In recent years, the Army's "Buffalo Soldiers" and the Air Force “Tuskegee Airmen” have received some commendation. But the first black Marines who signed up to serve during World War Two have lived their lives with little recognition.
The Fair Employment Act of 1941 allowed African Americans to serve in the Marine Corps, and in 1942, their training began. But they were segregated from white Marines. They even trained separately, at Camp Montford Point in North Carolina.
Oscar Culp and George Mitchell were among the first. From their furniture store in Oceanside, today they still took pride in being U.S. Marines.
"It was elite. It was supposedly the best and we wanted to be part of the best", said Culp.
Culp and Mitchell enlisted in 1943. They wanted the world to see they could perform as well as anybody else, and they did. Oscar rose to leadership positions. Mitchell qualified expert in the 45 and the M1; weapons were the great equalizer. " it made you strive to be the best that you could be. If he can be an expert with the m1, I can do it", he said.
Culp thought that serving in World War II would make life different.
"Now it's over, now it's won, go back home, now there's another war - a war just to be free," he said.
They weren’t free to sit down and have lunch in a restaurant, or even to use a public restroom.
Culp and Mitchell are proud to see how our country has changed since then. And today, the house voted on a bill to finally recognize their service. Culp received the call from a fellow Montford Point Marine while we were with him.
"He just called to tell me that it had been approved and there was no opposition they all voted for it," he said excitedly.
HR-2447 is a bill to award the Montford Point Marines with the Congressional Gold Medal. Remembering the more than twenty thousand Marines who trained at Montford Point from 1942-1949, it was an emotional moment for Culp.
"We that are still here are really, really thankful," he said.
Today the house voted unanimously to pass the bill. It was a proud moment for some Montford Point Marine veterans who watched the vote from the galley. Now, the bill will go to the senate where it is expected to be approved.