ORLANDO, Fla. – Sgt. Charles Foreman joined the Marine Corps at 18 after he graduated from Howard high school in Wilmington, Delaware in 1942.
“The war had started and we had soldiers in Europe,” Foreman said.
At 96, he recalled when he enlisted in the Marines because he didn’t want to join the Army. At the time, he was told African American soldiers weren’t being given a fair shot.
“I learned that black soldiers were treated very bad in Europe. They had ‘em doing everything but to be fighting the war,” he said. “They had ‘em digging trenches just kind of bull work.”
It was labor work Foreman said he didn’t want to be a part of.
“I actually wanted to learn how to fly. I always had the urge to be a pilot,” he said. “I had read that the Marine Corps had an air wing. So, when I went to the recruiting office, I told the recruiting officers there what I wanted to do. The only place at that time where blacks could go to school to fly was Tuskegee.”
But the Tuskegee Airmen was a unit of the U.S. Army, which he had already decided not to join. Foreman said the recruiting officer told him that for him to enlist in the Marine Corps, he had to go to Montford Point training base. It was a unit of the Marine Corps; the first segregated basic training camp in North Carolina established in 1942.
“It was quite a shocking experience. I didn’t find out it was a segregated unit we got there,” the veteran said.
Most people know about the Tuskegee Airmen and Buffalo Soldiers, but very few are aware of the Montford Point Marines.
“Nobody really knew about Montford Point other than that was a Marine training station,” he said. “At the training site, when we got there is when all of us started learning it was a segregated training site. It was just being built.”
Foreman was among the first 1,000 men to graduate from Montford Point. He told News 6 he wasn’t able to earn his wings because of his race but the experience left him with a mindset that helped him throughout his career and life.
“Montford Point was the...I’d say the jumping-off point for black Marines,” he said. “I learned that things were not as easy as they appeared to be. However, the experience there had taught me one big thing: if you want to get something accomplished you either find a way or make one.”
In November of 2011, Foreman and other members of the Montford Point Marines received the Congressional Gold Medal.
In 2020, Orange County presented Sgt. foreman with a proclamation for his spirit of patriotism while in the Marine Corps where he achieved the rank of platoon sergeant, retaining that rank until his honorable discharge.
Approximately 20,000 African American soldiers received basic training at Montford Point between 1942 and 1949.
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