The Marine Corps celebrates the nationwide observance of African American/Black History Month throughout February.

MARADMIN 033/20 encourages commanders to hold observance events within their commands and local communities to recognize and celebrate the service and contributions of military, veteran and civilian African Americans.

Origins of the observance date back to 1915 with the foundation of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History.” The association proclaimed the first Negro History Week in February 1926, which evolved into the current month-long observance.

This year’s theme – “Honoring the Past, Securing the Future” – allows the Marine Corps to honor its African American history while recognizing the ongoing contributions to the success and development of our nation.

“The Marine Corps brags about being the finest fighting force on the face of the Earth and I believe we can lay claim to that because of our diversity,” said retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. and former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. “You want a diversity of ideas and you get that from a variety of different people. Unfortunately, that’s a reason we celebrate African American History Month because things weren’t always as they should be.”

Approximately 20,000 men enlisted in the Marine Corps from 1942 -1949 and attended segregated boot camp at Montford Point Camp, Jacksonville, North Carolina. These men, known as the “Montford Point Marines,” made countless contributions during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War while still battling adversity on the home front.

“We were fighting two wars,” said Private First Class Jubal W. Patterson (1924-2011), who enlisted in 1943, attended boot camp at Montford Point and served in the Battle of Iwo Jima.

“I was there fighting a war against the Japanese and fighting another war with my own country on how they treated blacks during that time,” said Patterson. “Let’s just say there was no homecoming parade in my neighborhood.”

The Marine Corps commemorates the sacrifices made by the Montford Point Marines, as their struggles helped pave the way for future service members of all backgrounds and beliefs, men and women alike. Diversity, then viewed a weakness, is perceived today as one of our nation’s greatest strengths.

“Being a first is always an honor,” said Patterson. “Despite the mentality during that time, I can honestly say that Montford Point, personally, it made me a better person. Of all the experiences I’ve been through, being a Marine was the best decision I ever made. Even with the segregation, it gave me the skills to be successful and I’m honored to have been there to be one of the firsts.”

This month, the Marine Corps reflects on the selfless service of the African Americans in the past, honors the continuous contributions of those in the present, and celebrates the ability to serve with those to come in the future.


Sgt. J. Colbert USMC Dec. 1956 to Oct.1966
MCRD San Diego Platoon 1079, I was one of five blacks in our platoon.
None of us had to march in the back of the platoon, we were positioned by height from
the very beginning of boot camp.

joseph f colbert,

Yes, my DI was black too and to this day I thank him from the bottom of my heart turning me into a Marine USMC 1972-1974

Reinhold Woykowski,

Dark Green , Light Green and every Green in between. Harry 1371

Harry 1371,

MCRD San Diego Plt 371 [Sept-Dec 1961] Our Seniro DI was SSgt Alton B Polk and one Junior DI was Sgt Henry Perry. Both of these men, African-American, were the consummate Marines. They marched, drilled, kicked butt and taught us the basics – and the tricks – that produced the Series Honor Platoon.

We quickly understood there were no white, black, brown, or puce-colored Marines, only Forest Green Marines. The lessons they taught later saved my life on several occasions …

On 23 Feb 69, then-SSgt Perry was awarded the Silver Star for valor in Vietnam while serving with G/2/7.

Semper Fidelis

‘Stoney’ Brook,

November 1959 to January 1960 I was in boot camp at MCRD, San Diego in platoon 381. One of our JDI’s was black, and he commanded our attention as much as the other two DI. There were several recruits who were of different cultures and religions. All were treated equally by the DI’s and the rest of the boots.

Woodrow Larry Watson,

I arrived at PI in September 1962, having grown up in a suburb of Boston that was essentially Black-free (only one in my 1,000+ high school graduating class). My senior drill instructor, Platoon 375, was Staff Sergeant Rivers, an African-American. By the time we graduated, I was convinced Blacks were some kind of a super race who never sweated and had eyes in the backs of their heads. He (along with Dis SSGT Wells and SGT Long) turned my life around, for which I am forever grateful.
Cliff Lawson 1962-66 (including Ai Van Pass, Vietnam, with 1st LAAM Bn.)

Cliff Lawson,

In the summer of 1964, I was a member of Plt. 141 attending recruit training at MCRD San Diego when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed on 7/2/64. We had two black recruits in our platoon, Robert Hardway & Roscoe Smith, neither of which I knew very well as we were in different squads. But, I do distinctly remember morning formation on the 3rd of July. Sgt Fitzmaurice (JDI) explained to us that the Civil Rights Act had been signed by President Johnson the previous day and briefly what it meant. He then called Hardway & Smith out of formation and announced that they were no longer required to march in the rear of the platoon. We then did a dress-right-dress and both men moved to a position by height in their respective squads. No more, that I remember, was ever said about it through the rest of boot camp. Over the years I have often thought about that day and in retrospect the significance of that occurrence. I don’t know what happened to either of them after boot camp, but do know that they must have really wanted to become Marines, to have endured all that they did in addition to just the regular stress of boot camp. I sincerely hope that they both did well. Semper Fi!!

MSgt Edd Prothro, USMC Ret. 1964-1984,

Preston – Did you attend boot camp in SD or PI? I arrived at MCRD SD at 0-dark-thirty on 28 May 64 and we formed Plt 141 the next day and started training. Drop me a line at if you prefer. Semper Fi!

MSgt Edd Prothro, USMC Ret. 1964-1984,

Thanks for sharing and it’s an awesome honor to have served my country and my family for 22.5 years in the corps. 6/64 – 8/87. Retired MSgt.


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