Hamilton Fish III (1888-1991) was a soldier and politician from Garrison, NY. During WWI he was Captain of the 369th United States Infantry Regiment, a unit of African American enlisted men.
When America entered World War 1 in 1917, one of the first groups of soldiers to arrive in France was the 15th Regiment New York Guard. It became known as the 369th Infantry and was one of the most highly decorated groups of soldiers in the war. Its nickname was the “Harlem Hellfighters.” This was an all-black regiment commanded by white officers. Blacks were not allowed to fight alongside white American soldiers in this war.
The 369th was greeted with open arms by the French soldiers with whom they fought. Among the famous men from this group was Henry Johnson, an Albany, New York native. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre, France’s highest military honor, after fighting off twenty-four enemy soldiers with whatever weapons he could find. The 369th also had another claim to fame. It had a military band, but it played jazz. The 369th was famous for introducing this upbeat style of music to Europe.