In 1941 President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, banning racial discrimination in the armed forces.
Between the years of 1942 to 1949, African Americans were sent to Camp Montford Point, Jacksonville, N.C. to go through segregated Marine Corps recruit training. About 20,000 African American Marines graduated from Montford Point 1941-1948 when President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981. This order would later decommission Montford Point Camp in 1949 and send all African American recruits to train with all the recruits in Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. and San Diego, eliminating all segregation in the Marine Corps.
Joe Jackson grew up in Birmingham, Ala. and decided to enlist in the Marine Corps in 1943.
“I was a volunteer in one sense but a draftee in another,” said Jackson. “There was a sign with Mr. USA on it that said, ‘I want you.'”
Jackson went to Fort Benning, Ga. in pursuit of joining the Army. He was told about the other services and decided he wanted to enlist in the Marine Corps. He completed all of the necessary requirements and left for recruit training at Montford Point.
“We got off of the truck at the gate,” said Jackson. “It was the first time I ever got kicked in the butt because I had on a three-piece suit, Stacey Adams shoes and a black Stetson hat.”
According to Jackson, he was an athlete in high school so he was in shape, but the training was tougher than he had expected.
“We never walked,” said Jackson. “From the time you wake up the only place you walk is from the end of that shack to the other. Then, once you get out the door, you run everywhere.”
Jackson described the life during recruit training as tiring and hard, more physical than anything else.
Inge joined the Marine Corps in 1946 and attended Montford Point as well.
At the age of 16 Inge was told by his cousin, who was a Marine during World War II, how tough the Marine Corps was. The challenge motivated Inge to enlist in the Corps. Though Inge had tried to enlist at 16, he was not successful until he was 17.
Inge recalled his recruit training experience as tough.
According to Inge, recruits had limited resources to use while at Montford Point. There wasn’t any indoor plumbing or a place for the recruits to store their belongings except for one footlocker in front of each of their beds.
“I actually enjoyed the training,” said Inge. “I was used to physical things so when the training was mostly physical, I enjoyed it.”
During recruit training, Inge was determined to get through even if drill instructors were hard on him.
“The camaraderie between the platoons was strong,” said Inge. “We had the determination to get each other through the training.”
After recruit training, Inge was sent to the South Pacific to places such as Saipan and Guam. Inge was a member of the Marine Corps’ boxing team, became a drill instructor and retired as a gunnery sergeant in 1969.
However, these Montford Point Marines were not forgotten. They later received the Congressional Gold Medal on June 28, 2012 for their achievements.
“It was a proud moment,” said Inge. “No matter how I tell people about what it was like in Montford Point, they will never know how tough it actually was.”
Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego