Newsletters & Information > February is Black History Month
February is Black History Month

Feb 12, 2003

Contributions to Corps highlight important role
Submitted by: MCB Camp Lejeune
Story Identification Number: 2003211145057
Story by Cpl. Kristin S. Gambrell

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.(Feb. 11, 2003) -- February is Black
History Month for numerous reasons, such as birthdays of
great African-American figures and the first
African-American senator who took oath in February 1870.

African-Americans have filled important roles in the
history of the United States and throughout military

The first class of 1,200 African-American Marine recruits
began its training at Montford Point in 1942. At that time,
training was segregated.

Since then, African-American Marines have proven their
place in the Corps and contributed greatly to its history.
The following are just a few fine examples of
African-American Marines.

Sgt. Maj. Gilbert "Hashmark" Johnson (Deceased)

Earning the name "Hashmark" due to his age and many years
of service, Sgt. Maj. Gilbert Johnson was one of the first
African-Americans to enlist in the Marine Corps.

Johnson served 32 years in the military, 17 of those as a
Marine. In 1943, he was one of the first African-Americans
to train as a Marine drill instructor.

In World War II, the Mount Hebron, Ala., native belonged to
the 52nd Defense Battalion on Guam. After asking that
African-American Marines be assigned to combat patrols,
since they were not allowed at the time, he personally led
25 patrols.

In his honor, Montford Point was dedicated as Camp Gilbert
H. Johnson April 19, 1974.

Pfc. James Anderson Jr. (Deceased)

Private First Class James Anderson Jr. gave his life to
save his comrades Feb. 28, 1967, during the Vietnam War.

Anderson's platoon, 2nd Platoon, Company F, 3rd Marine
Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, was advancing through the
jungle northwest of Cam Lo, Vietnam, when it came under

The platoon acted quickly and returned fire. Several men
were wounded by the enemy assault.

During the fighting an enemy grenade landed near the

The Los Angeles, native, grabbed the grenade that was
thrown amongst his platoon and curled his body around it to
absorb the impact.

For his heroism and valor, he received the Medal of Honor

Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen (Retired)

Lieutenant General Frank E. Petersen was the Marine Corps'
first African-American aviator, first African-American
general, and, as of April 1998, the only African-American
Marine to wear three stars.

The Topeka, Kan., native, joined the Navy in 1950 and then
went on to the Naval Aviation Cadet Program. In 1952, after
completing flight training, he accepted a commission as a
second lieutenant in the Marine Corps.

Johnson was promoted to brigadier general in 1979, to major
general in 1983, and lieutenant general in 1986.

Throughout his career, he flew more than 350 combat
missions and had more than 4,000 hours in different
fighter/attack aircrafts.

His numerous decorations include the Defense Superior
Service Medal, Legion of Merit with Combat "V,"
Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Meritorious
Service Medal, Air Medal, Navy and Marine Corps
Commendation Medal with Combat "V," and the Air Force
Commendation Medal.

Sgt. Rodney M. Davis (Deceased)

Sergeant Rodney M. Davis gave his life to save his comrades
Sept. 6, 1967, during the Vietnam War.

The Macon, Ga., native was directing his men's fire during
an attack by North Vietnamese Army Regulars.

Enemy forces pinned down elements of Davis' platoon. He was
moving from man to man shouting words of encouragement when
an enemy grenade landed in the trench next to his men. He
threw himself upon the grenade, taking in the shock and
preventing harm to his men.

For his heroism and valor, he received the Medal of Honor

Sgt. Maj. Edgar R. Huff, USMC (Deceased)

Sergeant Major Edgar R. Huff enlisted into the Marine Corps
in 1942 and was the first African-American Marine to be
promoted to the rank of sergeant major.

The Gadsden, Ala., native attended recruit training at
Montford Point. During that time, Montford Point was the
only Marine training area for African-Americans.

Among his many assignments, Huff served as a drill
instructor in March 1943, field sergeant major of all
recruit training by November 1944, and following World War
II, he served as the noncommissioned officer in charge of
recruit training until 1949.

Huff's decorations consist of three Purple Hearts, two
Bronze Star Medals with Combat "V," three Navy and Marine
Corps Commendation Medals, the Navy and Marine Corps
Achievement Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon.





Historical advisor Byron Stewart PhD


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