August 26, 1942. Only 600 recruits had trained by October, and the call was for as many as 1,000 for combat in the 51st and 52nd Composite Defense Battalions.


The recruits has been trained by all white officers and non-commissioned officers, however citing a desire to have blacks train blacks grew, and the Marines quickly found exceptional recruits to serve as NCO drill instructors. It was in January 1943 that Edgar R. Huff became the first Black NCO as a private first class. The Black Drill Sergeant would follow, 19-year old Gilbert “Hashmark” Johnson, a veteran of the Army and Navy. The Montford Marines performed well in their duties on their home ground and abroad, despite the limits that were put on them by society in their era. In practice, these men surpassed all anti-aircraft gunnery records previously set by Marines, and named their weapon “Lena” after their favorite singer, Lena Horne.

The recruits had finished training by May, 1943 by the Black sergeants and drill instructors. Years to come Johnson and Huff would be renowned for their Marine Corps training and exceptional leadership skills. The men of the 51st soon distinguished themselves as the finest artillery gunners in the Marine Corps, breaking almost every accuracy record in training.  Unfortunately, racism towards fighting abilities still existed and when they were sent to the Pacific, the 51st and 52nd were posted to outlying islands away from the primary action. The Montford Point Marine training facility was stopped when President Truman desegregated the U.S. Armed forces. Read more.



Please share this piece of black history with your friends on Facebook.

Leave Your Thoughts Below!

About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

Leave a Comment

Rewinding To Remember