Harlem Hellfighters
Overview
 
The 369th Infantry Regiment, formerly the 15th New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 National Guard
United States National Guard
The National Guard of the United States is a reserve military force composed of state National Guard militia members or units under federally recognized active or inactive armed force service for the United States. Militia members are citizen soldiers, meaning they work part time for the National...

 Regiment
, was an infantry regiment of the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 that saw action in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The 369th Infantry is known for being the first African-American regiment to serve with the American Expeditionary Force
American Expeditionary Force
The American Expeditionary Forces or AEF were the United States Armed Forces sent to Europe in World War I. During the United States campaigns in World War I the AEF fought in France alongside British and French allied forces in the last year of the war, against Imperial German forces...

 during World War I. The regiment was nicknamed the Harlem Hellfighters and the Black Rattlers, in addition to several other nicknames.
The 369th Infantry Regiment was constituted June 2 1913 in the New York Army National Guard
New York Army National Guard
The New York Army National Guard is a component of the New York National Guard and the Army National Guard. Nationwide, the Army National Guard comprises approximately one half of the US Army's available combat forces and approximately one third of its support organization...

 as the 15th New York Infantry Regiment.
Encyclopedia
The 369th Infantry Regiment, formerly the 15th New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 National Guard
United States National Guard
The National Guard of the United States is a reserve military force composed of state National Guard militia members or units under federally recognized active or inactive armed force service for the United States. Militia members are citizen soldiers, meaning they work part time for the National...

 Regiment
, was an infantry regiment of the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 that saw action in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The 369th Infantry is known for being the first African-American regiment to serve with the American Expeditionary Force
American Expeditionary Force
The American Expeditionary Forces or AEF were the United States Armed Forces sent to Europe in World War I. During the United States campaigns in World War I the AEF fought in France alongside British and French allied forces in the last year of the war, against Imperial German forces...

 during World War I. The regiment was nicknamed the Harlem Hellfighters and the Black Rattlers, in addition to several other nicknames.

History

The 369th Infantry Regiment was constituted June 2 1913 in the New York Army National Guard
New York Army National Guard
The New York Army National Guard is a component of the New York National Guard and the Army National Guard. Nationwide, the Army National Guard comprises approximately one half of the US Army's available combat forces and approximately one third of its support organization...

 as the 15th New York Infantry Regiment. It was organized on June 29, 1916 at New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

. It was mustered into Federal service on July 25, 1917 at Camp Whitman, New York. It was drafted into Federal service August 5, 1917. The regiment trained in the New York area, performed guard duty at various locations in New York. They trained more intensely at Camp Wadsworth in Spartanburg, South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

, where they experienced significant racism
Racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

 from the local communities, and other units.

The 15th Infantry Regiment NYARNG was assigned on December 1, 1917 to the 185th Infantry Brigade. It was commanded by Col. William Hayward, a member of the Union League Club of New York
Union League Club of New York
The Union League Club of New York is a private social club in New York City. Its fourth and current clubhouse, which opened on February 2, 1931, is a building designed by Benjamin Wistar Morris, III, located at 38 East 37th Street between Madison and Park Avenue in the Murray Hill section of...

, which sponsored the 369th in the tradition of the 20th U.S. Colored Infantry, which the club had sponsored in the Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

.

The 15th Infantry Regiment shipped out from the New York Port of Embarkation
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is a bi-state port district, established in 1921 through an interstate compact, that runs most of the regional transportation infrastructure, including the bridges, tunnels, airports, and seaports, within the Port of New York and New Jersey...

 on December 27, 1917, and joined its brigade upon arrival in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. The unit was relegated to labor service duties instead of combat training. The 185th Infantry Brigade was assigned on January 5, 1918 to the 93rd Division [Provisional].

The 15th Infantry Regiment, NYARNG was reorganized and redesignated March 1, 1918 as the 369th Infantry Regiment, but the unit continued labor service duties while it awaited the decision as to its future.

The US Army decided on April 8, 1918 to assign the unit to the French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

 for the duration of the United States' participation in the war. The men were issued French helmets and brown leather belts and pouches, although they continued to wear their U.S. uniforms. The 369th Infantry Regiment was relieved May 8, 1918 from assignment to the 185th Infantry Brigade, and went into the trenches as part of the French 16th Division. It served continuously to July 3. The regiment returned to combat in the Second Battle of the Marne
Second Battle of the Marne
The Second Battle of the Marne , or Battle of Reims was the last major German Spring Offensive on the Western Front during the First World War. The German attack failed when an Allied counterattack led by France overwhelmed the Germans, inflicting severe casualties...

