Harlem Hellfighters Written by Shannon B. Moore

Dubbed the "Harlem HellFighters" by the enemy german soldiers, The Harlem Hellfighters were the originally the 15th New York national guard regiment. Since the early 1900's, Blacks in Harlem had been fighting to be included in the New York National Guard.

Prior to World War 1, Blacks in the U.S Armed Forces were limited to Labor units, and weren't permitted to serve in combat units.

In 1916 New York Governor Whitman commissioned the formation of a black regiment of the New York National Guard, The Man chosen to construct this all-black regiment was a white man named Colonel William Hayward.

By June 15, 1917, Hayward had 2,098 Troops under his command, with the U.S declaration of war the "Fighting Fifteenth" was shipped to Fight in France. They were renamed from the 15th New York National Guard Regiment to the 369th Infantry Regiment. Hayward's men were offended by the name change as regiments after the 200s were usually Draftees and the Fighting Fifteenth were volunteers.

The 369th also fought in distinguished battles such as Belleau Wood and Chateau-Thierry. While fighting these battles, they served nearly six months on the front lines and earned many distinguished awards.

On April 19, 1918 The 369th Infantry Regiment went on to be assigned under the French Army for the duration of the U.S's participation in the war, The French welcomed their newfound allies with open arms.

Private Henry Johnson, nicknamed the "Black Death" Was a legendary Harlem Hellfighter, on his first assignment which was to patrol an isolated listening outpost at 4 A.M, Johnson single-handedly defeated a force of anywhere between 28-40 german soldiers, however the true number is unknown. He was rewarded with a Croix De Guerre, The highest french military honor.
Lieutenant James Reese Europe was a distinguished Harlem HellFighter who helped Colonel Hayward recruit the original 2,098 soldiers of the "Fighting Fifteenth" Europe was the leader of the Unit's Regimental Marching band .The 369th Regiment band was relied upon not only in battle but also for morale, Europe was also the first Black American Officer to lead troops in World War 1, by the end of their tour they became one of the most famous military bands throughout Europe, While overseas the 369th Regiment made up less than 1% of the soldiers deployed, but were responsible for over 20% of the territory of all the land assigned to the United States.
Life in Trench Warfare could prove surprisingly routine, If no attack came at dawn the men ate breakfast, a performed chores such as, cleaning weapons, repairing trenches, and checking their feet for a disease called Trench Foot.
Discrimination during this era was extremely prevalent, White soldiers openly denied serving with black troops, and the American Expeditionary Force headquarters went as far as to o far as to release the notorious pamphlet "Secret Information Concerning Black American Troops", which "warned" French civilian authorities of the alleged inferior nature and supposed rapist tendencies of African Americans.

Black Units would never receive the same treatment as white units however the French treated the Hellfighters with the respect they deserved, as they were risking their lives for the French.

I Personally believe that the Hellfighters were extremely commendable soldiers, they fought for freedom and democracy on the frontline of European warfront, but back home, they faced public discrimination and a lack of basic human rights.

Shannon Baker Moore the author of this Nonfiction, is also published other war- era books such as titles like "Korean War", and "Women With Wings: Women Pilots of World War 2"
Created By
Hanad Egal
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Created with images by CCNY Libraries - "Hellfighters from Harlem, Séchault, France 29 September 1918" • DoD News Photos - "160426-D-FW736-035"

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