The Eighth National Guard Regiment
was called into service during World War I
as the 370th US Infantry
. It had the distinction of being the only regiment in the entire US Army
almost completely staffed with black officers
. At the time, there was much speculation as to whether black soldiers would follow black officers into battle, but the commander of the regiment, Colonel
Franklin A. Denison, convinced the War Department that his men were ready.
The 370th arrived in France in early 1918 where they were issued and trained with French equipment. In June the regiment was sent to occupy various positions in the line alongside French troops, and on July 3, 1918, the 370th suffered its first casualty, Private Robert E. Lee. The French division commander, General Mittlehauser, would attend the funeral himself.
In September, soldiers from the 370th assisted in capturing heavily fortified German positions at Mont des Signes. One platoon even took a section of the line and turned the Germans guns against them, holding the position for nearly two days without rations before they were reinforced. Shortly thereafter, the 370th would be detached from French units and take sole command of a regimental sector.
By the end of September, the 370th had driven the Germans back across the Oise-Aisne canal, and by the middle of October they had pushed the Germans out of their positions in the Bois de Mortier. Soon, the regiment found themselves pursuing the retreating Germans, reaching their final objective of Gue d'Hossus, Belgium shortly before the signing of the armistice. The 370th was such an effective fighting force, the Germans referred to them as "The Black Devils."
For their actions in the war, soldiers from the 370th were awarded 21 Distinguished Service Crosses, 68 Croix de Guerre and one Distinguished Service Medal.