Untold Stories: Widow Fights For Recognition Of Black WWII Hero Who Saved 200 Lives On D-Day

Untold Stories: Widow Fights For Recognition Of Black WWII Hero Who Saved 200 Lives On D-Day

On D-Day, Waverly Woodson Jr. saved the lives of 200 men on Normandy Beach after being injured, but the US Army has refused to honor him for 75 years.

Imagine fighting in the time when you had to not only resist the invaders, but also fight Jim Crow. There as a black medic Waverly Woodson Jr., who transcended all of those bounds - in the line of duty on the D-Day. While he ended up saving at least 200 lives that day, his widow is fighting for the honor her late husband deserves. 


According to CBS Philly, In honor of the 75th anniversary of World War II's D-Day, the Congressional Black Caucus has begun to push for Waverly Woodson Jr. to be recognized as such by the US Army as a war hero. Given the fact that people still believe in the myth that no black man fought on D-Day. 


21-year-old Woodson was one of the first black soldiers to make it into Omaha Beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944. Woodson was a medic from Philadelphia with the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, the only Black combat unit to participate in D-Day.



After being injured in the back and groin - while on the landing craft  -  but he was able to patch his wounds, and set up and medical tent and began treating the soldiers around him who were hit by barrages of German gunfire.


He went on to spend 30 hours on the beach tending to other wounded men before eventually collapsing - after saving at least 200 injured, according to a letter from then-Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.


The Congressional Black Caucus says 21-year-old medic from Philadelphia who treated at least 200 injured men on D-Day, despite being injured himself. 

Van Hollen, now a U.S. senator, is heading an effort to have Woodson posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on D-Day. But a lack of documentation, in part because of a 1973 fire that destroyed millions of military personnel files, has stymied the effort.



 Although D-Day has been historically white-washed, there were an estimated one million Black soldiers who served in World War II, with some 2,000 Black soldiers serving at Normandy. The units were segregated, and Black soldiers have yet to be recognized for their contributions during the battle.


Thankfully, the US Army and Black newspapers at the time praised Woodson and lauded him for his service that day. However, he was never awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. military decoration, due to overt racism within the US Army's senior ranks.



His widow, Joann Woodson, now 90, feels it’s essential that everyone knows the sacrifices her husband made when he bravely stepped foot on Omaha Beach 75 years ago.  


The contributions of Black soldiers and the military’s failure to recognize them set the tone for a study launched by the Army in 1993. The study concluded that racial bias was the sole reason Black soldiers didn’t earn a Medal of Honor. 


Waverly Woodson, Jr. died in 2005 with just a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his service. His widow, Joann, continues to fight for the Medal of Honor of her late husband’s bravery merited. 

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