Marines presented World War II Medallion for service to country
By DALE LINDER-ALTMAN, T&D Correspondent Friday, July 10, 2009

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At 83, his hair is white and his walk has slowed, but his eyes still sparkle with a zest for life.

Cpl. Charles Payne, who served his country in the South Pacific during World War II, is one of three retired Marines recently awarded the World War II Medallion by the Greater Orangeburg Leathernecks Marine Corps League.

The three who received the medal were Payne and Lance Cpl. James Glover, along with Cpl. Alva Moore, who was not present at the awards ceremony.

Commandant James Cromartie of the League praised the men for their service to their country as well as the wisdom they’ve passed down to younger Marines.

“I’m just extremely proud because of the profound knowledge and wisdom that they share with the younger generation,” Cromartie said. “I think it’s totally awesome. That’s why we truly are a band of brothers, and I’m extremely proud to be associated with a group of men like these.”

During the 1940s, the military service was segregated. As African Americans, Payne and Glover were able to become Marines only because the Fair Employment Practices Commission, created by President Franklin Roosevelt, forced the U.S. Marine Corps to recruit blacks. They were trained at Montford Point, a segregated camp affiliated with Camp Lejeune, N.C.

At that time, all black soldiers were in labor units, serving either in ammunition or depot companies, Payne said. When his outfit, the 25th Marine Depot, was shipped out from Pearl Harbor, he was left behind because of illness, and this led to him to become an inventory specialist for the Pacific Supply Depot, he said.

“We had a picnic at Waikiki, and one of my friends asked me, ‘Who hit you in the jaw?’ I looked in the mirror, and my face was swollen up,” he said. “I had the mumps, so I ended up staying there when my company left, and I was in the casualty company.”

According to Payne, the supply depot was completely disorganized, and since he had had experience in doing inventory at Westinghouse, he ended up working the depot for the rest of his time in the service.

“I had quite an experience there,” he said. “The place was a mess; you couldn’t find a 38, or a 34, or a 36 shirt size – or anything. You had to scrimmage for it. My friend and I stayed there for the duration of the war.”

In contrast to Payne, who chose the Marines over the other services, Glover, a married man with three children, was drafted into the Marines. Like Payne, Glover was in a labor unit, but he worked to keep the white Marines on the front lines supplied with ammunition.

Both Payne and Glover take pride in the fact that they were among the first African Americans to become Marines, though their road to success was rockier than that of their white comrades.

In spite of the hardships and slights they received as African Americans, the two paved the way for today’s black Marines, and they carry the term “Montford Point” Marines with distinction and pride.

Glover’s son, Samuel, entered the Marines because of his father’s example.

“Dad always talked about the Marines and how tough they were,” he said. “He took a lot of pride in being a Marine. He’d be out there showing us the movements like marching and about face. He did it year after year, and somehow it got to where I knew I was going into the Marines at some point in my life.”

After completing college, Sam Glover joined the Marines via Officer’s Candidate School, quite a change from his dad’s situation. But the Marines were still tough, he said.

After his first few days there, when he was finally allowed to call home, he said had a question for his dad: “Daddy, why in the world did you let me come to a place like this?”

His dad laughed, Glover said. “He always said, ‘You aren’t real Marines. You weren’t Montford Point Marines.’”

Retired Cpl. Alva Moore, who joined the Marines at the age of 17, was trained at Parris Island. After training, he was sent to the South Pacific Theater, where he served as part of a ground defense unit protecting airstrips on four different islands. From there, he was transferred to the Philippines, Moore said.

He was at home on a 30-day leave when the Japanese surrendered.

T&D Correspondent Dale Linder-Altman can be reached by e-mail at