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Harlem HellfightersSoldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment prepare to march up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

These were the World War I 'Harlem Hell Fighters' 

By Eric Durr
via the We Are the Mighty web site

It's African-American History Month and a fitting time to recall the black soldiers of the New York National Guard's 15th Infantry Regiment, who never got a parade when they left for World War I in 1917.

There were New York City parades for the Guardsmen of the 27th Division and the 42nd Division and the draftee soldiers of the 77th Division.

But when the commander of the 15th Infantry asked to march with the 42nd — nicknamed the Rainbow Division — he was reportedly told that "black is not a color of the rainbow" as part of the no.

But on Feb. 17, 1919, when those 2,900 soldiers came home as the "Harlem Hell Fighters" of the 369th Infantry Regiment, New York City residents, both white and black, packed the streets as they paraded up Fifth Avenue.

"Fifth Avenue Cheers Negro Veterans," said the headline in the New York Times.

"Men of 369th back from fields of valor acclaimed by thousands. Fine show of discipline. Harlem mad with joy over the return of its own. 'Black Death hailed as conquering hero'" headlines announced, descending the newspaper column, in the style of the day.

"Hayward leads heroic 369th in triumphal march," the New York Sun wrote.

"Throngs pay tribute to the Heroic 15th," proclaimed the New York Tribune.

"Theirs is the finest of records," the New York Tribune wrote in its coverage of the parade. "The entire regiment was awarded the Croix de Guerre. Under fire for 191 days they never lost a prisoner or a foot of ground."

For that day, the soldiers the French had nicknamed "Men of Bronze" were finally heroes in their hometown.

Read the entire article on the We Are the Mighty web site.

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