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369th Infantry Regiment Memorial

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This monument honors the legendary 369th Infantry Regiment, known as the Harlem Hellfighters.  The black granite obelisk is a replica of a 1997 memorial that stands at Sechault in Northern France, where the 369th soldiers distinguished themselves during World War I.  Unveiled on September 29, 2006, the 88th anniversary of that battle, the obelisk is 12 feet high and features gilded inscriptions, the 369th’s crest and its coiled rattlesnake insignia.

During World War I, United States Armed Forces remained segregated by race.  In 1913, New York established the 15th New York (Colored) Infantry Regiment, a unit of the National Guard.  The U.S. Army mustered the unit into Federal service in 1917, and the 369th (Colored) Infantry Regiment went to France that December, among the first 100,000 troops of the American Expeditionary Forces.

Exhibiting extraordinary valor, the 369th, an integral part of the Fourth French Army, fought on the front until the Armistice.  During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive the 369th showed exceptional bravery, especially on September 29, 1918, during the liberation of Sechault, when a third of the regiment suffered casualties.

Cited for their heroism, 171 members of the regiment were decorated with the Croix de Guerre (Cross of War), and one officer received the Medal of Honor.  Upon their return to the United States, the Harlem Hellfighters were honored by the City with a victory parade up Fifth Avenue. During World War II, the 369th distinguished itself at Okinawa, and later fought in the Korean and Persian Gulf Wars.  The unit serves today as a sustainment brigade.

The 369th Historical Society and 369th Veterans Association were supported by numerous associated organizations in the commission of this monument.  In addition, the U.S. Army moved the monument from its fabricator in France to an airfield in Germany, and the New York Air National Guard then brought it to New York.  With support from the City Council, Parks & Recreation redesigned and landscaped this triangle to feature the monument.

Across the street stands the 369th Armory, one of the last armories erected in New York City.  It was built between 1921 and 1933 and combines both medieval and art deco influences.  The building is still home to the 369th Sustainment Brigade, as well as historical exhibits, and a recreation center.

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