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Letter from the War Department to Cpl. Lawrence Leslie McVey

@ National Museum of African American History and Culture


The 369th United States Infantry, nicknamed the “Harlem Hellfighters,” was the first African American regiment of troops to reach the battlefields of World War I. The 369th Regiment was formed from the 15th New York National Guard Regiment and was recognized as part of the U.S. Army on July 15th, 1917. The regiment arrived in Brest, France on January 1st, 1918, being the first African American U.S. soldiers to arrive in France and initially assigned to dam building and stevedores in charge of loading and unloading cargo. The 369th Regiment, due to racial tension within the US Army was assigned to the French Army for the duration of US involvement in WWI. The 369th were the first Allied troops of the war to reach the banks of the Rhine. Upon completion of the 369th’s service in the war, the regiment had spent 191 days in combat, the longest of any American regiment. The entire 369th Regiment, in appreciation for their actions in the Maison-en-Champagne campaign, was given the Croix de Guerre, a medal awarded by the French Government for acts of bravery in conflicts against the enemy. In addition to this honor, 171 individual members of the 369th Regiment were awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honor. The 369th Regiment finished their service in Europe and returned to the US in February 1919.A letter from Adjutant General, Major General Lutz Wahl to Corporal Lawrence McVey forwarding the French dispatch awarding the French Croix de Guerre to McVey...
Ink On Paper
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Gina R. McVey, Granddaughter
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National Museum of African American History and Culture

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Smithsonian Institution