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A Little History

A Little History

Johnston was destroyed by a hurricane in 1752. The region’s naval stores industry increased in importance during the Young Nation (1776-1815) and Antebellum (1815-1861) periods. Naval stores, derived from longleaf pine, included tar, turpentine, pitch and resin. These products were exported for the waterproofing of ships and the manufacture of paper, soap and ink. From the early 1700s until the end of the Civil War, African-American slaves provided the labor of the naval stores industry and plantations. African-Americans continued to work in the naval stores and lumbering industries and as artisans after the war.

In February 1776, Col. William Cray Sr. led the Onslow County militia in America’s first decisive victory of the Revolutionary War at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge. Other significant figures of the Young Nation period include Robert Whitehurst Snead, who operated Sneads Ferry, and Col. George Mitchell, who built a water-powered gristmill on Wallace Creek. Dr. William J. Montfort Sr. acquired this mill after Mitchell’s death in 1791, and it was subsequently known as “Mumford’s Mill.” Montfort’s plantation house was constructed on the New River point bearing his name. Today, Montford Point is the location of Camp Johnson, where African-American Marines trained during World War II. In Young Nation and Antebellum times, grist mills were usually part of small rural communities that included a few taverns, stores, post offices and churches. French Creek, just off Marines Road (originally Old Colonial Post Road), was one of these communities.

During the Civil War (1861-1865) the residents of Onslow County and the Camp Lejeune area were overwhelmingly secessionists. Camp Lejeune area residents who served as Confederate officers included Col. Edward Fonviell, Lt. Col. William J. Montfort, and Capts. Edward W. Ward, Solomon Gornto and Edwin H. Rhodes. On Nov. 23, 1862, the Union gunboat Ellis, under the command of Lt. William B. Cushing, entered the New River inlet to enforce the Union’s blockade of the Confederacy. Cushing burned a vessel loaded with cotton and turpentine at Sneads Ferry and captured two schooners in Jacksonville. As his ship maneuvered its way back to sea, it went aground off Swan Point near the inlet and had to be abandoned and set ablaze after being fired upon by Confederate forces.

The economy of Camp Lejeune and the surrounding region changed radically during the Reconstruction (1865-1900) and Early 20th-Century (1900-1939) periods. Sharecropping, lumbering and shellfish harvesting replaced the plantation system focusing on the naval stores industry. Between 1865 and 1891, economic activities centered on small communities like Mumford’s Mill on Old Sneads Ferry Road at Wallace Creek. In the mid-1880s, W.N. Marine established the small village of Marines at Courthouse Bay. Its businesses included a wholesale dealer in fish and oysters as well as a turpentine distillery.

In 1891, Thomas A. McIntyre, a New York entrepreneur, completed a railroad line from Jacksonville to Wilmington. McIntyre used the railroad to support his extensive lumbering activities in the New River area. The success of his operations led to a further decline in the local naval stores industry. The presence of the railroad also lured the population to move from rural communities to station stops like Verona and Dixon. In 1892, McIntyre built a lavish hunting resort with a 27-room mansion, Onslow Hall, on the western side of New River north of Town Point.

During the 1920s and 1930s the advent of the automobile and public road improvements made locations such as Onslow Beach, Henderson Beach and Hurst Beach accessible to more people, and thus desirable as tourist destinations. Auto ownership also made it easier for people to move out of towns and villages and build houses in rural areas.

A series of historical monuments detailing much of the Camp Lejeune area history is located at various places aboard the base. The historical features are numbered with markers that correspond to the following numerical listing:

1. WOMEN MARINES AREA

BUILDINGS 65, 64, 63, 62, 60 AND 59

The Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was formed in November 1942, and nearly all of the approximately 20,000 women who joined the Corps during World War II trained at Camp Lejeune. This row of barracks with a recreation building (Building 62) in the middle was part of a “regimental area” built specially for the women reservists along Virginia Dare Drive, Molly Pitcher Road and Lucy Brewer Avenue. The two-story brick barracks buildings look much like those in the main regimental areas along River Road but have some decorative brickwork at the eaves. The Women’s Reserve area (converted to other uses after World War II) also included buildings 37 (uniform shop); 43 (cobbler shop); 50 (administration); 54 (mess hall); 52, 56 and 64 (warehouses); 66 (infirmary); and 58 and 67 (bachelor officer quarters).

