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thedrifter
03-10-07, 10:10 AM
Documentary honoring black WWII Marines premieres next week

(Orangeburg) March 9, 2007 - A new documentary showcasing the service of some unsung heroes from World War Two premieres next week in Orangeburg.

The Montford Point Marines were the first black Marines in the modern-day Marine Corps.

North Carolina, 1942. Marine recruits come to a base called Montford Point. It's a historic moment.

"We need to elevate their story and their patriotism," said SC State University Professor Learie Luke.

Charles Payne of Orangeburg was one of them. All of 18 years old, he was drafted from high school, and loved the discipline of the service.

But there were challenges. The base, next to Camp Lejeune, was segregated.

"We had our own sleeping facilities, our own chow halls," Payne said.

He says there was racism from some white officers.

"They said 'we don't want you here anyway, but since you're here, you're going to be Marines,'" he recalled, laughing.

The Montford Point Marines would serve in Okinawa, Iwo Jima and more.

"They fought for their country despite segregation, discrimination and racism," said Luke.

It's one reason why Luke has headed up work on a documentary on the marines.

"They are part of all we treasure in American history," said Luke.

South Carolina State has invited people to the South Carolina premiere of the documentary Monday at the fine arts building on campus. In the audience will be about 12 Montford Point Marines, including some traveling from several states to get here.

Senator Lindsey Graham also said he plans to attend.

"The Montford Point Marine Project" features interviews with the Marines about training to serve their country in a segregated society.

"They felt they owed their country a lot and wanted to demonstrate they were as patriotic as anyone else," said Luke.

With, he says, a strong impact.

"They were part of that first wave of dismantling segregation in the US," Luke said.

"We were always true to our motto - Semper Fi, always faithful," says Payne.

The documentary makers say it's time to say thanks.

The project also includes a component for schools. For more information, go to the documentary's website.

News 10 also got a chance to sit down with a Montford Point Marine, Sergeant Ellis Cunningham.

You can see the interview Sunday morning on Awareness at 10:00am on WIS.

Reported by Jennifer Wilson

Updated 7:14pm by Logan Smith

Ellie