After serving 191 days of combat in France, longer than any American regiment of World War I, the German army nicknamed the soldiers “Hellfighters” due to their actions on the battlefield. Facing discrimination at home and possessing a passion to demonstrate their worth as an African American military regiment, the 369th transformed into an accomplished unit—one whose legacy left an indelible mark on music and cultures worldwide.
This legacy has had a lasting impact on African Americans’ participation in impending conflicts post-World War I; especially notable is the Vietnam War which officially marked the first-time African Americans served in fully integrated combat units.
Stereograph Card - The 369th en route to France. Collection of Stuart W. Lehman
Stereograph Card - No Man’s Land near Lens, France. No Man’s Land was the area in between the opposing sides’ trenches. Multiple members of the 369th fought in battle at...
Stereograph Card - U.S. Transport Leviathan, Formerly the Vaterland. The 369th were transported back to New York from France on the Leviathan. Collection of Stuart W. Lehman
On the morning of November 17, 1919, six days after declaring Armistice, the French army and the 369th made their way on horseback to the Rhine. The French expressed their...
Lieutenant James Reese Europe wrote On Patrol in No-Man’s Land while recovering in a French hospital. With lyrics such as, “Don’t fear, all’s clear. That’s the life of a stroll...
WWI Musician First Class Patch c. 1917-1919 Collection of Stuart W. Lehman
Unit Citation for Croix de Guerre with Silver Star, December 9, 1918. Image courtesy of Noble Sissle Jr.
French Croix de Guerre with Palm c. 1914-1918. The French awarded the Croix de Guerre for bravery to the entire 369th unit. Stars or palms could be added to the...
United States Model 1910 “Bolo” Trench Knife. The type of knife used by Henry Johnson during the battle against the Germans. The term “bolo” and the shape of the blade...
Recruits Wanted, 15th Regiment New York Guard. Image courtesy of New York State Museum Collections
JUNE 2, 1913
Governor William Sulzer signs a bill authorizing the creation of the 15th Infantry of the New York National Guard making them the first African American Infantry of the New York National Guard.
APRIL 6, 1917
America enters World War I and three days later the regiment is recognized by the federal government.
OCTOBER 8, 1917
The regiment traveled to Camp Wadsworth in Spartanburg, South Carolina but face such severe discrimination from the locals that the regiment is moved to France to continue training.
DECEMBER 27, 1917
The regiment lands in France but is only used as a labor unit, building roads and docks, while the regimental band, directed by James Reese Europe, toured hospitals and camps.
After months of rallying for combat, the 15th Infantry is granted permission to join the French Army as the 369th Regiment of the United States.
MAY 14 - 15, 1918
Henry Johnson, a native of Albany, New York, defeats over twenty German soldiers using a broken rifle, a handful of grenades, and a bolo knife in what became known as “The Battle of Henry Johnson.”
DECEMBER 13, 1918
The 369th Regiment receives France’s prestigious military honor, the Croix de Guerre. For his bravery, Johnson was awarded the Croix de Guerre “avec Palme.”
FEBRUARY 17, 1919
The 369th is welcomed home by massive crowds in a parade along 5th Avenue into Harlem.