Family of WW II Marine from Rankin to celebrate his Congressional Gold Medal
Like thousands of blacks who served in the Marine Corps during World War II, William F. Snooks waited years for well-deserved recognition.
Along with the Tuskegee Airmen, black pilots who flew during the war, the Marines who trained at Camp Montford Point in Jacksonville, N.C., under white officers helped break the color barrier in the armed forces.
Congress in 2011 agreed to grant them the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor it bestows, “for outstanding perseverance and courage that inspired social change.” An illness kept Snooks from attending a November ceremony honoring 400 with their medals.
Instead his medal arrived unceremoniously by mail.
His wife of 49 years has arranged a ceremonial presentation on Saturday in Penn Hills.
“I didn't want him to be left out,” Elaine Snooks said. “He missed D.C. He would have loved that.”
Snooks, 88, of Rankin didn't think the color of his skin would be a barrier to serving his country after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. But his mother kept him home.
“She took me back down and made them tear up (the enlistment papers),” he said. “She said I had a year of high school left.”
He later joined the Marines and fought in the South Pacific, earning him the honor that friends and family will celebrate at the Comfort Inn Conference Center.
“It's been a long time coming,” said Snooks, one of the nearly 20,000 black Marines between 1942 and 1949.
Longtime friend and fellow Marine, Joe Cioppa, 73, of Rankin will present his medal.
“It's an honor and a privilege,” Cioppa said. “I couldn't be happier.”
Snooks served with the 110th Regiment, 30th Battalion, from 1943-46 and took part in fierce fighting in the South Pacific, in Guam, the Mariana Islands and Iwo Jima.
Black Marines were among troops that landed on Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945.
“There were so many dying there ... so many wounded,” Snooks said. “We weren't even on the front lines.”
In fact, his all-black unit wasn't considered a combat unit until those ahead of them fell.
“We carried the ammunition,” Snooks said. “We weren't called out as full troops until they couldn't help it.”
President Truman ended segregation in the armed forces in July 1948. A year later, the Montford Marine Camp was deactivated.
More than the excitement of receiving his medal, Snooks anticipates seeing those he loves this weekend.
“All the excitement got taken out of me at a young age,” he said. “I”ll be looking forward to seeing friends and family.”
Craig Smith is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Transportation funding uncertainty impacts planning for Western Pa.
- Lawsuit: Pittsburgh Public Schools should have known officer was abusing boys
- Montour Trail gets needed updates
- Newsmaker: Derek Wesley
- Highmark asks patients to ‘Meet Dr. Right’
- 2 from Carrick charged in connection with rash of heroin overdoses
- Development could soon be booming in West End
- Voters wishing to cast ballot in May 19 primary must register by Monday
- Trib Total Media Outstanding Young Citizen Awards presents scholarship, 10 gold medals
- Teachers union advises lawyers for colleagues of Plum pair investigated on sex charges
- Justice halts religious groups’ birth control opt-out role