Although an estimated 1 million black Americans fought in World War II, most history books don’t tell the full story of their sacrifices and acts of heroism, or the discrimination they faced. suffered even as they fought for their country.
But a new exhibit opening Wednesday at the Heroes Hall Veterans Museum at the OC Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa — “Fighting for the Right to Fight: African-American Experiences in World War II” — aims to change that by offering a collection of photos, artifacts and oral histories of those who served.
On loan from the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, the exhibit highlights both the extraordinary achievements and challenges of black troops, who sought a “double victory” overseas and on the home front.
“It’s a truly disturbing story,” said Heroes Hall Supervisor Carol Singleton, who applied two years ago to host the much sought-after exhibit. “A lot of people don’t know the details. But these people served our country, and their names should be known.
The exhibit, which runs until September 18, gives voice to the many different assignments, missions and capacities in which black servicemen and women have worked to help secure the freedoms they themselves could not fully enjoy. at home in the United States.
It tells the story of the Montford Point Marines, a group of 20,000 black servicemen trained at a separate camp in North Carolina when the US Marine Corps first opened its ranks to nonwhite members in 1942, and the grueling conditions and the unfair treatment they faced. .
Visitors can learn about the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion – nicknamed the “Six Triple Eight” – an all-black Women’s Army Corps battalion that helped keep overseas mail service running smoothly to maintain troop morale .
The exhibit highlights the Red Ball Express, a truck convoy operated mostly by black soldiers that transported around 12,500 tons of supplies a day to Allied forces in 1944 Normandy, France, for 83 days after the invasion of D-Day.
Bobby McDonald, president and CEO of the Orange County Black Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Heroes Hall Veterans Foundation, said the exhibit explores parts of history rarely told.
“Is it impactful? Shit yeah. Is it insightful? Shit yeah. Is it emotional? You’re damn right, but it’s a story that’s true,” said McDonald, a Vietnam veteran himself. “It brings back a lot of memories of how the United States was and, in some cases, still is.”
His father, Vernon McDonald, who died last month at the age of 97, was a master sergeant in the US Army’s 1321 Engineer General Service Regiment, a ‘Buffalo soldier’ who served in Europe and Japan but has little said about his stay abroad and the discrimination. he saw and probably lived.
“I want people to walk away feeling like these people of color were just doing their job,” he said of the exhibit. “They were just fighting for the right to fight for their freedom.”
McDonald’s will host a commencement ceremony Feb. 19 at 11 a.m., featuring a performance by the All-American Boys Chorus and guest speakers Col. Franklin Henderson, retired president of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the 9th and 10th Calvary Assn. , Lt. Col. Patricia Jackson-Kelley, President of the National Assn. black military women and Staff Sgt. Dave Culmer, a Marine veteran from Montford Point.
Heroes Hall is located at 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa. Hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free entry. To learn more, visit ocheroeshall.org or call (714) 708-1613.
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