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Monday, November 18, 2013

A Montford Point Marine Veteran Receives a Special Gift from a Businessman

My father received a phone call before heading to his Medal of Honor Congressional Ceremony in June of 2012. It was a local businessman who read about Dad's Montford Point Marines story in the Hartford Courant. His name was John Carmon, a director of a funeral home. Mr. Carmon thanked my dad profusely for serving our country. He said had the utmost respect for soldiers. Mr. Carmon even took it a step forward and offered to pay for all of my dad's travel and lodging expenses to Washington, D.C.

Dad graciously replied that his expenses were already paid by the government, and he appreciated his offer. The business owner countered with paying for an engraved brick. Dad listened as Mr. Carmon explained that the brick would have his name on it and it would be on the walkway at the National United States Marines Corps Museum. Semper Fidelis Memorial Park overlooks the state of the art museum.

So Dad accepted. From the site

"Your engraved brick will affirm for posterity, your esprit de corps with the men and women who risk their lives for the freedom."

An exhibition area from the National Marine Museum. Source:

The brick was later spotted by a family member. Mr. Carmon kept his promise. Dad was very touched by the gesture. He laughed, and exclaimed, "These funeral homes love an old geezer like me!" In fact, another funeral home had called to congratulate Dad. The owner of this particular funeral home served in the Army.

Folks in social media heard the news of Dad's Medal of Honor and extended best wishes to him; he was briefly featured on a local news broadcast. It was a culminating experience that brought Montford Marines and the "Lost Battalion", the 51st Defense Battalion, into American History.

I notified all of Connecticut's United State Congress members. They promptly responded with official congratulatory letters addressed to my father. The letters are nicely framed on the living room wall.

Sadly, we saw Mr. Carmon for my mother's funeral in March of 2013. Mother passed suddenly, and they handled the funeral arrangements, just as they did for my brother in 1992. They were always consummate professionals.

The kindness and generosity of the Carmon Funeral Home will always be appreciated. They were there for our family in times of sorrow, and in times of joy. It all started with a compassionate individual responding to a newspaper story and helping out a World War II Veteran. It was a far cry from the Non-Welcoming Military Homecoming my father received after his tour of duty in 1945.

National USMC Museum at night.. The shape of the building is said to invoke the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima.
Source: Montford Point Marines Association

See the post:  "My Mother: Dorothy Marie Brooks Part II"

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Non-Welcoming Military Homecoming for the 51st Defense Battalion, The First WWII Black Combat Division

All of my newly acquired information on Merchant Marines, Hugh Mulzac, and Liberty Ships prompted me to ask my father if he were familiar with the subjects. He listened intently as I described Captain Mulzac successfully ferrying over 18,000 Allied troops across the oceans aboard the Booker T. Washington. "Booker T. Washington," He reflected appreciatively. "Oh yes, I remember traveling on a Liberty Ship to the Marshall Islands. In the beginning of the war we traveled on Liberty Ships. They were rough going, the guys would threw up from motion sickness. Some would vomit right into their food. The "Chow Hounds" would eat the rest of people's food that they didn't throw up in."
"Chow Hounds?," I inquired with amusement.
"You know chow hounds, folks that eat all the time, they weren't too particular about food, they ate everything." Dad chuckled and continued his narrative. "The Liberty Ships would go out at night with a Destroyer and a Destroyer Escort. There were Japanese submarines out there. Towards the end of the war we rode on Victory Ships. They were smoother and they went at six knots an hour. When it was time to go home we traveled on a regular Dutch liner. It took us a month to get home to San Diego."

SS Lane Victory-Victory Class Cargo ships were used in WWII, The Korean War, and Vietnam War. SS Lane Victory named after HBCU Lane College. Now a standing museum and a U.S. National Historic Landmark. Source:

Dad's 51st Defense Battalion was initially viewed as an "Experiment", as the idea of Negros in combat for nonbelievers were wrongfully synonymous with failure. But even during training, the 51st impressed all. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt personally visited them at Montford Point to witness the Marines practice shooting down drones. Moreover, Montford Point Marines received excellent reviews from their commanding officers as evidenced by official military documents. They completed their duties in the Marshall Islands once the war was over in August, 1945.

It was time to return home for civilian life. Dad remembers the lively guys from Chicago who hired a taxicab to take them from San Diego, California, all the way to the Windy City. That must have been a pricey fare. But Dad also remembers a more poignant memory: His Military Homecoming.

Throngs of people awaited the arrival of the 51st Defense Battalion in San Diego, California. The Red Cross provided coffee and donuts. It appeared the 51st would receive a heroes' welcome, the antithesis of how they were treated before deployment. Indeed, on my dad's way to Montford Point, he was forced to substandard, segregated travel arrangements. Many folks gave uniformed Montford Point Marines a hard time because they resented them being Black Marines. Perhaps with the Allied victory, treatment would be better.

The Red Cross women hugged and greeted White Montford Point Marine Officers warmly after they disembarked from the ship. Excitement and gratitude permeated the air, and refreshments were distributed to the officers. Military celebrations at the end of WWII were epic, monumental occassions.

 And then the festivities were promptly over. For the remaining Black Montford Marines, they were greeted with leftovers. Not one person was around to acknowledge the Montford Point Marines. Not one handshake. It was as if they did not exist.

To this day, my father carried that memory of the Red Cross shunning the 51st Defense Battalion in his mind. For the longest time, he despised the Red Cross. He still had love for the Marines and his country.The bitterness that manifested is similar to many Veterans who return from battle receiving no thanks from their country. There were no parades or glory. Just...nothing. Dad receiving the Medal of Honor eased his pain.

                                                                                       Artwork by USMC Veteran Timothy Giles.


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