The Senate has passed the Harlem Hellfighters Congressional Gold Medal Act, awarding a Congressional Gold Medal to the Harlem Hellfighters, a Black infantry regiment that fought in World War I.
The 369th Infantry Regiment are regarded as the most celebrated African American regiment in World War I for spending more time in combat against German soldiers than any other unit. The regiment was composed primarily of Blacks from Harlem.
"The Harlem Hellfighters served our nation with distinction, spending 191 days in the front-line trenches, all while displaying the American values of courage, dedication, and sacrifice," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., the bill's sponsor, said in a statement. The bill was passed on Monday, The Hill reported.
"The Harlem Hellfighters Congressional Gold Medal Act honors these brave men, who, even as they faced segregation and prejudice, risked their lives to defend our freedoms," Gillibrand said.
The Harlem Hellfighters were assigned to the French army because many white American soldiers refused to fight with Black soldiers. During WWI, the 369th spent 191 days in frontline trenches, more than any other American unit. They also suffered the most losses of any American regiment, with 1,500 casualties, according to Wikipedia.
The Hellfighters are the third African American military group to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, following the Tuskegee Airmen in 2007, and the Montford Point Marines in 2011, both of whom fought in World War II.
The Hellfighters received their nickname from their German adversaries who called them "Hollenkampfer" referring to their strength. Their French comrades named them "Hommes de Bronze" or "Men of Bronze." Many Harlem Hellfighters received the Croix de Guerre, a French military World War I decoration awarded for valor, The Hill reported.
The regiment also fought in World War II, and included some Puerto Rican American soldiers in the second world war.
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