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thedrifter
02-19-07, 08:14 AM
Important journey is captured in film
February 19,2007

To some, Montford Point exists simply as a name. But to the first black men to become U.S. Marines, Montford Point is where they showed the rest of the Corps that they couldn't be broken. And now, thanks to a film made by a professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, everyone else can see the challenge the Montford Point Marines met and conquered.The study of U.S military history has long recorded the deeds of men who fought with courage and honor from one side of the globe to the other. But, with a few exceptions, those exploits generally are populated with white men, not men of color. There's a simple explanation for this.

It's not that black men were less courageous or unwilling to sacrifice for their cause or country. History certainly would prove their valor and their dedication to liberty. But the military didn't want blacks in uniform except to serve coffee in the officers' mess or tend to other menial duties.

But for black men in this country, it wasn't enough. Not by a long shot. And when the opportunity came to enlist in the Marines, more than a few good black men showed up for the toughest boot camp in Marine history.

This boot camp required both strength of body and mind, not simply because that's the way Marines train, but because the men who trained them knew that they would be judged by the color of their skin, not their accomplishments. So the first wave of black Marines worked twice as hard to earn the globe and anchor.

Their camp, Montford Point, stood right outside Jacksonville. During the early days of World War II, segregation was the law of the land and, even more significantly, the social norm. Blacks were considered inferior and unacceptable in certain positions. Although the U.S. Navy had black stewards, the Marines only grudgingly admitted blacks because the then-current president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, signed an executive order forcing them to do so. The commandant at the time didn't go down without a fight, but in the end, the Marines had to accept blacks within their ranks.

But they didn't intend to train with them. Instead, they cleared out a small corner of the county and put the camp there. The Montford Point Marines were allowed to go into Jacksonville for a little rest and relaxation, but they were confined to one side of the railroad tracks running through the town. Yet, even though they were treated as men of lesser value, they valued themselves enough to know that they were opening a door that would not only change the face of the Marine Corps, but the face of the nation.

Now these Marines and their legacy have been recognized for what they are - an example, an inspiration, an important part of the history of Onslow County, this country and the Marine Corps.

It's only fitting that their story be commemorated in film so that their journey is recorded for generations yet to come.

Montford Point is not simply a place. When the first black men accepted the challenge thrown down by the Marine Corps, it also became a milestone in history.

Ellie