The 369th Infantry Regiment, formerly the 15th New York National Guard Regiment, was an infantry regiment of the United States Army that saw action in World War I and World War II. The 369th Infantry is known for being the first African-American regiment to serve with the American Expeditionary Force during World War I. The regiment was nicknamed the Harlem Hellfighters and the Black Rattlers, in addition to several other nicknames.
Dubbing themselves “Men of Bronze,” the soldiers of the 369th were lucky in many ways compared to other African Americans in 1918 France. They enjoyed a continuity of leadership, commanded throughout the war by one of their original organizers and proponents, Colonel William Hayward. Unlike many white officers serving in the black regiments, Colonel Hayward respected his troops, dedicated himself to their well-being, and leveraged his political connections to secure support from New Yorkers. Whereas African American valor usually went unrecognized, well over one hundred members of the regiment received American and/or French medals, including the first two Americans – Corporal Henry Johnson and Private Needham Roberts – to be awarded the coveted French Croix de Guerre.