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The Marines did not accept black recruits until 1942, and the practice was intended as a temporary wartime measure. But after World War II ended, black recruits were instead reassigned to any unit that needed men, regardless of color. The last all-black unit was canceled in 1951 just after the Korean War broke out and President Harry S. Truman had ordered the military to desegregate.

The newest Congressional Gold Medal recipients will join two other World War II units the Navajo Code Talkers, American Indians who used their native language to provide the Navy with a code the Japanese could not break, who recieved the award in 2000, and the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black pilots and aircrew, who were honored in 2006.

“Once upon a time, there were giants that walked this country,” Rep. Allen West, Florida Republican, said in a ceremony that also included speeches from House and Senate majority and minority leaders; the two senators from North Carolina; the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Corrine Brown, Florida Democrat; and Gen. James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps.

“They were giants because of their resolve, their vigilance and their commitment to a country that had not yet committed to them,” Mr. West said.