First African American Marines To Receive Congressional Gold Medal

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate unanimously approved a bill to collectively award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Montford Point Marines of World War II, including five from New Jersey.

“These men were trailblazers and heroes,” said U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, an Army veteran and co-sponsor of the bill. “During World War II, they faced hostility within their ranks and on the battlefield to defend our nation. Their bravery in the face of discrimination and danger was a remarkable tribute to the principles on which our country was founded. The Montford Point Marines from New Jersey and all across the country are well-deserving of the Congressional Gold Medal. I am pleased they have finally been given this honor and look forward to their participation in the veterans history project so that their stories are forever preserved.”

The Montford Point Marines were among the first African Americans to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps. From 1942 until 1949, when President Truman ordered the desegregation of the military, more than 20,000 African American men trained to become Marines at the segregated Camp Montford Point in Jacksonville, N.C. These Marines fought courageously during World War II, including in the bloody battles of Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. The bill passed Wednesday by the Senate and last month by the House of Representatives awards these men the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor Congress may bestow.

The Montford Point Marines that live in New Jersey include Egbert Brady of Vineland, Stanley Costley of Plainfield, Thomas Jones of Pinehill, Harold Phillips of Moorestown, and Kenneth Rollock of Englewood.

Brady, Costley, Jones, and Rollock will record stories about their service for the Veterans History Project, a federal initiative coordinated by the Library of Congress to preserve the stories of veterans throughout the nation.

Lautenberg, who served in the Army during World War II, recorded his personal wartime history with the Veterans History Project in October 2007. In January 2011, he kicked off a statewide effort to record as many stories from New Jersey’s veterans as possible about their service.

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