. Later the 369th was reassigned to Gen. Lebouc’s 161st Division to participate in the Allied
Allies of World War I
The Entente Powers were the countries at war with the Central Powers during World War I. The members of the Triple Entente were the United Kingdom, France, and the Russian Empire; Italy entered the war on their side in 1915...

 counterattack. On August 19, the regiment went off the line for rest and training of replacements.

On September 25, 1918 the French 4th Army
Fourth Army (France)
The Fourth Army was a Field army of the French Army, which fought during World War I and World War II.-World War I:*General Fernand de Langle de Cary *General Henri Gouraud...

 went on the offensive in conjunction with the American drive in the Meuse-Argonne. The 369th turned in a good account in heavy fighting, sustaining severe losses. They captured the important village of Séchault
Séchault
Séchault is a commune in the Ardennes department in northern France.-Population:-References:*...

. At one point the 369th advanced faster than French troops on their right and left flanks, and risked being cut off. By the time the regiment pulled back for reorganization, it had advanced fourteen kilometers through severe German resistance.

In mid-October the regiment was moved to a quiet sector in the Vosges Mountains
Vosges mountains
For the department of France of the same name, see Vosges.The Vosges are a range of low mountains in eastern France, near its border with Germany. They extend along the west side of the Rhine valley in a northnortheast direction, mainly from Belfort to Saverne...

. It was there on November 11, the day of the Armistice
Armistice
An armistice is a situation in a war where the warring parties agree to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, but may be just a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace...

. Six days later, the 369th made its last advance and on November 26, reached the banks of the Rhine River, the first Allied unit to reach it. The regiment was relieved on December 12, 1918 from assignment to the French 161st Division. It returned to the New York Port of Embarkation and was demobilized on February 28, 1919 at Camp Upton
Camp Upton
Camp Upton was an installation of the United States Army located in Yaphank on Long Island in Suffolk County, New York. It was located near Camp Mills.-History:...

 at Yaphank, New York
Yaphank, New York
Yaphank is a census-designated place in Suffolk County, New York, United States. The population was 5,025 at the 2000 census.Yaphank is a community in the south part of the Town of Brookhaven...

, and returned to the New York Army National Guard.

During its service, the regiment suffered 1500 casualties and took part in the following campaigns:
  1. Champagne–Marne
    Second Battle of the Marne
    The Second Battle of the Marne , or Battle of Reims was the last major German Spring Offensive on the Western Front during the First World War. The German attack failed when an Allied counterattack led by France overwhelmed the Germans, inflicting severe casualties...

  2. Meuse–Argonne
    Meuse-Argonne Offensive
    The Meuse-Argonne Offensive, or Maas-Argonne Offensive, also called the Battle of the Argonne Forest, was a part of the final Allied offensive of World War I that stretched along the entire western front.-Overview:...

  3. Champagne 1918
  4. Alsace 1918


One Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...

 and many Distinguished Service Crosses
Distinguished Service Cross (United States)
The Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army, for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force. Actions that merit the Distinguished Service Cross must be of such a high degree...

 were awarded to members of the regiment. The most celebrated man in the 369th was Pvt. Henry Lincoln Johnson
Henry Lincoln Johnson
Henry Lincoln Johnson was an African-American soldier, and recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, and the French Croix de Guerre.-Biography:...

, a former Albany, New York, rail station porter, who earned the nickname "Black Death" for his actions in combat in France. In May 1918 Johnson and Pvt. Needham Roberts
Needham Roberts
Needham Roberts was an American soldier in the Harlem Hellfighters and recipient of the Purple Heart and the Croix de Guerre.-World War I:...

 fought off a 24-man German patrol, though both were severely wounded. After they expended their ammunition, Roberts used his rifle as a club and Johnson battled with a bolo knife
Bolo knife
A bolo is a large cutting tool of Filipino origin similar to the machete, used particularly in the jungles of Indonesia, the Philippines, and in the sugar fields of Cuba...

. Johnson was the first American to receive the Croix de Guerre
Croix de guerre
The Croix de guerre is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts...

awarded by the French government. By the end of the war, 171 members of the 369th were awarded the Legion of Honor.

Photographs show that the 369th carried the New York Regimental flag overseas. The French government awarded the regiment the Croix de Guerre
Croix de guerre
The Croix de guerre is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts...

with silver star for the taking of Séchault
Séchault
Séchault is a commune in the Ardennes department in northern France.-Population:-References:*...

