Montford Point Marines

In 1941 the United States had begun to prepare for the possibility of war and consequently, millions of jobs were being created. However, racial discrimination kept African Americans and other minorities from obtaining these defense industry jobs. In response to pressure from A. Philip Randolph, who had been organizing a march on Washington, and other Black leaders (as well as his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt), President Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 8802 on June 25, 1941. While E.O. 8802 did not ban segregation, it did open up positions to African Americans, stating that “there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in the defense industries of Government because of race, creed, color, or national origin…”

“Executive Order No. 8802” Fair Employment Practice in Defense Industries. Local Identifier: 44-PA-743 (https://catalog.archives.gov/id/514231)

Prior to E.O. 8802, the U.S. Army and Navy had allowed African Americans to join – albeit segregated from white units and/or relegated to ratings of steward or cook. On the other hand, the U.S. Marine Corps enforced complete racial discrimination, having never allowed African Americans to join. That is until June 1, 1942, almost a year after the signing of E.O. 8802, when the *first black Marine, Alfred Masters, was sworn-in.

Original Caption: “Montford Point. New River, N.C. Line-up of new recruits.” Photographer: Pat Terry. Date: April 1943. Local Photo Identifier: 127-GC-404-5305

The first African American Marine recruits arrived for basic training on August 26, 1942. Although, unlike white recruits who trained at Parris Island or San Diego, Black recruits were sent to a segregated training facility named Montford Point. Montford Point was located adjacent to Camp Lejeune. But, when compared to Camp Lejeune, the conditions at Montford Point were far from ideal. Additionally, Montford Point Marines continued to endure racism, not even being allowed to enter Camp Lejeune without being accompanied by a white Marine.

Despite the obstacles, African American men continued to voluntarily join the Marine Corps. Montford Point Marines were trained for anti-aircraft defense battalions, as well as supply and logistical roles. The first black unit to deploy overseas, the 1st Depot Company, left Montford Point on April 16, 1943. By the end of WWII, approximately 13,000 Montford Point Marines were deployed overseas, many seeing action at Saipan, Guam, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.

Original Caption: “U.S. Marines at New River, N.C. carrying ammunition.” Date: October 1942. Local Photo Identifier: 127-GC-404-5082
Original Caption: “A Marine artillery team of the crack 51st Defense Battalion is shown in training while at Montford Point Camp with a 90 mm AA gun. The defense unit is now on duty overseas.” Date: April 1945. Local Photo Identifier: 127-GC-404-9507
Original Caption: “A MARINE INFANTRY PLATOON–at Montford Point Camp is caught swinging along in cadence back to the barracks area after a long, energy-draining hike.” Photographer: Wilson. Date: April 1945. Local Photo Identifier: 127-GC-404-9495
Original Caption: “Student mechanics learn the operative principles…these Marines are instructed in the intricacies of the modern aircraft engines. Camp Lejeune.” Photographer: Anderson. Date: October 1944. Local Photo Identifier: 127-GC-404-7961
Original Caption: “A BUSY SPOT is the nerve center of Montford Point Camp operations. Montford Point Camp, Camp Lejeune.” Photographer: Sgt. L.A. Wilson. Local Photo Identifier: 127-GC-404-9503
Original Caption: “Reserves at Montford Point.” Photographer: H.D. Rider. Date: August 19, 1948. Local Photo Identifier: 127-GC-404-508769

After the war, Montford Point continued to operate, with more than 20,000 Black Marines receiving training at the camp. Ultimately, in response to Executive Order No. 9981 signed by President Truman, all branches of the military were desegregated and Montford Point was decommissioned on September 9, 1949. In 1974, Montford Point was re-named Camp Johnson and today serves as the home of the Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools.

Photographs documenting Montford Point Marines are available in the National Archives Still Picture Branch. Photographs can be found within Record Group 127: Records of the US Marine Corps and Record Group 208: Records of the Office of War Information. There are no copyright restrictions on the photographs used in this blog post.

Additional Resources:

PUBLICATION OF PHOTOGRAPHS FURNISHED BY THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES STILL PICTURE BRANCH-RRSS

Generally, copies of photographic records held by the National Archives may be published without special permission or additional fees. The National Archives does not grant exclusive or non-exclusive publication privileges. Copies of Federal records, as part of the public domain, are equally available to all. A small percentage of photographs in our holdings are or may be subject to copyright restrictions. The National Archives does not confirm the copyright status of photographs but will provide any information known about said status. It is the user’s responsibility to obtain all necessary clearances. Any use of these items is made at the researcher’s or purchaser’s own risk.

Proper credit lines are encouraged in the interest of good documentation. They also help inform the public about government photographic resources that are available.

*Because so many of our requests for information cite credits and captions that appear in published works, the inclusion of a photo number in hard copy and electronic publications is of great assistance to both us and the public.

Examples of preferred credit lines are as follows:

  • National Archives photo no. 80-G-32500
  • Credit National Archives (photo no. 306-NT-186000)
  • Courtesy National Archives, photo no. 26-G-3422
  • National Archives (111-SC-202199)

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