Arts & Entertainment

Montclair to Honor Harlem Hellfighters During Memorial Day Celebration

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Credits: TAP into East Brunswick
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MONTCLAIR, NJ -- Montclair will honor local "Harlem Hellfighters" at the Memorial Day Ceremony on Monday, May 30.

Montclair Township's annual Memorial Day tribute will take place at 10:00 a.m. in Edgemont Park.

This year’s event speaker will be Yann Yochum, Deputy Consul, Head of Press and Political Office at the French Consulate in New York.

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The occasion will honor the memory of four Montclairites of the 369th infantry regiment known as the “Harlem Hellfighters” -- Pvt. Crawford Crews, Corp. Austin Barnes, Corp. Benjamin E. Smith, Pvt. Alonzo Mills.

These brave African American soldiers served with the French Army during World War 1. They were integrated into the French chain of command and fought in the trenches alongside their French brothers-in-arms. For their exceptional bravery, the “Hellfighters” were awarded the “Croix de Guerre” by the French government – they were the first Americans to receive this honor.

Mayor Robert Jackson will preside as Master of Ceremonies and Bishop Warren Harper of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints will deliver the invocation, the blessing of the wreaths and the benediction.

The program includes advance and retiring of colors by the Montclair Police and Fire Honor Guards; Montclair Boy Scout Troop #12 will lead the Pledge of Allegiance and local musician Cecilé Williams will sing the national anthem. The Montclair Community Band will perform patriotic music and Carl B. Witzig, trumpeter with the band, will play the sounding of taps.

Representatives from a number of veterans and other organizations include The Crawford Crews American Legion Post 251, Lt. Vincent J. Russo of American Legion Post 382, Daughters of the American Revolution -- Eagle Rock Chapter, Disabled American Veterans, Pvt. Harvey Post 2139 Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Montclair Chapter of the American Red Cross.

In the event of rain, the service will be held in the Municipal Council Chambers at 205 Claremont Avenue beginning at10:00 a.m. For more information, please contact Montclair Recreation and Cultural Affairs Director Pat Brechka at 973-509-4915.

Montclair TV34 is airing the 1977 documentary Men of Bronze – the Black American Heroes off World War I daily at 6:30 p.m. through Monday, May 30 (Comcast and FiOS channel 34). About the film (from the DVD):

Men of Bronze tells the story of the African American soldiers of the 369th combat regiment known as the “Harlem Hellfighters,” who bravely served with the French army in World War I. Although relegated to non-combat duty by the U.S. command, the 369th regiment was sent to France and spent more time in front line trenches than any other American infantry unit.

Fighting alongside French, Moroccan and Senegalese soldiers at the campaigns of Champagne-Marne and Meuse-Argonne, the courageous men of the 369th distinguished themselves in some of the fiercest battles of the Great War.

Men of Bronze uses photographs, interviews with veterans and film from the French and American national archives to recount the saga of the “Harlem Hellfighters,” offering an inspiring tribute to these unsung heroes and an unforgettable look at World War I.

Men of Bronze is a film by William Miles and Men of Bronze, Inc. It is being shown with the permission from Direct Cinema Limited

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