. It was pinned to the colors by General Lebouc at a ceremony in Germany, December 13, 1918.
One of the first units in the United States armed forces to have black officers in addition to its all-black enlisted corps, the 369th compiled an astounding war record. It earned several unit citations along with many individual decorations for valor from the French government. The 369th Infantry Regiment was the first New York unit to return to the United States, and was the first unit to march up Fifth Avenue from the Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park is one of the best-known of New York City's 1,900 public parks. At 9.75 acres , it is a landmark in the Manhattan neighborhood of Greenwich Village, as well as a meeting place and center for cultural activity...

 Arch to their Armory in Harlem
Harlem
Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, which since the 1920s has been a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands...

. Their unit was placed on the permanent list with other veteran units.

In re-capping the story of the 369th Arthur W. Little, who had been a battalion commander, wrote in the regimental history From Harlem to the Rhine, that it was official that the outfit was 191 days under fire, never lost a foot of ground or had a man taken prisoner, though on two occasions men were captured but they were recovered. Only once did it fail to take its objective and that was due largely to bungling by French artillery support. There were 1500 casualties.

During the war the 369th's regimental band (under the direction of James Reese Europe
James Reese Europe
James Reese Europe was an American ragtime and early jazz bandleader, arranger, and composer. He was the leading figure on the African American music scene of New York City in the 1910s.-Biography:...

) became famous throughout Europe. It introduced the until-then unknown music called jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 to British, French and other audiences, and started an international demand for it.

At the end of the war, the 369th returned to New York City, and in February 1919, paraded through the city. Thousands lined the streets to see them: the parade began on Fifth Avenue at 61st Street, proceeded uptown past ranks of white bystanders, turned west on 110th Street, and then swung on to Lenox Avenue, and marched into Harlem, where black New Yorkers packed the sidewalks to see them. The parade became a marker of African American service to the nation, a frequent point of reference for those campaigning for civil rights. In the 1920s and 1930s, the 369th was a regular presence on Harlem's streets, each year marching through the neighborhood from their Armory to catch a train to their annual summer camp, and then back through the neighborhood on their return two weeks later.

Legacy

The 369th Regiment Armory
369th Regiment Armory
369th Regiment Armory is a historic National Guard armory building located in Harlem, New York, New York. It was built for the 369th Regiment. The unit was founded in 1913 as the first and only National Guard unit in New York State composed solely of African-Americans...

 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...

 in 1994.

A section of the Harlem River Drive
Harlem River Drive
The Harlem River Drive is a north–south parkway in the New York City borough of Manhattan. It runs along the west bank of the Harlem River from the Triborough Bridge in East Harlem to 10th Avenue in Inwood, where the parkway continues north as Dyckman Street. The portion of the Harlem River Drive...

 in New York City is named for the 369th Infantry Regiment.
The filker Michael Longcor
Michael Longcor
Michael Longcor is a folk and filk singer. His songs span a range of topics including military history, Indiana history, and humor. He has won six Pegasus Awards and has been nominated for six others. His music has appeared on Dr...

 is the composer and recorder of the song "The Ballad of Esau's Sons" (lyrics by poet Martha Keller), which describes the 369th's exploits during World War I without explicitly naming the unit.

Notable soldiers

  • Benjamin O. Davis Sr., Regimental Commander of the 369th Regiment and first African-American general in the US Armed Forces.
  • James Reese Europe
    James Reese Europe
    James Reese Europe was an American ragtime and early jazz bandleader, arranger, and composer. He was the leading figure on the African American music scene of New York City in the 1910s.-Biography:...

    , an early ragtime
    Ragtime
    Ragtime is an original musical genre which enjoyed its peak popularity between 1897 and 1918. Its main characteristic trait is its syncopated, or "ragged," rhythm. It began as dance music in the red-light districts of American cities such as St. Louis and New Orleans years before being published...

     and jazz
    Jazz
    Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

     bandleader and composer, who served as regimental bandmaster.
  • Hamilton Fish III
    Hamilton Fish III
    Hamilton Fish III was a soldier and politician from New York State...

    , Company Commander in the 369th Regiment, New York Congressman, and Founder of the Order of Lafayette
    Order of Lafayette
    The Order of Lafayette is a patriotic, hereditary, nonpartisan, and fraternal organization established in New York City in 1958 by Colonel Hamilton Fish III , a former Congressman from New York and decorated veteran of the First World War...

    .
  • Henry Lincoln Johnson
    Henry Lincoln Johnson
    Henry Lincoln Johnson was an African-American soldier, and recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, and the French Croix de Guerre.-Biography:...

    , winner of the Croix de Guerre
    Croix de guerre
    The Croix de guerre is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts...

    -posthumously awarded the DSC
    Distinguished Service Cross (United States)
    The Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army, for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force. Actions that merit the Distinguished Service Cross must be of such a high degree...

     and Purple Heart
    Purple Heart
    The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those who have been wounded or killed while serving on or after April 5, 1917 with the U.S. military. The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is located in New Windsor, New York...