2. W.P.T. HILL FIELD PARADE GROUNDS

W.P.T. Hill Field provides an expansive lawn in the heart of the base. The grounds are used for ceremonies, receptions, parades and other formal assemblies. The parade ground is named after Lt. Col. W.P.T. Hill who served as the senior Marine officer and liaison officer to Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, during the initial construction of the base. It also hosts community gatherings, open-air concerts, including those by Camp Lejeune’s 2nd Marine Division Band, and athletic activities. The field frequently serves as a helicopter-landing zone for both administrative and tactical helicopter lifts.

3. BUILDING 1/BASE HEADQUARTERS

Building 1 is Base Headquarters. From this office, the base commanding general oversees the daily workings of a “major city.” In the front lobby is a small display of historical swords, a case full of public service awards given to Camp Lejeune throughout the years and a drum presented by members of the British Royal Marines on the occasion of a joint band concert with Camp Lejeune’s 2nd Marine Division Band Dec. 6, 1965. Among the portraits on the walls overlooking the broad curved staircases are those of Lt. Gen. Seth Williams who, during his tenure as quartermaster general of the Marine Corps, oversaw the planning and early construction of Camp Lejeune. On the second deck, in the hall on the left leaving the stairs are photographs of Camp Lejeune’s commanding officers, beginning with then-Lt. Col. W.P.T. Hill, who assumed command from May to September 1941. Hill went on to serve as the last quartermaster general of the Marine Corps. Also located in the lobby and along the staircase walls is the Gen. John A. Lejeune exhibit, dedicated in August 2003. The purpose of the exhibit is to educate visitors on an important aspect of our rich Marine Corps history — the life and contributions of Gen. Lejeune.

4. BICENTENNIAL OAK TREE

The Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) is one of the most majestic trees to be found in the coastal regions of the South. This tree is estimated to be more than 350 years old and is believed to be the oldest tree on the base. Wire cables have been added to help the tree support the massive weight of its individual limbs.

5. ST. FRANCES XAVIER CATHOLIC CHAPEL

Camp Lejeune’s Roman Catholic Chapel was first dedicated as St. Aloysius Dec. 6, 1942, in memory of Father Aloysius Schmitt, the first base chaplain and first Catholic chaplain to die in World War II. It was rededicated as St. Francis Xavier Chapel Jan. 27, 1943. Each of the 10 stained-glass windows was designed by New Jersey artist Katharine Lamb Tait and depicts two life-size images of saints of Catholic tradition. The windows were funded as memorials to their wartime dead by the six World War II Marine divisions, the 3rd and 5th Amphibious Corps, Fleet Marine Force Pacific, Navy personnel and personnel of Camp Lejeune. The chapel is open for visitation or worship during normal duty hours.

6. JULIAN C. SMITH HALL

Building H1 was built in 1942-1943 as U.S. Naval Hospital, New River, and served as the main hospital for all of MCB CAMLEJ until the Naval Regional Medical Center was opened in 1980. As a hospital, Building H1 was set at the tip of Hadnot Point, away from the rest of the main station, to prevent the spread of contagious diseases and to buffer the patients from noise. Like other naval hospitals of the time, it was built with two-story wings attached to a three-story central administration section. The medical wards were located in the long rectangular blocks set perpendicular to the main building and were constructed as needed during the course of World War II. Other buildings nearby housed medical corpsmen, nurses and physicians. With the opening of the Naval Regional Medical Center, Building H1 has found new use as Headquarters for II Marine Expeditionary Force, one of three Marine Expeditionary Forces in the Marine Corps, and for II MEF’s ground combat element, the 2nd Marine Division. Building H1 is now more commonly known as Julian C. Smith Hall. Lt. Gen. Smith (1885-1975) followed Brig. Gen. Allen H. Turnage as commanding general of the Training Center, Camp Lejeune, which was the primary activity at Camp Lejeune during World War II. Smith had been the senior member of the board that selected Onslow County as the site of this base in 1941. He subsequently served as commanding general of the 2nd Marine Division at Tarawa. Opposite to the right of Building H1 is a small park with a wide view of the New River.

