Capitol Words a project of the Sunlight Foundation

  • and

Recognizing The Difficult Challenges And Heroism Of Black Veterans

Rep. Larry Kissell

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, a constituent of mine, Michael Lawson, recently told me about the little known role the first all black fighting regiment had during WWI.

The 15th New York Infantry, ``The Harlem Hellfighters,'' later federally designated as the 369th Regiment Army. They served valiantly, including 191 days without a replacement and never lost a prisoner or a foot of ground. He said there had been no formal American recognition of the dedication and sacrifice of these young men. The French did recognize them with the Croix de Guerre, their highest military honor as well as a monument dedicated by a grateful French government.

Michael knew all about the Harlem Hellfighters because his grandfather, MAJ Melville T. Miller, served more than 50 years in the U.S. Army through two World Wars and the Korean War. Major Miller began his service as a member of the unit when he was just 16 years old.