Army General who was Once a Montford Point Marine Laid to Rest at ANC

By Kevin M. Hymel, Historian on 2/9/2024

Decades before Albert Bryant retired from the U.S. Army as a brigadier general, he broke the U.S. Marine Corps color barrier during World War II. The Marine Corps barred Black Americans from serving prior to the war, but in 1942 it opened its ranks to Black volunteers. The first Blacks to serve in the Corps were trained at Montford Point, North Carolina, becoming known as Montford Point Marines. They eventually fought at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In many ways, they were the Tuskegee Airmen of the Pacific.

The Army and Marine Corps honored Bryant’s military service on Feb. 5, 2024, at Bryant’s funeral service in Section 7 of Arlington National Cemetery. While the Army conducted the service, 16 Marines, in two rows, stood at attention throughout the ceremony, and Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Jerry Carter presented the flag to Bryant’s widow.

“Albert fought for his nation, he fought for his family, and he fought freedom for all to enjoy,” U.S. Army Chaplain (Cpt.) Tim Stokes told a crowd of family, friends, and members of the Montford Point Marine Association at the service. “The life Albert has lived did not just affect yesterday and today, but it affected our tomorrow and made it a better place to live.”

Chaplain Stokes also spoke about Bryant’s love of golf, family camping and fishing trips, and Hollywood western movies. “When you look at his life,” he concluded, “we can honestly say, ‘what and amazing life, what an amazing story, what an amazing legacy.’”

In accordance with Bryant’s rank, the U.S. Army Presidential Salute Battery fired an eleven-gun salute. Then, an Army firing party fired three volleys, a bugler sounded Taps and an Army band played “America the Beautiful.” Brig. Gen. Carter then presented the tightly folded flag that an Army Honor Guard had folded to Bryant’s wife of 75 years.

Before the service ended, one of Bryant’s five children, Albert Jr., stood before the crowd and told them, “This is hallowed ground and I’m proud to say that my father will spend the next portion of his assignment here.” He then turned and looked at the headstones, adding, “Here at Arlington there are junior soldiers and generals, there are ambassadors and department heads, because this ground is for heroes and those who served.”

After the service, Brig. Gen. Carter reflected on Bryant’s service. “I would not be here today if it was not for men like him breaking barriers and integrating the military.” He recalled that when asked to present the flag at a funeral and he heard the term “Montford Point,” in connection with the funeral, he told his executive officer, “I’m absolutely in.”

Bryant, Jr. also spoke about his father, saying he never spoke about Iwo Jima but did talk about his experience at Montford Point. “They had to build their own barracks,” he explained. “They were not authorized to go to on-post facilities, including the chapel.” During the train ride from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to California where the Marines would ship out for the Pacific islands, the Black Marines had to sit in segregated cars. Whenever the train stopped, the white Marines headed to local restaurants, but not the Black Marines. “They were told to go to the back of a restaurant and get a sandwich.”

Bryant, Jr. also spoke about how his father brought the Marine Corps into his life. “When he helped me put my backpack together for my first Boy Scout Jamboree. I was the only one with a Marine Corps horseshoe roll from the Second World War.”