    .
  • Rafael Hernández Marín
    Rafael Hernández Marín
    Rafael Hernández , was one of the most important composers of Puerto Rican popular music during the 20th century.-Early years:...

    , considered to the greatest composer of Puerto Rican music.
  • Spotswood Poles, referred to as "the black Ty Cobb
    Ty Cobb
    Tyrus Raymond "Ty" Cobb , nicknamed "The Georgia Peach," was an American Major League Baseball outfielder. He was born in Narrows, Georgia...

    " for his prowess in the professional Negro baseball leagues
    Negro league baseball
    The Negro leagues were United States professional baseball leagues comprising teams predominantly made up of African Americans. The term may be used broadly to include professional black teams outside the leagues and it may be used narrowly for the seven relatively successful leagues beginning in...

     in the early 1900s.
  • Needham Roberts
    Needham Roberts
    Needham Roberts was an American soldier in the Harlem Hellfighters and recipient of the Purple Heart and the Croix de Guerre.-World War I:...

    , winner of the Croix de Guerre
    Croix de guerre
    The Croix de guerre is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts...

     and Purple Heart.
  • Bill "Bojangles" Robinson
    Bill Robinson
    Bill “Bojangles” Robinson was an American tap dancer and actor of stage and film. Audiences enjoyed his understated style, which eschewed the frenetic manner of the jitterbug in favor of cool and reserve; rarely did he use his upper body, relying instead on busy, inventive feet, and an expressive...

    , tap dance
    Tap dance
    Tap dance is a form of dance characterized by using the sound of one's tap shoes hitting the floor as a percussive instrument. As such, it is also commonly considered to be a form of music. Two major variations on tap dance exist: rhythm tap and Broadway tap. Broadway tap focuses more on the...

    r and actor
  • Vertner Woodson Tandy, who was the first African-American to pass the military commissioning examination and was commissioned as a First Lieutenant in the 15th Infantry Regiment of the New York Guard. Tandy was also one of the founders, or "Seven Jewels," of Alpha Phi Alpha
    Alpha Phi Alpha
    Alpha Phi Alpha is the first Inter-Collegiate Black Greek Letter fraternity. It was founded on December 4, 1906 at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Its founders are known as the "Seven Jewels". Alpha Phi Alpha developed a model that was used by the many Black Greek Letter Organizations ...

    fraternity.

Further reading

  • Barbeau, Arthur E., and Florette Henri. The Unknown Soldiers; Black American Troops in World War I. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1974. ISBN 0-87722-063-8.
  • Harris, Bill. The Hellfighters of Harlem: African-American Soldiers Who Fought for the Right to Fight for Their Country. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2002. ISBN 0-7867-1050-0, ISBN 0-7867-1307-0.
  • Harris, Stephen L. Harlem's Hell Fighters: The African-American 369th Infantry in World War I. Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, Inc, 2003. ISBN 1-57488-386-0, ISBN 1-57488-635-5.
  • Little, Arthur W. From Harlem to the Rhine: The Story of New York's Colored Volunteers. New York: Covici, Friede, Publishers, 1936. (Reprinted: New York: Haskell House, 1974. ISBN 0-8383-2033-3).
  • Myers, Walter Dean, and Bill Miles. The Harlem Hellfighters: When Pride Met Courage. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006. ISBN 0-06-001136-X, ISBN 0-06-001137-8.
  • Nelson, Peter. A More Unbending Battle: The Harlem Hellfighters' Struggle for Freedom in WWI and Equality at Home. New York: Basic Civitas, 2009. ISBN 0-465-00317-6.

African Americans in World War I

  • Scott, Emmett Jay. http://books.google.com/books?id=fKoZAAAAYAAJScott's Official History of the American Negro in the World War. A Complete and Authentic Narration, from Official Sources, of the Participation of American Soldiers of the Negro Race in the World War for Democracy ... a Full Account of the War Work Organizations of Colored Men and Women and Other Civilian Activities, Including the Red Cross, the Y.M.C.A., the Y.W.C.A. and the War Camp Community Service, with Official Summary of Treaty of Peace and League of Nations Covenant]. Chicago: Homewood Press, 1919. . (Reprinted: New York, Arno Press, 1969. .)
  • Williams, Charles H. Sidelights on Negro Soldiers. Boston: B.J. Brimmer Co, 1923. . (Reprinted as: Negro Soldiers in World War I: The Human Side. New York: AMS Press, 1970. ISBN 0-404-06976-2).

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK