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How American D-Day soldier was denied Medal of Honor due to his dark skin

July 04, 2019 at 11:00 am | History

Etsey Atisu

Etsey Atisu | Staff Writer

July 04, 2019 at 11:00 am | History

Cpl. Waverly B. Woodson, an Army medic assigned to the 320th Barrage Baloon Battalion on D-Day/ABC News

Seventy-five years after the D-Day, a memo has emerged indicating how an African-American soldier termed as the bravest person to have emerged from the D-Day after saving dozens of lives, was purposely denied the Medal of Honour because of his skin colour.

Corporal Waverly B. Woodson, an Army medic assigned to the 320th Barrage Baloon Battalion was wounded off Omaha Beach on D-Day by a shrapnel in his groin and back as his landing craft crushed through the choppy waters off the coast of France on June 6, 1944.

This, however, did not stop him from offering help. While still aboard his landing craft, he managed to fight through the injuries, spending the next 30 hours removing bullets, dispensing blood plasma, cleaning wounds, resetting broken bones and at one point, amputating a foot and saving four men from drowning, according to the History Channel.

Woodson surely saved a lot of lives that day before he ultimately collapsed and he’s regarded as the bravest but he has not been honoured.  

He has not been completely forgotten for his heroic exploits as his widow, Joann Woodson, 90, now wants everyone to know the sacrifice her husband made when he stormed Omaha Beach 75 years ago as a medic.

She argues that although he received a Bronze Star award for his actions before he died in 2005, that status should be upgraded as it is strongly backed by a memo that was unearthed in 2015 that appears to indicate that Woodson was originally considered for the Medal of Honor.

Cpl. Waverly Woodson Jr. was one of an estimated one million African Americans who served in World War II, including 2,000 men who were at Normandy.

Today, however, there is a push by lawmakers to review his case and posthumously award him with the deserved Medal of Honor for the bravery and heroism he excited on D-Day.

“Corporal Woodson was a hero who saved dozens, if not hundreds, of lives on Omaha Beach. His courage deserves to be honored with the Medal of Honor, and I continue to work with the Army to make this a reality,” Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who is leading this review by lawmakers, said in a statement.

Photo Credit: BlackPast

Details of the memo sent to Roosevelt in the White House from War Department aide Philleo Nash, contrary to what seemed to have indicated that Woodson’s commanding officer had recommended him for a Distinguished Service Cross, instead proves that the recommendation was made for the nation’s highest combat medal.

“Here is a Negro from Philadelphia who has been recommended for a suitable award. He was first recommended by his C.O. for a Distinguished Service Cross, but General Lee’s offices said the act merited a Congressional medal,” the memo, cited by Van Hollen’s letter, reads.

This memo surfaced in the 2015 book “Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, At Home and At War,” after the book’s author, Linda Hervieux, uncovered it in the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library.

In 1993, an Army report concluded that racial bias was the major reason no African-American World War II service member received the Medal of Honor. It was after that that seven African-Americans were considered, and that included Woodson.

“It’s pretty clear that had he been a white soldier, he would’ve received the Medal of Honor and the only thing that has stood in the way is the color of his skin,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen.

Image result for d-day
D-Day changed the course of World War II/History

Many point to Woodson’s record on D-Day as one instance of a black soldier who deserved the award.

“He said that the men were just dropping, just dropping so fast. Some of them were so wounded, there was nothing that you could do but just give them a few little last rites,” Joann Woodson, 90, told CBS news last month.

Related image
The greatest seaborne invasion in history was aimed at 80 kilometres of mostly flat, sandy beach along the Normandy coast/CBC

During World War II (1939-1945), the Battle of Normandy, Codenamed Operation Overlord, which began from June 1944 to August 1944, saw some 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces land on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region to invade it. Also known as D-Day, the invasion was one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history and required extensive planning.

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