7. 2ND MARINE LOGISTICS GROUP

HEADQUARTERS (BUILDING 2) & AMPHITHEATER

Building 2 serves as headquarters for 2nd MLG, formerly 2nd FSSG, which provides most of the sources of heavy combat service support for the 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing and the command element of II MEF. Behind Building 2 is a broad, manicured lawn sloping down to the New River. The semicircular amphitheater near the water’s edge frames a group of three memorials honoring Marines who died during service in Grenada (1983), Lebanon (1982-1984) and the Dominican Republic (1965). President Ronald Reagan attended a memorial ceremony in this amphitheater Nov. 4, 1983, to honor the 241 Marines, soldiers and sailors killed in the bombing at the Beirut airport Oct. 23, 1983.

8. MAIN PROTESTANT CHAPEL

Camp Lejeune’s Main Protestant Chapel was initially dedicated Dec. 13, 1942, and rededicated in January 1943. The history of the U.S. Marine Corps from its founding in 1775 to World War II is movingly portrayed in 10 stained-glass windows designed by artist Katharine Lamb Tait and installed in 1948. Made of colored glass from the U.S., England, France and Germany, the windows depict Old Testament archangels above illustrations of major events in Marine Corps history. In the borders of each window are scenes from wartime photographs taken by some of the actual Marines for whom the windows were conceived as memorials.

Because both Protestant and Jewish personnel used the chapel, the Star of David and the Star of Bethlehem can be found in each window. The chapel is open for visitation or worship during regular duty hours. The activity building behind the main chapel serves the local Islamic community as a center for Friday afternoon prayer services.

9. 2ND TANK BATTALION

HEADQUARTERS, BUILDING 407

The M-48 tank dedicated to Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Grant T. Timmerman and the M-60 tank are displayed on the front lawn, flanking a sign advertising the “Masters of the Iron Horse” (members of the 2nd Tank Battalion) who now occupy the building.

10. OBSERVATION POINT 5 (POGGEMEYER’S PEAK)

This fine “Marine-made” hill is named in honor of Maj. Gen. Herman Poggemeyer, who commanded Camp Lejeune from July 18, 1975, to June 30, 1977. From the vantage point atop the OP5 tower, instructors and other official observers have an unobstructed view over the vast impact area to the east. Marine units deploy along the earth embankment for practice in the use of automatic weapons, grenade launchers and .50-caliber machine guns. Bear in mind that Poggemeyer’s Peak is a live-fire training area.

11. HISTORIC TAR KILNS

Naval stores, such as turpentine, tar and derivatives like resin and pitch, were among the leading exports of North Carolina’s New River region in the 18th and 19th centuries. The source of these substances was the longleaf pine (Pinus palustrus), which grew in great numbers on the higher elevations of this lowland area. Tar, a viscous fluid used for preserving ropes and timber, was made by slow-burning the trunks and branches of longleaf pines in “kilns” or pits roughly excavated in the forest floor. The people who worked at kilns like this were North Carolina’s first “Tar Heels.” Trees marked with painted white bands are located in several areas aboard Camp Lejeune. These bands make the protected habitat of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis). Unlike most other woodpeckers, the red-cockaded woodpecker excavates its cavity in mature live pines, preferring the longleaf pine. The birds peck cavities in the trees for nesting and roosting during a period of months. The pecking causes whitish resins to ooze from the trees, which protect the woodpecker fledglings from snakes and other predators. The dramatic decline in mature longleaf forest throughout the southeastern United States has endangered the red-cockaded woodpecker. As part of its integrated environmental stewardship program, Camp Lejeune takes great care to conserve and protect the bird and its habitat. Preserving the nesting areas is part of the base’s natural resources program and supports the Marines’ military mission. Today, Camp Lejeune is proud to have one of the healthiest populations of red-cockaded woodpeckers in the southeastern United States.

