Congressional Black Caucus to honor WWII veteran with Medal of Honor
Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 7/5/2019, 11:25 a.m.
The Congressional Black Caucus is pushing to posthumously award an African American soldier the Medal of Honor for his bravery on D-Day during World War II, reports U.S. News. Cpl. Waverly B. Woodson Jr. was an Army medic assigned to the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion. The battalion’s job was to set up explosive-rigged balloons to deter German planes. At a time when the military was still segregated by race, the balloon battalion was the only African American combat unit to land on Normandy on June 6, 1944. U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who’s been pushing to recognize Woodson’s heroism during the Normandy invasion, and 51 caucus members are petitioning the Army to review Woodson’s case. Van Hollen became involved in Woodson’s case in 2015 when Woodson’s wife, who lives in Maryland, came to him for help. “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,” Van Hollen said in a news release. A letter sent to the Army asks Ryan McCarthy, the acting secretary of the Army, to open a formal review into the Woodson case. The letter describes how Woodson was wounded while still on his landing craft but spent the next 30 hours saving lives on the beach. “Cpl. Woodson went above and beyond the call of duty by spending 30 grueling hours saving the lives of dozens, if not hundreds, of his fellow soldiers,” the letter reads. “Cpl. Woodson was a war hero who has been inadequately recognized for his actions on D-Day.” It is clear, the letter says, that Woodson did not receive the medal during World War II “because of the color of his skin.” Said the letter, “We respectfully ask the Army to rectify this historic injustice and appropriately recognize this valorous veteran with a posthumous recommendation for the Medal of Honor.” Woodson died in 2005. He spoke to the Associated Press in 1994 about how his landing craft hit a mine on the way to Omaha Beach. “The tide brought us in, and that’s when the 88s hit us,” he said of the German 88mm guns. “They were murder. Of our 26 Navy personnel there was only one left. They raked the whole top of the ship and killed all the crew. Then they started with the mortar shells.” Woodson enlisted in Philadelphia after graduating from Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University. He attended antiaircraft officers’ training school, one of only two Blacks in the course. But before graduation he was told there were too many antiaircraft officers and was sent back to the 320th for training as a medic. Woodson went on to study medical technology and worked for 28 years at the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and the National Institutes of Health.