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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 13, 2011

SCHUMER INTRODUCES BILL TO AWARD FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN MARINES IN U.S. HISTORY WITH CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL; MONTFORD POINT MARINES INCLUDE NYC MAYOR DAVID DINKINS


Schumer Bill Would Honor Montford Point Marines, the First African American to Serve in the United States Marine Corps, With the Congressional Gold Medal For Their Historic Service

Hon. David Dinkins Was Among Those Who First Served with Marines; Congressional Gold Medal is One of the Highest Civilian Award in United States

Schumer: This Is a Long Overdue Honor for These Path-Breaking Heroes of the Greatest Generation

 

Today U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) announced legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Montford Point Marines, the first African Americans to serve in the United States Marine Corps. Included among the distinguished members of the group, is former New York City Mayor David Dinkins. The Congressional Gold Medal, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is the highest civilian award in the United States. Schumer said that this award would finally recognize the historic and dedicated service of the Montford Point Marines during World War II. Senator Kay R. Hagan (D-NC) is also a lead sponsor of the legislation.

 

“As the first African American Marines to serve in the Marine Corps, the Montford Point Marines made history, bravely enduring prejudice while risking their lives for their country in World War II. By awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to this group, which includes Mayor David Dinkins, we can finally honor them with the recognition they deserve,” said Schumer.

 

The Montford Point Marines is the name given to the first African Americans who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, who were trained at Camp Montford Point, near Jacksonville, North Carolina. African Americans were brought into the Marine Corps in 1941, as a result of an executive order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The executive order, which established the Fair Employment Practices Commission, stated that "there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, color, or national origin." Overall, 19,168 African American Marines received training at Montford Point between 1942 and 1949, many of whom participated in the Pacific Theatre Campaign of World War II, distinguishing themselves by acts of great valor.

 

Mayor David Dinkins decided to enlist in the Marine Corps while in high school, but was initially rejected from numerous recruitment centers because they had limits on the number of African Americans they would accept. However, his persistence eventually paid off, and on the day he turned 18 in July of 1945, Dinkins registered for the draft. He was called up just a week later, to report for training at Montford Point, where he served until 1946.

 

Schumer said that as Congress’s highest national honor, the Congressional Gold Medal would provide a fitting tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of the Montford Point Marines during World War II. The Congressional Gold Medal will be given to the Smithsonian Institution, where it will be displayed, as appropriate, and made available for research. Schumer and Hagan said that the service of these Marines, as warriors in the Pacific and pioneers in American society, have made America stronger in our endeavors abroad and mindful of our need for continued work against discrimination at home.

 

Since 1965, the Montford Point Marine Association, a charitable nonprofit veterans organization, has preserved the legacy of the first African American Marines and today the Association has 36 chapters throughout the United States. This Association has several memorials in place to perpetuate the memory of who they were and what they accomplished.

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