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The 369th Infantry Regiment, The Harlem Hellfighters.

Posted by Walter Gido on

The 369th Infantry Regiment, The Harlem Hellfighters.

Though they spent more time in battle than any other regiment and were one of the most decorated, they never got the recognition they deserved. Even as one of the most successful military regiments in WWI, they were denied their going away parade because they were a black regiment. They were invited after the war due to their valor. They fought so hard & with such tenacity that they were dubbed "The Harlem Hellfighters" by the German troops they faced. It became the first American unit to be cited with the French Croix de Guerre. One medal of honor & many Distinguished Service Crosses.

When white units leaving New York for Europe embarked upon their ships mid great fanfare & marching bands, this was not the case for the Hellfighters, an issue that plagued them during their entire tour. They even had to train with 2nd-hand uniforms & broomsticks as rifles.When they were shipped off to Spartanburg, SC, for basic training, they were verbally assaulted & often physically attacked by groups of white townsfolk who resented their presence there.They were ordered not to strike back in self defense and had to rely upon the conscience of fellow white soldiers to intervene when they were attacked.

The 369th was told if a single complaint was lodged against the unit, the regiment would be disbanded and they would never get the change to fight overseas.As the war ground on, the 369th would emerge as the unit that spent the longest time in combat and would become the most decorated combat unit in the field. But the mere appearance of the 369th was confusing beyond the fact that the unit was black.Members of the 369th were issued French helmets and belts & attached to French regiments. The dramatic scenes drawn by Artist Canaan White accurately depict the "look" of these black heroes while dramatically depicting their valor & struggle.

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