12. WORLD WAR II MOCKUP DRY NET AMPHIBIOUS TRAINING SITE

During World War II, Marines conducted amphibious landing operations using open-topped landing craft. Due to the threat from patrolling German submarines, Marines training at Camp Lejeune could not practice these operations in the sea off Onslow Beach. Instead, a full-scale mockup of a troop transport was built on the inland side of the Intracoastal Waterway, at the end of Mockup Road. With this $175,000 “movie set,” Marines learned to clamber up and down on the double while carrying a full pack and rifle. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began development of the Intracoastal Waterway prior to World War I. Sheltered from the rough waters of the Atlantic Ocean by barrier islands, this inland waterway formed a reliable and safe route for coastal shipping. During World War II, Camp Lejeune operated a signals school on Onslow Beach. The beach also provides an excellent area for amphibious operations training as well as recreation for service members and their families. Training activities are scheduled with care to ensure that native loggerhead and green sea turtles are protected during their nesting periods on the beach.

13. COURTHOUSE BAY & HARVEY’S POINT PARK

One of Camp Lejeune’s outlying “suburbs,” Courthouse Bay is currently home of the Marine Corps Engineer School and the 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion. The complex was originally used during World War II, however, as a Barrage Balloon school (a history memorialized in the continued use of the letters “BB” preceding the numerical designation of buildings here). Because it was far from the main area at Hadnot Point, Courthouse Bay was built as a semi-independent village with its own water supply, recreation facilities, mess hall, barracks and officers’ quarters. The Engineer School, which during the war had been in the 4th Regimental Area at Hadnot Point, moved to Courthouse Bay in 1945. Here, officers and enlisted personnel are given instruction and hands-on experience in a variety of engineer fields to prepare them for service with the Fleet Marine Force. At the entrance off NC 172, you will see on the left a Landing Vehicle, Tracked, Personnel (LVTPX12), now commonly called an Assault Amphibian Vehicle, which is the Marine Corps’ principal vehicle for ship-to-shore amphibious assaults. The LVTPX12 was built in 1967 as a prototype for the LVTP-7. On the right is a Model 8230 Medium Tractor, or bulldozer, of the type used by the Corps for earthmoving and general construction between 1968 and 1984. As you approach the main area of Courthouse Bay, Engineer School headquarters (Building BB28) is on the left with a Model TD18182 bulldozer in the front yard.

Building BB5 is headquarters for the 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. Displayed in the front yard is an LVTP-5A1 from the 1960s and an earlier LVTP-4, nicknamed the “Water Buffalo,” of the type used to carry Marines during World War II and in Korea. Driving past a row of officers’ family houses to Harvey’s Point Park are public restrooms, picnic tables and excellent views up and down the New River. From here, view Jarrett’s Point, site of Onslow County’s first courthouse, and the amphibian base on the other side of Courthouse Bay. An interesting historical coincidence can be found in the fact that the town of Marines was founded in 1885 here on Harvey’s Point by several members of a family by the name of Marine. This town was the last community relocated prior to the establishment of the base.

JOINT MARITIME TRAINING CENTER

The Coast Guard Joint Maritime Training Center is at Courthouse Bay, aboard MCB CAMLEJ. Originally known as the U.S. Coast Guard Port Security Unit Training Detachment, then the Special Missions Training Center, JMTC is commanded by a Coast Guard captain (0-6), has assigned USMC and USN Training Detachments and is comprised of more than 190 Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy personnel. The JMTC currently conducts 20 training courses. The nine United States Coast Guard courses support deployable specialized forces personnel and units operating in port and waterways and coastal security environments. JMTC also houses the Coast Guard’s Center for Testing and Evaluation of Nonlethal Weapons Technology in an operational environment.

The United States Marine Corps Detachment is responsible for the teaching or development of eight Marine Corps courses including: Basic Coxswain (Level I), Advanced Coxswain (Level II), Small Boat Unit Leader, the Small Craft Mechanic Course and the Combat Rubber Reconnaissance Craft RepairCourse.

