Montford Point Marine Honored
Jimmie Lockhart was among the first African-Americans accepted into the Marines
ANCHORAGE - At 16 years old, Jimmie Lockhart was too young to sign up to the Marine Corps, but he stretched the truth.
“Well they wanted 18 years old” said Lockhart
Did the young boy from Louisiana lie about his age?
“Well a little… I guess you can call it that,” he said.
In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order that began to erase discrimination in the armed forces.
In September 1943, against his mother’s wishes, Lockhart joined the Marine Corps.
The new African-American recruits were not sent to traditional boot camps with other Marines.
Instead, they were segregated, receiving training at Montford Point in North Carolina.
“We didn't think about it that much because we were at it as a group and we knew that no doubt we were fighting for the same thing,” said Lockhart.
“If it's a group of whites or a group of blacks and we were out there, we are all fighting for the same reason.”
Lockhart and his fellow Montford Point Marines didn't know at the time how significant their service would be in helping to establish equality.
Now 85, Lockhart didn't see any action during his two-year service - though he did lose friends in the Pacific.
"Most of the guys in my platoon at that time they got killed, a few of them escaped.”
In 1946, he made his way to Alaska where he's lived ever since.
This week, he traveled to Washington D.C. to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, alongside more than 400 of his fellow Montford Point brothers.
More than 20,000 African-Americans trained at Montford Point camp from 1942 to 1949, when the camp was deactivated.
The policy of segregating Marines by race ended in 1951.