For Immediate Release                                 

For More Information Contact

John Howe (518) 482-1496

Henry Johnson and the case for a Medal of Honor will be judged in the eye of the American People. The 369th will not abandon Henry Johnson’s cause!

Albany New York March 20, 2002-The Albany District of the 369th Veterans’ Association, Inc. is thankful that the Department of the Army has made a decision in the case of the award of a high decoration to Sergeant Henry Johnson late of Albany New York.

Dr. Maurice Thornton, National Vice President for the association said, “We most gratefully acknowledge the award of the Distinguished Service Cross, but it is not the full measure of what Johnson deserves. We will graciously accept this medal on behalf of the family as we accepted the Purple Heart Medal previously. ”

John Howe, the organization historian and legislative director said, “Napoleon once said, history is the fable that is agreed upon. This fable is not finished in the eye of the people.”

The DSC as it is known is in itself the second highest decoration in the hierarchy of American awards and decorations and is commonly accepted to be just a hairs breadth away from the Medal of Honor. The DSC and the Medal of Honor are the only medals in the US inventory that carry a monetary award for the recipient. In the case of a posthumous award there is no money to the surviving family.

Johnson’s legacy until today has been more of a legendary remembrance, than that of a real life American hero. His bravery has now been acknowledged officially and he will now be remembered in a way that befits that of one of Americas greatest heroes.

All of this withstanding we are not satisfied with the decision of the army in this matter. The award of a DSC after the initial recommendation was approved by the Secretary of the Army and its subsequent non-concurring recommendation by the Chair of the Joint Chiefs is in the opinion of this organization a point of contention. To invalidate the recommendation of the then Secretary Caldera and to start the process all over again is unfair to Henry Johnson’s family and is not in keeping faith with the traditions of the military.

On February 14th, 2002 this organization in conjunction with the New York State Vietnam Memorial and Fine Arts Gallery held a symposium entitled “A Conversation Surrounding the Award of High Decorations to Soldiers , Sailors and Airmen of Color.” This was well attended by participants from coast to coast. During the course of the symposium the Medal of Honor scholars representing the Civil War, the Indian Wars, World War I & II all were in agreement that to this day there are vestiges of institutional racism in place when it comes to awarding the aforementioned individuals the Navy Cross, DSC or Medal of Honor.

In particular the panel felt that the burden of past racism in the way soldiers and sailors of the bygone era were judged or not judged with a fair and equitable manner was the focal point. The foundation for the award of these medals from earlier periods of American history fails to take into account the blatant discriminating manner in which the African American fighting man was treated. This treatment was in all areas to include record keeping, medical care, assignments, etc.

We will not cease in our effort to see that the Henry Johnson is awarded the Medal of Honor and that we will continue to examine the cases of other African American servicemen and women heroes who have been either lost stolen or strayed.

The matter of Henry Johnson has been public in Washington DC since the efforts by former Congressman Joe DioGuardio and the late Mickey Leland, then chair of the Congressional Black Caucus introduced legislation mandating the Army to investigate Henry Johnson’s heroism in WWI. The effort was continued by Brooklyn Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns when he became chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

In the eye of the American people, Sergeant Henry Johnson will be an American hero who until our efforts and the efforts of State of New York and others who picked up the gauntlet in this cause, was mostly forgotten.

In an related historical matter, in 1992 Shaw University  was commissioned by the Secretary of the Army to examine the facts surrounding the absence of Medals of Honor awarded to WWII black soldiers. As a result of that study six member who had received the DSC and one who was awarded the Silver Star were subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor.

The findings of this closely held study indicated that the “Climate of the times, and the common practices within the Army, guaranteed that no black could receive the military’s highest award.”

If this was true in WWII, the soldiers of WWI had an even lesser opportunity to be recognized for their war efforts.

We will never forget that there have been men and women who are heroes of all magnitude that have served our country and have been forgotten by our government.

We are urging that the New York Congressional delegation take all necessary steps to ensure that Sergeant Johnson receive the DSC. We further wish to make it clear that this will not assuage us from continuing our organization or the Johnson family in our moving forward in the effort to secure the Medal of Honor for Sergeant Johnson