Three veterans who were among the first Black men to serve in the Marine Corps died within one month of each other.
Nathaniel Boone of Manchester, Vermont, died at 95 on Aug. 20, The Bennington Banner reported. Boone’s death came after the deaths of Cosmas Eaglin Sr., 108, on Aug. 15, and George Johnson, 101, on July 24.
Following a 1941 order from President Franklin D. Roosevelt opening all military branches to Black men, the Marine Corps established a segregated post at Montford Point, North Carolina.
The approximately 20,000 men who served there between 1942–1949 faced discrimination and harsh treatment, according to the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Although they were mostly relegated to noncombat units, some did fight in the Pacific theater during World War II, and 87 were killed in action, according to the museum.
There are only approximately 400 living Montford Pointers, a spokesman for the National Montford Point Marine Association told Marine Corps Times in February.
Boone enlisted in the then-segregated Marine Corps in 1946 to earn his G.I. Bill benefits, according to his online obituary and a Vermont state proclamation. After his service in the Corps as a radar technician, he became an attorney in his home state of New Jersey.
He ultimately retired in Vermont, where he had gone on his honeymoon in 1957 with his wife, Harriet, according to the obituary. In 2017, the state declared Feb. 17 to be Nathaniel Boone Day in recognition of his service.
Boone was predeceased by one brother and his sisters and survived by his brother, his son, his daughter, and three grandsons, as well as numerous nephews and nieces, according to his obituary.
Eaglin enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 27 and served in the Solomon Islands campaign of World War II, Marine Corps Times previously reported. Later, as a member of the Army, he served during the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
He had six children, seven grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, according to a news release about his death. He had lived in Fayetteville, North Carolina, since 1951.
Johnson, a former corporal, died at his home in Lauderhill, Florida, the news station Local 10 reported.
Although Johnson had “New York swagger” and wasn’t a modest person, he didn’t talk about his experiences in the Corps until late in life, his cousin, Grace King, told Marine Corps Times in February.
The Marine veteran was a member of the military police who sometimes mentioned transporting prisoners to Alcatraz, King said she learned in recent years.
In February, Johnson received a bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal honoring Montford Pointers for their barrier-breaking service.
Another Montford Pointer died earlier in July. JW Owens, 98, of Spotsylvania, Virginia, died July 14, according to his brief obituary.
Owens entered the Marine Corps in August 1943 and left in April 1963 as a staff sergeant, James Averhart Jr., president of the National Montford Point Marines Association Inc., told Marine Corps Times.
Editor’s note: This article was updated Aug. 30 with information about the death of JW Owens.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.