Molokai Marine Receives High Honor
Almost 70 years after he fought in World War II, Marine Corps veteran and Molokai resident William Harris Jr., 87, received the Congressional Gold Medal last week for his service.
Harris was among the first 20,000 African-American Marines in the 1940s, training at Montford Point Camp in Jacksonville, N.C. The Montford Point Marines, as they were called, served in a time of racial discrimination and segregation.
“We had people from different parts of the country who, if a black came in and sat down at the table with them, they would get up and leave without finishing their meal,” said veteran Robert Talmadge in an interview with KITV News.
Talmadge, who joined the military in 1947, said African-American Marines paved the way for racial diversity both within and outside of the military.
“By breaking the color barrier in 1942, the Montford Point Marines became part of a rich legacy of our corps, they answered our nation’s call despite our society being deeply divided along racial lines,” said General James Amos, Marine Corps Commandant.
Congressional Medal Events were held in Washington, D.C. in June of this year to honor 400 African-American Marines who served in World War II. Because Harris and 100 other Montford Point Marines were unable to attend, the ceremony last week was held at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Oahu.
Harris declined to comment.