From fighting the Japanese to Congressional Gold Medal recognition

Julia LeDoux
July 29, 2019 - 1:50 pm

Montford Point Marines Association


Joseph Alexander is  a World War II veteran and Montford Point Marine who helped to desegregate the United States military.

In early August, he’ll be recognized with the Congressional Gold Medal for his service to the nation.

Alexander was 19 when he joined the Marines in 1943, reports The Mercury News.

Montford Point Marines Association

“I wanted to become a Marine because they were big and bad,” Alexander, 95, told the newspaper.

Alexander joined the Corps after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 in June 1941. The order barred ethnic or racial discrimination in government agencies and requiring the armed forces to recruit African Americans.

He went to boot camp at Montford Point, North Carolina, becoming one of the first African Americans in the Corps. At that time, most white Marines were trained at Parris Island, South Carolina or in San Diego, California.

When he finished basic training, Alexander was sent to the Pacific, where he fought to liberate the Marshall Islands from the Japanese. His family said he rarely spoke about his wartime experiences.

“We never knew what he did during the war as we were growing up,” his daughter, Kay Alexander, told the paper. “He never talked about it. We only just started learning about it, and we are still finding out more.”

Alexander’s family recently contacted L.E. Michael Johnson, a regional vice president with the National Montford Point Marine Association, for help with navigating his VA benefits. Johnson researched Alexander’s military records and found out he had been at Montford Point.

 “This is about getting recognition for the service that these men provided during World War II,” Johnson

Former President Barack Obama signed a law giving all  Montford Point Marines collectively  Congressional Gold Medal recognition in November of 2011. The Congressional Gold Medal honoring the Montford Point Marines collectively can be found at the  Smithsonan Institution's African American History Museum. 

Alexander will be presented with a bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal at 1 p.m. Aug. 2 at the Veterans Memorial Building, 22737 Main St., in Hayward, California.

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