Clayton Pitre

The Invisible Marine

They limited the black servicemen to not becoming officers. They could become master sergeants, any kind of non-commissioned rank you could get. But when it came to wearing a gold bar, no. The guys protested strongly about that!

Cpl. Clayton Pitre, U.S. Marine Corps

Clayton Pitre is a veteran of Okinawa and Jim Crow America. But the Louisiana Creole isn’t one to let discrimination get under his skin. A descendant of slaves and slave owners, Pitre grew up with segregated restrooms and water fountains in the Deep South.

Clayton Pitre

Above: African Americans in a demolition course prepare for the Pacific theater, February 1945. National Archives

Below: Chris Kalinko/Seattle University

He believes all people, regardless of color, should own their history, and his is little known. One of some 20,000 black Marines who trained at a segregated boot camp known as Montford Point, Pitre delivered ammunition to the frontlines of Okinawa under enemy fire and driving rains.

The Montford Point Marines, the first black Marines since the American Revolution, were finally recognized with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2012.

Clayton Pitre
Clayton Pitre

Above: Pitre, second from right, back row, poses with the men of Platoon 126. Pitre’s later service in the First Marine Ammunition Company would see him haul ammunition to the frontlines of the battle for Okinawa, one of the bloodiest campaigns of the Pacific Theater. Pitre Family Collection