When the war books were closed at the end of World War II, the Medal of Honor the military’s highest award was bestowed on 432 soldiers. But not one was given to any of the more than one million African-Americans who served in that war. It took an internal Army investigation, not launched until 1994, to find out why ... and to eventually right the wrong. More than a half century after the end of World War II, in 1997, seven African-Americans were finally awarded the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony. In 1994, the Army finally took notice and commissioned a research team
at Shaw University in Raleigh, NC to look at the situation. Their investigations revealed seven tales of uncommon valor that deserved the award, and blew the lid off a long-standing, high-level conspiracy
within the U.S. government to obscure the contributions of African-American soldiers and keep them from public record.
During fighting in Europe, * Lieutenant John Fox found himself completely
surrounded by German forces. He called for U.S. artillery to be fired
directly on his position, dooming himself to death but taking more than
100 German soldiers with him.
* Private George Watson's cargo ship came under unexpected fire by the
Japanese in New Guinea and sank, stranding more than 150 soldiers, many
of whom couldn't swim, in the deep waters. Watson helped carry dozens of
men to safety before he himself drowned from sheer exhaustion.
* Sergeant Edward Carter was shot several times by German soldiers while
crossing hundreds of yards of wide-open land in the Rhineland. Despite
being shot, Carter managed to capture two German soldiers, who he
brought back to his unit, where they provided valuable information that
allowed U.S. forces to advance.
* Lieutenant Charles Thomas's vehicle was hit with artillery fire on a
scouting mission and badly damaged. Thomas refused to evacuate the area
until he was sure the other vehicles in his unit could return fire. He
was killed, but his efforts saved the lives of many others.
* After performing a valuable scouting mission, Private Willie James was
shot and killed trying to rescue his commander from German sniper fire.
* In France, Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers pressed on for three days on a
leg injured by a land mine and badly infected. He refused orders to
return to an aid station, and died covering the escape of others in his
tank unit in France.
* Vernon Baker is the only black soldier still alive today to receive the
award for service in World War II. After his commander abandoned the
unit, Baker assumed command and refused to fall back. He completed an
impossible mission, and bears sole responsibility for continuing to
engage the enemy.
All Photos were provided by Neil Hever who is a WWII historian and German re-enactor who participated in the filming of the documentary "Honor Deferred".
A documentary depicting the exploits of the 7 African American Medal of Honor recipients of WWII listed on this page. Produced by Al Roker.
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