“They never lost an inch of ground. Suffered many injuries but never had anyone taken as a POW,” US Rep. Thomas Suozzi said, referring to the 369th Infantry Regiment, known better as the Harlem Hellfighters.
The Harlem Hellfighters were a group of Black soldiers who served during World War I and are considered one of the most celebrated Black military regiment that served during that war. Rep. Souzzi announced Thursday (April 8) his plan to introduce legislation to award the 369th with a Congressional Gold Medal to provide long-overdue commemoration of the regiment’s bravery. According to the Smithsonian, the Harlem Hellfighters fought in Germany longer than any other American military regiment.
The group fought under the French Army in 1918 after white soldiers in the US Army refused to fight alongside Black people. Upon their return to the US, the men faced racism and segregation despite their service.
“A great failure of this country is how we treated African Americans throughout our history, and this is just another example of it,” Rep. Suozzi said at a ceremony in Harlem on Thursday (April 8), according to a report by ABC News 7. Suozzi was joined by other community leaders including Assemblyman Keith Wright, whose grandfather was a Harlem Hellfighter.
“When they came home, it was almost as if they had no home to come back to,” Wright said. “Fought for freedom of another country, but they didn’t find freedom themselves.”
Former Congressman Charlie Rangel was also in attendance. “We have fought and died in every war,” he said. “In order to make this country better.” Rangel is a veteran himself.
With a Congressional Gold Medal, the men of the 369th Infantry Regiment would be recognized as a group that has made a significant impact on American history.
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