The History of the Chosen Few
"The Men from Montford Point
Gunnery Sergeant Elijah Abram, (USMC- Ret.)
Vice President, Montford Point Marine Association
My name is Elijah Abram. I am a retired Marine with twenty years and six months. I am the National Vice-President of the Montford Point Marine Association and the President of the Beaufort Chapter. The association is here today, to honor State Representative Clementa C. Pinckney, but first a short history on Montford Point. After President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order #8802, thousands of black men volunteered their service to join the United States Marine Corps. They came from all walks of life to serve their country during the dark days of 1942. Black recruits arrived daily. Draft Boards were requested to send their most capable prospects. There were college graduates, specialized technicians, public school teachers, some who relinquished commissions in the Army, ROTC graduates, and other qualified professionals.
Montford Point was originally constructed for initial quota of 1200 recruits; but as the numbers increased, the site was considerable expanded. Five different commands were maintained there during the was period, Recruit Depot, Headquarters, Steward Branch, Defense Battalion, and a separate Infantry Battalion with attached Depot and Ammunition Companies which ably assisted in landing operations of the Fleet Marine Force.
In the Recruit Depot Battalion every "boot" receive basic training similar to that of Leatherneck at Parris Island and San Diego, Ca. History will note later that there were not two Recruit Depots in the Marine Corps, but three Montford Point Camp was often leave out from historical records.
At first non-commissioned officers took charge of recruit training, but some black non-commissioned officers later took charge of recruit training, but some black non-commissioned officers among the ranks succeeded in taking over the responsibilities. There were no commissioned officers among the blacks, but several attained top ranking NCO status, including Sergeant Major. The 51st Composite Defense Battalion became the pace setter and yardstick by which the black Marine's progress was measured. The 52nd was patterned along similar lines.
The black Marines wore the globe and anchor proudly so did 21,609 other men who went through Montford Point Camp near Camp Lejeune, NC. Colonel Samuel A. Woods, first Commanding Officer of the "special duty units" that were created and trained at Montford Point was justly proud of his Marines and his association with all Black Marines. The words of General Leonard F. Chapman Jr. later become Commandant of the Marine Corps said:
"The footprints of the Montford Point Marines were left on the beaches of Roi-Namur, Saipan, Guam, Peleliu, Iwo-Jima, and Okinawa. Tides and winds have, long ago, washed them out into the seas of history, but, "The Chosen Few" in field shoes and canvass leggings, also left their mark in the firm concrete of Marine Corps History. And, as new generations of Marines learn to march in those footprints, their cadence assumes the proud stride of the men from Montford Point."
The words are inscribed at the Arlington National Cemetery - Section 23.
MPMA, Inc. Honorary Montford Pointer bestowed upon Representative Clementa C. Pinckney South Carolina House Of Representative with all rights and privileges.
FEBRUARY 24, 1998