Documentary on Montford Point Marines3 min read
While many have heard of the Tuskegee Airmen, few know the story of the Montford Point Marines.
On Sept. 20, 2022 the legacy of the first group of Black US Marines, who fought during World War II, will finally begin to get its due when ABC-owned television stations and online services will premiere Our America: Mission Montford Point, a one-hour special on the elite unit.
The Marine Corps was the last of the armed forces to allow Black men to join, but men came from across the country to enlist despite racism and discrimination. Housing conditions and treatment were harsh, but the Montford Point Marines persevered. Thousands saw combat in World War II’s Pacific Theater, and some continued to serve in the USMC after the end of segregation in the military, while others went on to have distinguished careers in public service and the private sector.
Lost History, Forgotten Names
The unit was named for the segregated section of Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC, where the first trainees arrived on August 26, 1942. Unfortunately, their history has largely been hidden or lost. The Defense Department has no comprehensive list of the approximately 20,000 men who trained at Montford Point, and it wasn’t until 2011 that Congress voted to honor the men with the Congressional Gold Medal.
That medal is Congress’s highest expression of national appreciation for those “who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement.” Presently, an estimated 2,000 men are known as Montford Point veterans, leaving approximately 18,000 who are still due the honor.
Telling Their Stories
Porsha Grant, executive producer of Mission Montford Point, told us, “When I was approached about this assignment, I had never heard of the Montford Point Marines. So the program was an opportunity to share a somewhat hidden story—one that I felt a personal connection to, being an African American woman and the daughter of a military service person from the South.
“This is the 80th anniversary of the arrival of the first Marines at Montford Point. It’s a historic year, with the opening of the memorial museum. We hope this news special will encourage the audience to not only embrace the Marines’ contributions but also to be inspired by the strength it took to serve and love a nation that did not always love them back.”
Those Who Served
By talking with members of the unit who attended the opening of the Montford Park Marines memorial museum, Grant felt it important to document the event in the words of those who actually served. “It’s a big responsibility to tell this story in an authentic and accurate way and to amplify the voices of these heroes while attempting to right a historic wrong.”
The first TV crew from the ABC Owned Station in Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville immediately felt a tie to the story.
“They were emotionally attached and involved,” said Grant, and she, too, felt a connection: “I had to travel to the epicenter in Jacksonville, to witness living history in these gentlemen [being recognized]. It was important to give them the opportunity to share their own stories in their own words, to tell people this hidden history.
Reaching Out to Document Members of the Unit
With the opening of the museum in August, the Marine Corps itself is trying to rectify its oversight of this historic unit. Along with ABC Owned Stations and The Urban News, the Corps encourages the Black community to talk with family members to see if a father, grandfather, uncle, or other kinsman was a Black Marine who served in the 1940s during WWII, so that that family member may be verified and recognized. If so, they should reach out to the National Montford Point Marines Association.
The documentary special will debut on ABC Owned Stations, streaming platforms, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Roku, and Hulu beginning Sept. 20, 2022. Those who served or their family members can learn more on ABC7/ouramerica.com. The program will also be aired around Veterans Day in November.