Dear Ms. Gibson:
In its public meeting of 19 January conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed alternative designs for a Congressional Gold Medal honoring the Harlem Hellfighters, a U.S. Army unit of Black soldiers that fought with French forces during World War I. The Commission provided the following comments and recommendations.
For the obverse, the Commission members recommended alternative O-04 as an outstanding composition, consistent with the preference of the Mint’s liaisons. For the reverse, they recommended alternative R-03, with the following refinements. They cited the importance of including the Croix de Guerre, a medal awarded by the French government, and recommended depicting it with a suspension ribbon as shown in alternative R-02. They also recommended using the 48-star version of the U.S. flag, as it existed during World War I. They emphasized that the inclusion of a musical instrument, as shown in alternative R-03, is important in conveying the notable cultural contributions of the Harlem Hellfighters, extending beyond their distinguished military service; they observed that the liaisons’ preferred reverse, R- 02, does not include a musical reference. Noting the complexity of alternative R-03, they suggested consideration of omitting the phrase “Let’s Go Rattlers,” instead relying on the unit’s emblem, featuring a rattlesnake, to convey the group’s nickname. If the names of the battles need to be included as part of the medal’s design, they also expressed support for alternative R-08 with the addition of a Croix de Guerre medal, but they raised concerns with the flat character of the flags in this composition.
As always, the staff is available to assist you with future submissions.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Ventris C. Gibson, Director
United States Mint
801 9th Street, NW, 8th Floor
Washington, DC 20220