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Retired Master Sgt. Johnnie Thompkins, 83, stands as he is honored for his service during Montford Point Marines Association Incorporated’s lecture of the history of the Montford Point Marines to bring Black History Month to a close at the Cherry Point theater Feb. 28. Thompkins is one of the 20,000 Marines to conduct their training at Montford Point between 1942-1949.

Photo by Pfc. Cory D. Polom

Montford Point Marines Association speaks of pioneers for black history

10 Mar 2011 | Pfc. Cory D. Polom

In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 8802, establishing fair employment to erase discrimination in the armed forces.

“August 26, 2010, marked the 68th anniversary of the first black recruit in the United States Marine Corps,” said Rep. William Wainwright during the Montford Point Marines Association Incorporated’s lecture about the history of the Montford Point Marines, which brought Black History Month to a close at the Cherry Point theater Feb. 28.

Wainwright said the Marine Corps was the last branch of service to allow blacks to enlist into the ranks.

“The Montford Point Marines made a tremendous impact on our country and the armed forces,” said Wainwright. “I feel that the children of the United States need to learn about these historic men who paved the way to the modern Marine Corps we know today.”

Montford Point was renamed to honor one of the first black Marine drill instructors, Sgt. Maj. Gilbert H. “Hashmark” Johnson.

Johnson was known as “Hashmark” because of his numerous service stripes earned over his 32 years of service, 17 of which were as a Marine. He retired in 1959.

“This installation was the first and the only Marine Corps installation to be named after a black Marine,” said Wainwright.

The black Marines who were recruited during the time frame of 1942-1949 where sent to Montford Point and were given the rank of private no matter how educated or decorated they were.

“During this time approximately 20,000 black recruits received training at Montford Point Camp during World War II,” said Wainwright.

Wainwright said the segregation ended when the white Marines realized they could depend on the black Marines and the blacks could depend on the white Marines.

“These Marines had to fight-to-fight for their country,” said Wainwright. “They served with distinction and the will and fight to work hard to open doors for the future of the United States Marine Corps. We must never forget the heroes of Montford Point and their sacrifices to make our Marine Corps the best it could be.”

Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point