Meet the Black medic finally honored for saving dozens of lives on D-Day despite his own wounds 

Dollita Okine June 10, 2024
Official U.S. Army portrait of Waverly B. Woodson Jr. Photo: Wiki/U.S. Army soldier or employee

Years after his valiant actions on Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion in northern France, African-American combat medic Waverly B. Woodson Jr. recently received the recognition he deserves.

Despite being wounded, the heroic medic went on to treat dozens of comrades, much to the amazement of his fellow soldiers. In October last year, Woodsoon’s wife, Joann, and two of his children received two medals commemorating his service during a ceremony held at his tomb at Arlington National Cemetery, where his family and members of his former unit were assembled.

Retired Lt. Gen. Thomas James said during the service, “Imagine the unforgiving crucible of ground combat. The explosions, the hail of bullets, machine gun fire, artillery rounds, the smoke, the blood, the sweat.”

“And then you hear that familiar cry: ‘Medic! Medic!’ From the explosions, smoke, and hail of bullets runs a young corporal. Corporal Waverly Woodson with an aid bag,” James said, according to the Associated Press

Born in Philadelphia, Woodson served as an Army medic for the United States Army and was deployed to the lone African-American combat squad that landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944, across the English Channel from Britain

Narratives of his service state that he was wounded by heavy fire on his landing craft before he ever reached the beach, yet he treated 200 wounded troops under intense small arms and artillery fire for the next thirty hours before fainting from his wounds and blood loss.

At a time when the United States military was still segregated by race, approximately 2,000 African-American troops are thought to have participated in the D-Day invasion. Woodson’s regiment, the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, was the only African-American combat unit there that day. The unit was in charge of setting up balloons to discourage hostile planes.

He died in 2005 while living in Maryland with his wife. In a 1994 interview, he told the Associated Press about his exploits and how, following a terrifying German attack, just one person out of their 26 Navy personnel remained.

There was not much of a ceremony when Woodson received his Bronze Star following the attack since, by the time it was announced, he was in Hawaii getting ready for the assault of Japan.

Furthermore, he never received a Combat Medic Badge, which shows that a medic has been in battle. However, his former regiment, First Army, applied for Woodson to receive the badge, which was granted in August last year.

Thus, during the event in October, his widow received both awards. The event also highlighted an issue that Woodson’s supporters believe to be unfair and have been working to rectify. They have been advocating for him to receive the Medal of Honor for years.

Woodson’s son said in a phone conversation before the event last October that his father rarely discussed World War II until late in life, and then only in bits and pieces. In addition to bringing attention to his bravery, the family wants to see him awarded the Medal of Honor to recognize the efforts of Woodson’s unit and all Black servicemen.

“One thing about my dad that I will always remember is his care for other people and fellow man. It did not matter the race of the person,” Steve Woodson said during the ceremony.

At last, thanks to extensive research into the historical injustices Black officers faced and the perseverance of his former unit, Woodson got the credit he so richly deserved this month.

He was honored at a ceremony by U.S. First Army soldiers on the beach where he came ashore and was wounded, as reported by Africa News.

The Distinguished Service Cross is the second-highest decoration bestowed on a member of the United States Army and is given for remarkable heroism.

Woodson was awarded this medal posthumously, ahead of the 80th anniversary of D-Day. It was tenderly laid Friday on the hallowed sands where he saved lives despite being wounded.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 10, 2024


Must Read

Connect with us

Join our Mailing List to Receive Updates