[Congressional Record Volume 157, Number 175 (Wednesday, November 16, 2011)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E2067]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



                         HON. CHARLES B. RANGEL

                              of new york

                    in the house of representatives

                      Wednesday, November 16, 2011

  Mr. RANGEL. Mr. Speaker, as a veteran of the Korean War, known today 
as the ``Forgotten War'', I am honored with great American pride and 
democracy to salute all my fellow comrades, buddies and all of the 
officers and members of The 369th Veterans' Association on this very 
special day as we celebrate Veterans Day 11-11-11.
  First organized in 1916 as the 15th New York National Guard Infantry 
Regiment and manned by black enlisted soldiers with both black and 
white officers, the U.S. Army's 369th Infantry Regiment, popularly 
known as the ``Harlem Hellfighters,'' was the best-known African 
American unit of World War I. Federalized in 1917, it prepared for 
service in Europe and arrived in Brest in December. The next month, the 
regiment became part of the 93rd Division (Provisional) and continued 
its training, now under French instructors. In March, the regiment 
finally received its Federal designation and was reorganized and 
reequipped according to the French model. That summer, the 369th was 
integrated into the French 161st Division and began combat operations.
  Dubbing themselves ``Men of Bronze,'' the soldiers of the 369th were 
lucky in many ways compared to other African Americans in 1918 France. 
They enjoyed a continuity of leadership, commanded throughout the war 
by one of their original organizers and proponents, Colonel William 
Hayward. Unlike many white officers serving in the black regiments, 
Colonel Hayward respected his troops, dedicated himself to their well-
being, and leveraged his political connections to secure support from 
New Yorkers.
  Spending over six months in combat, perhaps the longest of any 
American unit in the war, the 369th suffered approximately fifteen 
hundred casualties but received only nine hundred replacements. Unit 
histories claimed they were the first unit to cross the Rhine; they 
performed well at Chateau-Thierry and Belleau Wood, earning the epithet 
``Hell Fighters'' from their enemies. Whereas African American valor 
usually went unrecognized, well over one hundred members of the 
regiment received American and/or French medals, including the first 
two Americans--Corporal Henry Johnson and Private Needham Roberts--to 
be awarded the coveted French Croix de Guerre.
  The most celebrated man in the 369th was Pvt. Henry Lincoln Johnson, 
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 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. Johnson was the first American to receive the Croix de 
Guerre awarded by the French government. By the end of the war, 171 
members of the 369th were awarded the Legion of Honor. During the war 
the 369th's regimental band (under the direction of James Reese Europe) 
became famous throughout Europe. It introduced the until-then unknown 
music called jazz 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
  In World War II, the formation was organized as the 369th 
Antiaircraft Artillery Regiment, and served in Hawaii and along the 
West Coast. The Harlem Hellfighters have served in every major conflict 
since its inception, including Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and the War 
on Terrorism in Afghanistan. The unit survives today under the command 
of Colonel Reginald Sanders as the 369th Sustainment Brigade Battalion 
of the New York Army National Guard.
  As a veteran myself in a so-called ``Forgotten War'' in American 
history, I know what it is like to come home and feel unrecognized. On 
the eve of 11-11-11, the United States Senate passed legislation, which 
the United States House of Representatives voted unanimously 422-0 to 
honor the Montford Point Marines with the nation's highest civilian 
honor, the Congressional Gold Medal. These truly great American men 
fought in some of the bloodiest battles of World War II--the first 
Black Marines in the Navy. After 70 years, they have finally received 
the honor they deserve for a legacy we must not forget to pass on to 
our future generations.
  Mr. Speaker, I ask you to join my colleagues and a very grateful 
nation in very special congressional salute to my dear friend General 
Nathaniel James, Retired, National President and all of the officers 
and members of The 369th Veterans' Association, Inc. as we celebrate 
our Veterans Day 11-11-11.