The U.S. Navy Detachment trains the Navy’s Mobile Riverine Forces in advanced small boat tactics for coxswains and crew-served weapons.

More than 2,000 students from all three services graduate from JMTC annually.

14. AMPHIBIAN BASE EQUIPMENT DISPLAY

During World War II, the Amphibian Base supported an amphibious tractor detachment, a Coast Guard detachment and a “boat detachment” that provided support for amphibious training exercises at Camp Lejeune. The vehicle displayed here is an LVTP-5A1.

15. ENEMY EQUIPMENT DISPLAY

The vehicle displayed here is a “BMP” (from the Russian “Boyevaga Mashine Piechoty,” or armored personnel carrier) captured from Iraqi forces by Marines during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1991. This particular vehicle is a Russian-built BMP-76PB, an armored amphibious personnel carrier, which conspicuously shares many of the components and design features of the Russian PT-76 light tank. Weighing 12.5 tons combat loaded, the vehicle carries eight troops plus a crew of three. Its armament consists of a 76.2 mm gun,
a 7.62 mm machine gun and the “Sagger” antitank guided missile.

On Aug. 2, 1990, Iraqi forces invaded and overran the Persian Gulf country of Kuwait. That act led to the largest deployment by Marine Corps forces since World War II. The name Operation Desert Shield was assigned to the effort by allied and coalition forces from Aug. 7, 1990, to Jan. 15, 1991, to defend Saudi Arabia and to prepare for the liberation of Kuwait. The combat phase of the liberation of Kuwait, Operation Desert Storm, began Jan. 16, 1991, with an offensive air campaign, followed Feb. 24, 1991 by the ground campaign, which inflicted a crushing defeat on the opposing Iraqi forces. Kuwait was liberated Feb. 28, 1991, within 100 hours of the commencement of the ground campaign, which was spearheaded by expeditionary forces of the U.S. Marine Corps. Among elements of the Corps contributing to this victory were the 2nd Marine Division and 2nd Force Service Support Group from Camp Lejeune.

16. YOPP’S MEETING HOUSE

Yopp’s Primitive Baptist Church, the oldest organized church in Sneads Ferry, derives its name from Jeremiah W. Yopp, who donated an acre of land to the church trustees in 1813. Also known as the Yopp’s Meeting House, the first structure on this site was built in 1835 by the Primitive Baptists and replaced by the current structure around the close of the 19th century. The church has a dual symmetry, easily seen in its two entrances, which reflects the early custom of segregating the congregation by gender. The adjoining cemetery contains representatives from many of Sneads Ferry’s earliest families, including several Civil War veterans.

17. STONE BAY RIFLE RANGE

Thousands of Marines have achieved and maintained proficiency in pistols and rifles at this little “base within the base,” which looks pretty much the way it did when Marines first came to practice here in World War II. Stone Bay is equipped with its own water supply, fire station, heating plant, recreation facilities, mess hall and barracks to berth a full battalion, all in brick buildings identical to their counterparts at Hadnot Point and Courthouse Bay. Along the north side of the complex are two pistol ranges, three 50-target rifle ranges and a 1,000-yard sniper range, supported by range houses, target huts and magazines. On the rifle ranges, the little red wooden huts called “control towers” are mounted on wheels so that during rifle requalification they can be moved back as the shooters fire from the 200- to the 300- to the 500-yard lines.

Red flags are hoisted when a range is in use, or “hot,” and no person is permitted on a “hot range” without authorization. During World War II, George Washington Carver Boulevard led to the “Negro Marine Cantonment Area,” where African-American Marines from Montford Point were housed while undergoing weapons qualification on the ranges.

Stone Bay Rifle Range is named for
Capt. William Stone, a surveyor and landholder who owned 770 acres here prior to 1723. U.S. Marine Corps Special Operations Command is also headquartered here.

