Harlem Hellfighter 369th Inf Reg formerly the 15th NY Nat Guard Reg
Birth of Jazz The men of the 369th Infantry Regiment, known as the Harlem Hellfighters, were among the first black American troops on the Western Front, arriving on New Year’s Day in 1918. Along with three other early units they were attached to the French Army until such time as the 93rd Division might be formed. The 93rd never was formed and the 369th fought as a French unit for the duration of the war, receiving 11 unit citations for their contributions. The 369th was renowned as well for their Regimental band, led by James Reese Europe and Noble Sissle. The Hellfighter’s Band played to enthusiastic crowds in every city they visited and is credited with introducing American jazz into Europe. Though by August 1918, the band’s contribution to morale was considered of such value that the members were called back from the front to perform instead in camps and hospitals, they had seen enough of war to produce a number of war songs unlike anything produced by non-combatants. I think of this private as a musician who didn’t quite make the cut and stayed in the trenches when the band was pulled out. I’ve given him an American uniform with French equipment. He has been awarded the Croix de Guerre by a grateful French nation. He has served 12 months overseas (indicated by the badge on his left side forearm) has been wounded once (badge on the right side forearm), and now that the fighting is over has acquired a locally made shoulder patch representing the 93rd division. Bits & Pieces The bayonet scabbard, gas mask canister, Croix de Guerre and fouragere are scratch made. The ferrule on the fouragere is a brass cannon from a sailing ship model. The uniform is from S.S, upgraded with new buttons and collar disks. The equipment belt is a mashup of S.S. and Cotswald French equipment with new suspendor hooks and eyelets made of bent wire. The Berthier rifle has been repainted. The stand is from an old bowling trophy.