CHICAGO — Some veterans in Chicago are still fighting to make sure the contributions of a groundbreaking Black unit are never forgotten. 

“The 8th Infantry went over to France in 1918 and fought in World War I, but the significance of it was when they went to the war, they were led by Black officers,” said Ronald Murdock, retired U.S. Army Reserve Major and president of the 8th Infantry Illinois National Guard Association.

 “It was such a noble struggle and they put it all on the line,” Murdock said. 

The 8th Infantry Armory in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood was the first armory in the United States built for a Black military regiment. The landmark building is now home to the Chicago Military Academy.

“They were brave and heroic men,” said retired U.S. Army Colonel Eugene Scott, who is a former publisher of the Chicago Defender. “In fact, 71 soldiers from the 8th received the highest medal for bravery and heroics the French could give.” 

WGN-TV’s Gaynor Hall and photojournalist Ted Parra report.