Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps General James F. Amos (L) greets William McDowell (3rd L), a representative of the Montford Point Marines to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, during a presentation ceremony at the Emancipation Hall of the Capitol Visitor's Center June 27, 2012 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Montford Point Marines was recognized for being the nation's first African-American Marines who received basic training at Montford Point Camp, New River, N.C. from 1942 to 1949, and their services to the country.
The history of the Montford Point Marines from North Carolina date back to June 25th, 1941, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an order that started to erase discrimination in the Armed Forces. Soon after, African Americans were free to enlist in the United States Marine Corps, but those who enlisted were still segregated from the rest of the military and faced poor camp conditions.
First Sergeant William (Jack) McDowell was of one of those first black Marines to enlist and serve in World War II. McDowell served in Okinawa, Japan in support of the 6th Marine Division, and also served in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. McDowell’s military career included 20 medals, like the Bronze Star for Valor and Purple Heart.
Navy Hospital Corpsman Robert S. Hammond was a medical technician, and one of only seven black Navy Corpsman assigned to Montford Point. His tour of service in World War II included deployment to Guam, the Camp Wise Naval Base and the Marine Corps dispensary at Barracuda Village, where he tended to Marines injured in combat.
Together, they became part of one of the first African American Marine battalions to fight in World War II, and both received Congressional Gold Medal in Washington D.C on June 27.
William (Jack) McDowell, United States Marine Corps First Sergeant, World War II veteran and recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor bestowed on American civilians
Robert S. Hammond, United States Navy Hospital Corpsman, World War II veteran and recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest bestowed on American civilians