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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

Re: Last Living Buffalo Soldier

Hello again:

I found another press release for Harlem's 369th for New York's Nation's Parade celebration. The press release brought back many memories when 369th President Al Mitchell and I spearheaded the search for African-American surviving veterans who served in France in WW I. The French Council of Ministers ruled that veterans who fought on French soil in WWI would receive the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. Also detailed are some of the famous men who served in "The Nine."

Here it is:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FAMED 369TH "HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS"

PAY TRIBUTE TO WW I HEROES IN NATIONS PARADE

New York...November 11, 1995 ... Harlem's legendary 369th Veterans Association, will honor two African-American soldiers who fought on the battlefields of France in World War I, at the Nation's Parade on Saturday, November 11, 1995. Mr. James R. Jones, 97 years of age of the 369th Regiment and Mr. Herbert R. Young, 109 years old of the 807 Pioneer Infantry will be driven up Fifth Avenue in an antique car. Today's parade route carries a deep symbolism for the "Harlem Hellfighter's" and all New Yorkers, when, in 1919, they led WW I's Victory Parade up Fifth Avenue. The heroic sons of Harlem, awarded with the Croix de Guerre by a grateful French nation, changed the traditional route of Fifth Avenue parades forever. Led by Bandleader, James Reese Europe, "The Nine" were the first to lead a parade up Fifth Avenue.

"This is a glorious day for the 369th and all veterans of all wars", said E. Alvin Mitchell, National President of the 369th Veterans Association, and veteran of the European and Pacific Theaters in WW II. "I am honored to escort two of our soldiers who are among the few surviving members of World War ! Their presence today is a reminder to the world that African-Americans fought bravely and died courageously for their country from the Revolutionary War to Desert Storm."

Mr. Jones and Mr. Young, both wounded in battle, were from two African-American regiments that fought under the flag of France during World War I. Unfortunately, the United States military fearing race riots and concerned about African-American soldiers' performance in battle, refused to place them in combat. Fortunately for the French, with no reservations about fighting with African-American troops, they welcomed these soldiers in their ranks. Of all the Black troops assigned to the French Army, the most famous was the 369th Regiment.

The 369th was formed as the 15th Infantry, one of the first "colored" regiments in New York State in 1913. Re-designated as the 369th Infantry in 1918, the unit formed part of the 161st Division under of the 4th French Army. The Regiment held the American military record for longest consecutive days in battle....191 days. Under the command of the famous General Henri Gouraud, 170 soldiers were individually cited for bravery and the entire unit was decorated with the Croix de Guerre. At the 369th's parade held on the eve of VE Day, Consul General of France, Andre Baeyens remarked, "The members of the 369th Regiment were the first American troops to enter Strasbourg. These brave men from Harlem and France share a history and friendship that began on the battlefield of Chateau Thierry". Today, the 369th of Harlem proudly bears the battle streamer of the Croix de Guerre on its regimental flag. The US government awarded members of the regiment with the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery.

The 369th Regiment and its famous Regimental band were to leave a lasting legacy on American and European culture. Some of their members were: James Reese Europe, composer, an organizer of the Clef Club, and music director for Vernon and Irene Castle; painter, Horace Pippin, whose works were exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in January, 1995; theater producer and composer, Noble Sissle; the legendary, Raphael Hernández, composer, acclaimed as the "Cole Porter" of Puerto Rico, Raphael Duchesne of the famed music family of Puerto Rico, who later joined Arthur Briggs' band at Bricktop's club in Paris; expatriate and jazz great Arthur Briggs, member of the Southern Syncopated Orchestra, while imprisoned by the Nazis, played classical trumpet for General Stulphnagel, commandant of France; Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., America's first African American General; Clifford Alexander, Jr.; Congressman Hamilton Fish; and WW I heroes, Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts.

The sons of the original 369th Regiment were to distinguish themselves in the Second World War in the Central Pacific Theater, and Okinowa. In October 1953, servicemen who had served in the 369th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group and affiliated units of World War II, formed the federally chartered 369th Veterans Association. Since its inception, over 7 decades ago, "The Nine" has produced seventeen Generals.

Under the leadership of Al Mitchell, "The Nine" has spearheaded a search to find surviving members of the original regiment and has located Dickerson Johnson, now living in Louisville, Georgia. Mitchell, was a member of the 366th Combat Engineers in WW II, that held the defensive at the Meuse River .
"I want to thank our brother soldiers for their courage in the face of the enemy and their dignity in the face of racism from their fellow American soldiers. We left so many men and so much of our history at Meuse-Argonne, Sechault, Alsace, Champagne. Today is a celebration of their victory. "

For more information about The 369th Veteran's Association, and its history, Contact: K. W. Lane


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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