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Meet the Montford Point Marines

ANNCR:On June 25th, 1941, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, establishing fair employment by the armed forces. From 1942 to 1949, a few brave African American men changed the face of the United States Marine Corps forever. Faced with many challenges, they set out to make a difference and ended up making history.

ANNCR: Listen as three Montford Point Marines share a personal story of Honor, Courage and Commitment.

My name is Robert D. ReId. I served 26 years in the Corps, from 1948 till 1974. The reason why I joined the Marine Corps was because at the time there was a draft and when I graduated from high school, my buddies and I said let's find out what the military is all about. Collectively we said, let's do the Marine Corps, they seem to be some pretty tough guys. Now we had joined, we weren't drafted – we joined the Marine Corps. They never told us we were going to a separate boot camp. The first couple of weeks were pure hell. My drill instructor, he was the one that told us that if you are going to be a black Marine, you are going to have to be better than anyone else. Better.

ANNCR: Subjected to very intense training, Reid and his fellow Montford Point Marines endured the hardships of boot camp, pushing them to limits most Marines had never experienced.

Well the thing is after my tour was up, I came back to the states and it just so happened that the Marine aviation wanted to get blacks into their ranks. And I was one of the first blacks to go into Marine aviation as an enlisted man. And my time in aviation wasn't till I got out of the Marine Corps.

ANNCR: Not only did the Montford Point Marines open doors, but they helped to set a precedent of courage for today's African American Marines.

The Marine Corps was the last military service to be integrated and I think that was the beginning of a new era of the Marine Corps.

The Montford Point Marines are extremely important. They were strong enough to take on a challenge that seemed to be insurmountable at that particular time. And for them I do serve.

My name is Gene Doughty. I was born in Stamford CT. I was really appointed by the Navy Department to serve in the Marines. Seven months after the famous 8802 presidential proclamation that allowed us to go into the Marine Corps. I was one of the original pioneers. Montford Point camp was a segregated camp. We felt it was an indignity that was thrown at us, but we had to learn and had to face all these challenges we had.

ANNCR: Shortly after graduating from boot camp, Gene Doughty's typical duties as an admin clerk shifted as the commandant begin increasing the responsibilities of African American Marines in the war campaign.

We ended up on the island of Iwo Jima. I landed on D-day incidentally with a few ammunition companies and depot companies. It was very unpleasant. But I prevailed and I was glad to be in the Marine Corps and I am glad that I was honorably discharged. But going into the Military service I would consider again very gainful and a real benefit.

ANNCR: The legacy of the Montford Point Marines, much like the famed 54th Infantry Regiment and the Tuskegee Airmen, is significant in the history of America and its armed forces.

I think it's something that a lot of people need to hear to appreciate what they've actually done and to appreciate the opportunity that they created.

I joined the Marine Corps because I happen to be one of those people who does not like to be drafted, if I got to do something I like to do it on my own. I was ordered to go to Jacksonville, NC Montford Point. My experience in the boot camp was very typical.

ANNCR: During Foreman's time at the Montford Point Camp conditions were tough as they were forced to build and live in wooden huts surrounded by the heavily rugged Jacksonville, North Carolina terrain.

After boot camp the war in the Pacific was of course receding and what was created was what they called the first colored replacement battalion and this was a group of men, I believe it was about 100 in the group. At that time I think I had been promoted to a three-stripe sergeant and I was responsible for all these people. We sailed out of San Diego to Oahu. While there I carried the title of acting First Sergeant. Well we actually stayed there for the duration of the war. If you asked me the question if I had to do it over again, yes I would do it over again. Being in the Marine Corps helped because it gave me the backbone not to accept what was handed down. If you want something you better stand up and fight for it.

ANNCR: Today there are thousands of African American Marines serving in all fields and in every occupational specialty of the Marine Corps.

If a Montford Point Marine walked up to me today, I would say thank you. Thank you for paving the way, thank you for creating an opportunity for myself and my brothers in arms that's come before me and those that'll come after me.