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Once-segregated Marines review new recruits

November 11, 2011 |  7:44 am

Crucible
Young and old came together to share a common tradition Thursday at Camp Pendleton.

Several hundred recruits, having just finished the grueling 54-hour test of endurance called the Crucible, marched smartly onto a parade deck. Most were dirty and many had tears of exhaustion and joy streaking down their faces.

"You have accomplished what few have dared to try," a first-sergeant barked at them as drill instructors prepared to bestow the Eagle, Globe and Anchor on each recruit and, for the first time, refer to him as a Marine.

And in the audience was a group of Marines from decades ago who once faced their own challenges in a desire to become Marines: African Americans who enlisted in the 1940s when the Marine Corps, indeed all of the U.S. military, was segregated.

They trained at Montford Point, N.C., a segregated boot camp for African Americans opened in 1942 when President Roosevelt ordered the military to accept black recruits and closed in 1949 when President Truman ordered the complete integration of the military.

Now, the Marine Corps is honoring the Montford Point Marines, inviting them to review the new recruits and to be present when a plaque was unveiled telling of their courage.

"It's an honor we'll never forget," said Robert Reid, 81, who trained at Montford Point and served in Korea and Vietnam.

The day was a rare occurrence: the Marine Corps birthday (the 236th) falling on the same day as a fresh batch of recruits finishing the Crucible. There was music and in the distance the sound of Marines firing their weapons at the rifle range.

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--Tony Perry at Camp Pendleton

Photo: Recruits at Camp Pendleton, awaiting their Eagle, Globe and Anchor. Photo: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

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