I was a Gunnery Sergeant attending the last SNCO Advanced Course at MCAS El Toro when I first heard of the Montford Point Marines.
These men were the first African-Americans allowed in to the Marine Corps and they were sent to a segregated boot camp. You may have heard there’s only two boot camp locations for Marines, but for a couple of years there were three. Montford Point was for black recruits only, with white staff and Drill Instructors.
I can remember the old leatherneck Montford Point graduate/former Marine speaking to our class of 77. He was tall and had a presence that let you know he was in the room. His voice was deep and steady, thundering out words like an old fifty cal. He told one fantastic little story about being there.
"For some of us, this was the first time outside of our tiny towns. This was no city, just a few barracks and an obstacle course set off in the woods, but it was different than what we had known our whole lives.
"We had just gotten off the buses and were filing through a line to get issued our uniforms. One guy was so country he actually was standing there in coveralls and nothing else but a big goofy smile.
"One of the men said loud enough for the white supply personal to hear, ‘I’m not staying here. I’m not gonna fight a white man’s war. Who’s coming with me?’ The rest of us were a little nervous that trouble was about to start, but Coveralls spoke up just as loudly, ‘I ain’t goin’ anywhere! They just gave me socks! Gave ‘em to me! Why would I go?’
"The whole room broke up laughing and that recruit that said he wasn’t staying, he graduated and became a Drill Instructor there at Montford Point."