"Hell Fighters" From Harlem

Sechault, France, September 29, 1918.

From Harlem streets and other New York City neighborhoods they came, members of the only U.S. unit to get "over there" with their old State name -- the 15th New York. These black National Guardsmen soon found themselves with a new name, the 369th Infantry Regiment. Many months after their arrival in the war zone the 369th Infantry, as part of the French Army’s 161st Division, marched toward a date with destiny in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. On a fateful day, September 29, a regimental historian would later remember, "the day dawned clear and cool. There was expectancy in the air." A fierce artillery barrage preceded the attack by the 369th, nicknamed "Hell Fighters" by the enemy. After a brutal struggle during which heavy casualties were sustained Sechault was taken and the 369th soldiers dug in to consolidate their advance position. The action depicted earned the Croix de Guerre for the entire regiment. But the Meuse-Argonne claimed nearly one-third of these black fighting men as battle casualties. This distinguished National Guard Regiment left its proud mark on the AEF as "the regiment that never lost a man captured, a trench or a foot of ground..." Today’s 369th Transportation Battalion1, New York Army National Guard, carries on the traditions of the gallant "Hell Fighters" of yesterday. (1989)

1. While this was true in 1989 (when the caption was written), the 369th Infantry is perpetuated in today's Army by the 369th Support Battalion.

This reproduction of a painting by H. Charles McBarron is from the "Army in Action" series and is included in "The National Guard Heritage" collection with the Permission of the Department of the Army.