Remembering the Montford Point Marines

THE Montford Point Marine Association has donated a drawing of the USNS Montford Point to the American Memorial Park museum to honor and preserve the legacy of the African-American Marines who saw action on Saipan during World War II.

“Montford Point was named after a camp in North Carolina where African-Americans who had joined the Marine Corps trained in a segregated environment,” said Kurt Kleinschmidt, captain of the USNS Montford Point.

In 2012, the surviving Montford Point Marines were given the Congressional Gold Medal for bringing about social change to the Marine Corps. They were also honored with the naming of this vessel as well,” he added.

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Kleinschmidt and Joseph Gelhaus, chief engineer of the ship, were at American Memorial Park on Thursday afternoon to present the framed depiction of the ship.           

“Every crew member who was part of the delivery crew of Montford got a copy of this drawing. We just want to make sure that the museum will have it, too,” Kleinschmidt said.

In return, Kleinschmidt requested an etching on paper of the names of the three Montford Point Marines inscribed on the memorial monument.

“We will have it framed and sent back to North Carolina so that they can display it at the Montford Point museum,” he said.

The Monford Point Marines, Kleinschmidt added, saw their first combat action in Saipan. “Prior to that, they were with coastal defense companies. They hadn’t seen any combat action until they got to Saipan.”

“During those times, the black Marines delivered ammunition, removed the dead and transported the wounded back to get medical assistance, but here they also landed in the fourth wave.”

Michael A. O’Kelley, commander of the local post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., said the black Marines helped beat a Japanese counterattack and in the process they also silenced an enemy machine gun.

The commandant of the Marine Corps, Lt. Gen. Alexander A. Vandergrift, in 1944 declared that “the Negro Marines are no longer on trial. ‘They are Marines. Period.’ ”

Robert Sherrod, Time’s war correspondent in the Central Pacific, wrote: “The Negro Marines, under fire for the first time, have rated a universal 4.0 on Saipan — earning the Navy’s highest possible rating.”

“Since we have a Liberation celebration going on,” Kleinschmidt said, “the timing is very good for us — we are spreading the legacy of these Marines and providing information about them to the Montford Point museum as well.”

Saipan Mayor David Apatang expressed gratitude for the donation. “It makes me feel great to receive this historical drawing,” said the mayor who served the military in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968 and from 1970 to 1971.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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