18. VERONA LOOP CEMETERY

The 85,000 acres of land initially acquired by the government for Camp Lejeune in 1941-1942 had been occupied by white and African-American communities and farms since the Colonial era. The plantation houses, cabins, farm buildings, stores and other buildings were removed. During some 230 years, many residents had been buried in cemeteries large and small. The government compiled extensive records on all the cemeteries that could be identified and moved most of the remains to new ground on the periphery of the Marines Corps base. This plot near Verona contains the remains of African-Americans, including headstones dating to the early 1800s. Several tombstones are marked with the simple epitaph of a name and the title “slave.” The government placed many others, simple granite faces set flat in the ground, to mark the remains of persons whose names were and are unknown.

19. MCAS NEW RIVER HEROES’ PARK

Heroes’ Park commemorates Marines, particularly those of air units, who have died in locations and events other than those commemorated at other sites such as the Catholic Chapel, the Montford Point Chapel and the Main Protestant Chapel. On this site, which houses the New River Aviation Memorial Park, are six aircraft: AH-1, CH-46, CH-53, MV-22, UH-1 and UH-34. During World War II, what is now MCAS New River was known variously as “Emergency Landing Field,” “Glider Training Base,” “Seaplane Base” or simply “the airfield at Peterfield Point.” By October 1942, the airfield consisted of mainly three 5,000-foot runways, a seaplane ramp and glider repair shops. In June 1943, the Marine Corps terminated its glider program since gliders were of no use in the war in the Pacific. The airfield was used briefly by airplanes carrying parachute troops on practice jumps and for most of the rest of the war as a training facility.

Since the arrival of Marine Air Group 26 in 1954, when helicopters were first deployed here, MCAS New River has grown substantially. On June 8, 1972, the station was named McCutcheon Field in honor of Gen. Keith B. McCutcheon (1916-1971), considered to be the father of Marine Corps helicopter aviation and also the Corps’ first four-star aviator.

20. CAMP GEIGER MONUMENT CIRCLE

Within Monument Circle are four monuments. One honors Lance Cpl. Julius C. Foster (1938-1968). Foster, a member of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, was killed Feb. 22, 1968, by hostile mortar fire during the battle for Khe Sanh, Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam. A second monument, installed by the Military Order of Devil Dogs Fun and Honor Society of the Marine Corps League, honors Marines who died in Lebanon during 1982-1984. A third memorializes the service of the 4th Marine Division, which fought on Roi-Namur, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima prior to its deactivation in November 1945. The fourth monument was erected in honor of Gen. Roy Stanley Geiger (1885-1947), a pioneering Marine aviator and the namesake of Camp Geiger. Geiger commanded the 1st and 3rd Marine Amphibious Corps and the 10th Army briefly during World War II.

21. CAMP GEIGER

Marines of the 1st Division who were posted at Camp Lejeune during 1941-1942 would not recognize today’s Camp Geiger as the crowded tent camp they occupied before shipping out to World War II’s Pacific theater. The first tent camp consisted mostly of six-man canvas tents, 20 feet square, arranged in blocks on a grid-like street pattern. A second adjacent tent camp provided no better accommodations, offering 14-man “huts” made of sheets of compressed cellulose called Homosote. By the end of the war, corrugated steel Quonset huts replaced most of the tents, but the battered Homosote huts remained until the early 1950s when all the huts were removed. With new concrete block barracks, the tent camp was rededicated in 1953 and renamed in honor of Gen. Geiger. Since the 1970s, Camp Geiger has had numerous rebuilding efforts to meet the modern-day needs of the Corps’ School of Infantry-East.

22. UNITED SERVICES ORGANIZATION (USO)

The United Services Organization formed in 1941 as a joint effort of the Salvation Army, YMCA, YWCA, National Catholic Community Services, National Travelers Aid Association and National Jewish Welfare Board to help in providing off-duty recreational opportunities for the U.S. armed forces. During World War II, the USO offered opportunities for community participation with 3,000 USO centers established as “homes away from home” for U.S. Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen. This Jacksonville USO center was formally dedicated April 19, 1942. A separate USO center for African-American Marines operated during World War II, first on Newberry Street and then on Poplar Street. Members of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, and also female civilian workers at Camp Lejeune, enjoyed a special USO annex established for them on
New Bridge Street during that war. After more than 70 years, the Jacksonville USO is the oldest continuously active USO in the world. It has become famous as a training ground for hundreds of USO workers who have subsequently gone on to staff USOs on behalf of American servicemen and servicewomen across the globe. The USO welcomes visitors to experience the services the organization provides. The USO is operated exclusively by donations from private citizens and by contributions through the Combined Federal Campaign/United Way. Small individual donations by visitors are always appropriate and appreciated.

