Harlem Hellfighters

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Harlem Hellfighters

The Harlem Hellfighters

Infantry Regiment 369

First organized in 1916, the US Army's 369th infantry regiment, dubbed as the "Harlem Hellfighters," was the best known African American unit of World War 1. The Harlem Hellfighters spent 191 days in combat, which is the longest of any American unit in the war. They suffered around 1,500 casualties and only received 900 replacements. Despite that, the unit was one of the best on the battlefield.

Where did the Nicknames Come From?

The nickname "Harlem Hellfighters" was not the only one Infantry Regiment 369 received. They dubbed themselves "Men in Bronze" and were called that by the French and other allies. They received the nickname they are most well known by today by the Germans out of fear, which they considered an honor.

Racism towards the Hellfighters

The Harlem Hellfighters from World War 1

Racism was plentiful throughout the war. Black and white troops were segregated, and it was only after much protest from the black community that the Army agreed to train African American troops. Racial segregation in the US Army kept African American troops from marching in the front lines, and were instead put to work unloading cargo off of ships. The reason for this is because the white establishment did not think that African Americans had the intelligence to think clearly enough and fight. In December 1917, when the Harlem Hellfighters departed New York City, they were not allowed in the farewell parade, which was the so-called Rainbow Division. The reason they were given was "black in not a color of the rainbow." The "Men in Bronze's" many victories on the battlefield changed people's opinions as newspapers praised the unit for receiving 3 Croix de Guerres, which was the highest medal of honor in France. Although they were denied a farewell party, they were rewarded a gigantic victory parade, with their now famous regimental jazz band leader James Reese Europe playing for them.

The Regiment's Accomplishments

The Harlem Hellfighters fought with the French at Chateau-Thierry and Belleau Wood, spending longer than any other American unit in the war. The 369th were also the first Allied regiment to reach the Rhine. One day, the Hellfighters were defending an isolated lookout post when the Germans attacked. Although they were wounded, they refused to surrender, fighting with any weapons they had. Corporal Henry Johnson and Private Needham Roberts won 2 Croix de Guerres, 171 individual officers and men received medals, and the entire unit received another Croix de Guerre.

James Reese Europe andthe Harlem Hellfighter'sRegimental Band

Corporal Henry Johnson and Private Needham Roberts, receivers of the Croix de Guerre

Click on the Croix de Guerre to learn more about the Harlem Hellfighters

Works Cited-"The Harlem Hellfighters: Fighting Racism In The Trenches Of WWI." NPR. NPR, 1 Apr. 2014. Web. 05 Mar. 2015.-"Photographs of the 369th Infantry and African Americans during World War I." National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives and Records Administration. Web. 05 Mar. 2015.-Mikkelsen, Edward, Jr. "369th Infantry Regiment "Harlem Hellfighters" | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed." 369th Infantry Regiment "Harlem Hellfighters" | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed.Web. 05 Mar. 2015.-"Black Americans in the US Military from the American Revolution to the Korean." Black Americans in the US Military from the American Revolution to the Korean. New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History, 30 Mar. 2006. Web. 05 Mar. 2015. -Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. "Who Were the Harlem Hellfighters?" PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.-"MHS Collections Online: Croix De Guerre. France, 1914-1918." MHS Collections Online: Croix De Guerre. France, 1914-1918. Massachusetts Historical Society, 2015. Web. 05 Mar. 2015.


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