Congressional Gold Medal to be Presented to Trailblazing Marine Corps Heroes at Noon on Monday, February 6
“If it were a question of having a Marine Corps of 5,000 whites or 250,000 Negroes, I would prefer the whites. …They are trying to break into a club that does not want them.”
General Thomas Holcomb
United States Marine Corps
17th Commandant (1936-1943)
Such was the position of the leadership of the United States Marine Corps regarding the African American men who integrated the Corps on August 26, 1942. To stave off a threatened March-on-Washington led by labor union and civil rights leader, A. Philip Randolph, United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, amid a re-election campaign, reluctantly agreed to integrate the Marine Corps. Thus, the Montford Point Marines were born. They were a social experiment. The men were allowed in the Marine Corps to prove that Blacks could not be Marines.
However, between 1942-1949, some 20,000 African American men would become Montford Point Marines. The men were subjected to inhumane living conditions, racial taunting, and physical abuse. The initial recruits had to build their segregated training camp, Montford Point Camp — by hand. Despite those obstacles, the Montford Point Marines proved their doubters wrong.
At noon, on Monday, February 6th, Corporal George J. Johnson, one of the few living Montford Point Marines and the family of the late Corporal Moses Williams will receive their replica Congressional Gold Medal. On November 23, 2011, President Barack Obama signed into law the legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Montford Point Marines. This award recognizes the contributions of the Montford Point Marines to the Marine Corps and the United States of America during a time of tremendous hardship and segregation. The original medal was collectively presented to the Montford Point Marines at a U.S. Capitol ceremony on June 27, 2012.
Local hero, Corporal George J. Johnson is 101-years-young. After graduating from Dillard High School in 1942, Johnson registered for the Selective Service. He became a Montford Point Marine shortly after his 22nd birthday in 1943.
While at Montford Point Camp, Johnson was trained as a military police officer. He also served in the Asiatic Pacific Theater from 1945 to 1946. Johnson briefly enrolled in Florida A&M College, now Florida A&M University, in Tallahassee. He met Hannah Marie Gaines there, whom he would later marry. They lived in New York until Johnson retired from a career in law enforcement. Mrs. Johnson passed away in 2013.
Inarguably, Corporal Johnson is living American history. He, Corporal Williams, and their fellow Montford Pointers are the standard of patriotism and perseverance. They are due the respect and reverence they have earned. So they can be properly documented in the register of the Montford Point Marines and their Congressional Gold Medal awarded, if you know a living or deceased Montford Point Marine, contact the National Montford Point Marine Association at MontfordPointMarines.org.
To attend the local Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony:
In the Company of Greatness: Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony
for Montford Point Marines – Corporal George J. Johnson and Corporal Moses Williams
Noon, Monday, February 6, 2023
African American Research Library and Cultural Center
2650 Sistrunk Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311
The ceremony is free and open to the public.
Please visit these related links for important historical information on the Montford Point Marines: