Walter Smith, publisher
New York Beacon
In WW I and WW II, incredibly, one million five hundred and fifty thousand (1,550,000) black American soldiers and sailors served in segregated military divisions AND NOT ONE received the Medal of Honor until 1991, although many were recommended for it.
In the segregated armed forces of WWI and WWII, black soldiers were usually confined to jobs in manual labor or supply units. Even when the Army allowed blacks to go into combat, it rarely accorded them the recognition they deserved. Of the 433 Medals of Honor awarded by all branches of the military during the war, not a single one went to any of the 1.5 million blacks in the service.
Congressman Mickey Leland, (D-TX) who headed the Congressional Black Caucus in 1987/88 and Congressman Joseph J. DioGuardi (R-NY) combined to pursue a course of action to obtain our nation’s highest award for WW I Sgt. Henry Johnson of NY and WW II Seaman Dorrie Miller of Texas.
Because of the work of the two Congressmen, in 1991 George H W Bush awarded the Medal of Honor to Freddie Stowers an African American corporal in the United States Army who was killed in action during World War I, while serving in an American unit under French command.
Of the 1.5 million African Americans serving in WWI and WWII Freddie Stowers was the very first African American to receive the award.
Congressman Mickey Leland died tragically in 1988 while on a humanitarian mission to deliver food and medicine to the starving people of Ethiopia. Joseph J DioGuardi has continued this work as a concerned citizen and former Member of Congress, in no small part in memory of his friend and former congressional colleague Mickey Leland.
Joe DioGuardi, singlehandedly is very close to getting justice for WW I soldier and hero, Sgt. Henry Johnson of Albany NY, through the continuing hard work of Senator Chuck Schumer of NY, with whom Joe served in the House from 1985 to 1989.
For the past 27 years, Joseph J. DioGuardi has unselfishly and relentlessly pursued justice for African American WWI and WWII heroes with minute success. The Black Press of America can assist him in this endeavor with their political pens and influence.
Upon the prodding of Mickey Leland and Joe DioGuardi, In the early 1990s, responding to requests from black veterans and a white former captain who had commanded black troops in combat, the Army asked Shaw University, a historically black college in Raleigh, N.C., to investigate why no blacks had received the Medal of Honor during World War II. The inquiry found no documents proving that blacks had been discriminated against in decisions to award the medal, but concluded that a climate of racism had prevented recognition of heroic deeds.
Military historians gave the Army the names of 10 black servicemen who they believed should have been considered for the Medal of Honor. Then an Army board, looking at their files with all references to race deleted, decided that seven of these men deserved to be cited for bravery “above and beyond the call of duty.” Four of the men — Lt. John R. Fox of Cincinnati; Pfc. Willy F. James Jr. of Kansas City, Mo.; Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers of Oklahoma City; and Pvt. George Watson of Birmingham, Ala. — had been killed in action. Two others — Staff Sgt. Edward A. Carter Jr. of Los Angeles and Lt. Charles L. Thomas of Detroit, who retired as a major — had died in the decades after the war. Those six received the medal posthumously awarded by Bill Clinton at the White House ceremony in 1997.
In recent developments, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh has approved Schumer’s request to grant a Medal of Honor to the late World War I hero and Albany resident, Sgt. Henry Johnson. With McHugh’s sign-off, the request has moved to the desk of U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Hagel has recommended Johnson for the award. The only step remaining after Hagel is approval by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the President.
Joe needs help in urging President, Barack Obama, to arrange another historic White House ceremony to issue two more Medals of Honor in memory of a great humanitarian and congressional hero, Mickey Leland, so that we can finally close the military’s tainted books on African American war heroes from World Wars I and II, and in the process also close an embarrassing chapter of military history by correcting an egregious historic injustice.
I strongly urge each and every one of you to write to your representative in Washington DC and your local representative and solicit their support in getting our president to move on this issue quickly.
Walter Smith, publisher
New York Beacon