Twenty years following World War II, during August 1965, a reunion was organized by a group of enterprising Marine veterans and active duty Marines from Philadelphia. The purpose was to renew old friendships and share experiences of former comrades who received recruit training at Montford Point Camp, Camp Lejeune, New River, N.C. This group, chaired by then Master Gunnery Sergeant, Brooks E. Gray, USMC, held a meeting in Philadelphia, Pa., and formulated and developed plans for a National Reunion. The response was overwhelming and 400 Marines from all over the country convened at the Adelphia Hotel in Philadelphia. Consequently the Montford Point Marine Association, Inc was established as a non-profit Veterans organization and was subsequently chartered in Pennsylvania in 1966. Brooks E. Gray (founding father) was elected as the Association's first National President.
Today the Association has 36 Chapters throughout the United States, additionally the Ladies Auxiliary boasts several Chapters. The MPMA Inc. is an affiliate member of the Marine Corps Veterans organizations. Unions are held to affirm their bonds to Marine Corps, present awards and testimonials to expand its interest and service. Our creed amply reflects:
"To promote and preserve the strong bonds of friendship born from shared adversities and to devote ourselves to the furtherance of these accomplishments to ensure more peaceful times."
Sergeant Major Edgar R. Huff, one of the first African-Americans to enlist in the Marine Corps in 1942, and the first African-American to be promoted to the rank of sergeant major, died 2 May 1994 at Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital.
A native of Gadsden, Alabama, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, 24 September 1942, and received recruit training with the 51st Composite Defense Battalion, Montford Point Camp, New River, North Carolina. Following graduation, he joined the 155mm gun battery of the 51st Composite Defense Battalion and served with that unit as a gun commander.
In early 1943, he was assigned duty under instruction at drill instructors school, and upon completion of his course, was assigned duty as a drill instructor in March 1943. At that time, Montford Point Camp was the receiving point for all blacks entering the Marine Corps, and by November 1944, SgtMaj Huff had been assigned duty as field sergeant major of all recruit training at the Montford Point Camp.
In November 1944, he was promoted to first sergeant and assigned duty with the 5th Depot Company, departing for the Western Pacific area, serving as 1stSgt with this unit on Saipan, Okinawa, and in North China. The 5th Depot Company furnished logistic support for Marine divisions in that area.
Following World War II, he served as Noncommissioned Officer-in-Charge of Recruit Training at Montford Point Camp until May 1949. He was then assigned duty as guard and infantry chief, Marine Barracks, Naval Ammunition Depot, Earle, New Jersey, until May 1951, at which time he assumed duty with the famed 1st Marine Division in Korea. There, he saw combat as a company gunnery sergeant with the 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, and participated in operations in the "Punch Bowl" area, eastern front, and in the spring-summer offensive on the West Central front.
Upon his return to the United States in August 1952, he was assigned to the 2d Marine Division, serving as First Sergeant, Weapons Company, 2d Battalion, 8th Marines. In March 1955, he was assigned duty as Guard Chief, Marine Barracks, Naval Air Station, Fort Lyautey, French Morocco.
Huff was promoted to first sergeant in the new rank structure, 30 December 1955, and to the rank of sergeant major a day later on 31 December. Since that date he served as Sergeant Major consecutively, at the following Marine Corps installations: Post Sergeant Major, Marine Barracks, Port Lyautey, French Morocco; with the 2d Force Service Regiment; Landing Force Training Unit, Little Creek, Virginia; the 3d Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, Okinawa; the 3d Force Service Regiment; the 1st Infantry Training Regiment, Camp Geiger, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Base Sergeant Major, Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, California; the 1st Military Police Battalion, Force Logistic Command and with the III Marine Amphibious Force, Republic of Vietnam (May 1967 - June 1968); and with the 2d Marine Aircraft Wing (July 1968 - Oct 1970).
SgtMaj Huff served a second tour of duty in the Republic Vietnam, as Sergeant Major with the III Marine Amphibious Force from October 1970 until October 1971. He then served as Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Air Station, New River, Jacksonville, North Carolina, until his retirement on 30 September 1972.
SgtMaj Huff's personal decorations include the Purple Heart (three awards), two awards of the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V," three awards of the Navy Commendation Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon.
*SERGEANT MAJOR GILBERT JOHNSON, USMC
Sergeant Major Gilbert "Hashmark" Johnson, one of the first African-Americans to enlist in the Marine Corps, died of a heart attack on 5 August 1972 in Jacksonville, North Carolina, while addressing an annual meeting of the Montford Point Marine Association.
Born in rural Mount Hebron, Alabama, Johnson attended Stillman College in 1922, aspiring to become a minister. He left college the following year, however, and joined the Army. At the end of his enlistment in October 1929, Johnson was discharged as a corporal. After four years of civilian life, he decided to try the Navy. The Navy accepted Johnson into the Steward's Branch, the only job available to blacks at that time, and he served for nearly10 years. Johnson was aboard the USS Wyoming during the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
The following year, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the integration of the armed forces, Johnson requested transfer from the Navy to the Marine Corps. He went on to serve the last 17 of his 32-year military career in the Marine Corps. Throughout his Marine Corps career Johnson provided leadership to his younger and less experienced comrades. It was at Montford Point he was given the name "Hashmark," because of his age and many years of service.
In 1943, he was among the first black men to be trained as Marine drill instructors. He also served as field sergeant in charge of all recruit training at Montford Point. As a member of the 52d Defense Battalion on Guam in World War II, "Hashmark" asked that black Marines be assigned to combat patrols from which they were currently exempt. Once approved, he personally led 25 combat patrols.
Johnson later served in Korea with the 1st Shore Party Battalion, then later with 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, and finally as administrative advisor at the Headquarters of the Korean Marine Corps. Asked if he had experienced any problems as a senior black NCO serving in predominantly white units, Johnson characteristically said "I didn't encounter any difficulty. I accepted each individual for what he was and apparently they accepted me for what I was."
Johnson went on to become one of the first black sergeants major in the Marine Corps. Sergeant Major Johnson transferred to the Fleet Marine Force Reserve in 1957 and retired in 1959.
On 19 April 1974, the Montford Point facility at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, was dedicated as Camp Gilbert H. Johnson, Montford Point, Camp Lejeune, in honor of this outstanding Marine.
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