23. MONTFORD POINT CEMETERY 
NORTH CAROLINA VETERANS’ CEMETERY

Montford Point Cemetery was created in the early 1940s for the remains of white persons buried in the numerous community and family cemeteries dotting the land acquired for Camp Lejeune in 1941-1942. Among the graves are those of 32 Confederate Civil War veterans, and Col. Henry Rhodes, who commanded the contingent of Onslow patriots that defeated the British in the Revolutionary War Battle of Moore’s Creek. Several markers memorialize members of the Marine family, a surname that predated the coming of the Corps to Onslow County by many years. Many burials here are of persons unknown. Among those interred in the adjacent North Carolina Veterans’ Cemetery is Sgt. Maj. Edgar R. Huff, who was, along with his brother-in-law, Sgt. Maj. Gilbert “Hashmark” Johnson, one of the first African-American Marines.

24. MONTFORD POINT — CAMP JOHNSON

The first African-Americans to wear the Marine uniform, and all African-American Marines who served in World War II, received their training at this complex on Camp Lejeune’s Montford Point. The segregation policies of the Navy Department during these years required that African-American Marines live and train separately from their white counterparts. The Montford Point complex consisted of three “camps.” Recruits were assigned to Camp 1 where they were billeted in composition-board “huts” like those at Tent Camp (Camp Geiger). After basic training, new African-American Marines assigned to the Messman Branch or a depot or ammunition company were billeted in the concrete-block and brick buildings of Camp 2. Camp 3 represented an expansion and upgrading of Camp 1, with more concrete-block barracks to house troops instead of the Homosote huts. Recreational facilities, a post exchange and a chapel were also provided at Camp 1. Units organized at Montford Point during the war included the 51st and 52nd Composite Base Defense battalions, 51 depot companies and 12 ammunition companies. Most of the depot and ammunition companies were posted forward to support combat units in the Pacific. The Montford Point complex received its present name in 1974, honoring Sgt. Maj. Gilbert Johnson. To view his portrait, drive on Harlem Drive to Company D Street. Turn right on Company D Street and then left on Company E Street. On the left is a group of four murals painted on buildings M-514 and M-516. The mural depicting Johnson is on the left on Building M-516. Visitors are welcome to learn more about this important chapter in Marine Corps history by visiting the Montford Point Historical Reading Room in Building M-100 on Heritage Square in Camp 1. To do so, stop at camp headquarters in Building M-131. A brass plaque honoring Johnson is located at the base of the flagpole in front of Building M-131. The Montford Point Chapel, Building M-116, is also open for visitation during normal duty hours.

25. LEJEUNE MEMORIAL GARDENS

Located across from the Coastal Carolina State Veterans Cemetery, the Lejeune Memorial Gardens currently house memorials for those who died in the Vietnam War, the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, on Oct. 23, 1983, and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack of the World Trade Center towers in New York City.

Three years to the day after the bombing, the Beirut Memorial was dedicated with nearly 2,000 people in attendance. Two years later, the bronze statue of a Marine was complete and added to the memorial, which depicts the crumbled walls of the bombed 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment headquarters and states simply, “They came in peace.”

The Vietnam Memorial took a bit longer. In 1998, the idea came to fruition and 11 years later phase one of construction was complete. The walls are erect, with the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice etched into the glass, and a fountain has been constructed. The memorial offers area Vietnam veterans a place to mourn their fallen friends and a place for family members to see that their loved one has not been forgotten.

A beam from the World Trade Center was dedicated in 2003, by the Fire Family Transport Foundation and the New York City Fire Department for 343 firefighters who fought in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, to the Marines who served in Iraq in the spring of 2003. A tag pinned to the memorial says it all: “We won’t forget.”

 

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