Tuesday, 30 October 2018 05:05

Frederick Branch: First African-American Marine Corps Officer

Written by
Rate this item
(1 Vote)
Frederick Branch, USMC officer Frederick Branch, USMC officer Photograph courtesy of United States Marine Corps archives

HAMLET - Frederick Branch was a pioneer in the war and the fight for equal rights for all races. Starting small as a drafted enlisted man, he became the first African-American officer of the United States Marine Corps. This was a huge leap in the right direction and one that has placed Fredrick Branch in the history books.

Frederick Clinton Branch was born May 31, 1922 in Hamlet. In 1943, Branch received a draft notice to report for induction at Fort Bragg where he was chosen to become a Marine.

In June 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt opened the Marine Corps to African-Americans through Executive Order 8802. This order prohibited racial discrimination by a government agency.

Branch underwent training at Montford Point along with other African-Americans (they later became known as the Montford Point Marines). Branch applied for Officer Candidate School but was denied initially.

While serving with a supply unit in the Pacific, his performance earned him recommendations from his commanding officer. He received officer training in the Navy V-12 program at Purdue University where he was the only African-American in a class of 250. Branch even made the Dean’s List.

On November 10th, 1945, Branch was commissioned as a second lieutenant. At the end of WWII Branch went into the United States Marine Corp Reserves. In 1952, he was discharged from active duty but remained in the Reserves where he reached the rank of captain. In 1955, Branch left the Marines due to covert discrimination and un-kept promises of advancement.

In 1995, on the 50th anniversary of Branch’s commissioning, the United States Senate passed a resolution honoring Branch. In 1997, Branch was honored for his pioneering role in the integration of the Corps.  A training building at Marine Officer Training School in Quantico, Virginia is named for him.