BURGAW, NC (WWAY) — Though he’s not your typical Montford Pointer, Col. Anthony Caputo was just as much a piece of history as the men he trained. Wednesday, he was honored for his actions and his refusal to only look skin deep.
“I feel that I had a part in history,” Caputo says.
It has been 70 years since Caputo made history as one the first to train Montford Point Marines, who were the first black men to join the Marine Corps and not allowed to serve until 1942.
“I had the first company of recruits that came through the gate,” he says.
When the program started out of Camp Lejeune, all officers and drill instructors were white, eventually training the recruits to take over. Caputo, as a young white captain in the Corps, says the color of their skin was irrelevant. The rigorous training, he says, was just as tough as the white boot camps at Parris Island and San Diego.
“We treated them just as regular Marines,” Caputo says. “They came through the same kind of training program.”
In January of 1944 Caputo deployed overseas with his new Marines.
“We went into the Pacific with anti aircraft guns and went from island to island out there,” he says.
In June, nearly 400 Montford Pointers traveled from all over the country to Washington D.C. to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. Wednesday, a special ceremony was held for Caputo in Burgaw, where he was awarded with a bronze replica.
“I think it should have come earlier but now that it has, it has had quite the impact on these Marines that came through this training,” Caputo says.
The Montford Point Marines trained at a segregated camp in Jacksonville, what is now Camp Johnson.