Above L-R: Navy Medal of Honor, Air Force Medal of Honor,
Army Medal of Honor
WORLD WAR II AFRICAN-AMERICAN MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
No African American soldier was awarded the Medal of Honor during World War
II. In 1993 the Army contracted Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, to
research and prepare a study "to determine if there was a racial disparity
in the way Medal of Honor recipients were selected." Shaw's team researched
the issue and, finding that there was disparity, recommended the Army consider a
group of 10 soldiers for the Medal of Honor. Of those 10, seven were recommended
to receive the award. In October of 1996 Congress passed the necessary
legislation which allowed the President to award these Medals of Honor since the
statutory limit for presentation had expired. The Medals of Honor were
presented, by President William Clinton, in a ceremony on 13 January 1997.
Vernon Baker was the only recipient still living and present to receive his
award; the other six soldiers received their awards posthumously, with their
medals being presented to family members.
First Lieutenant Vernon J. Baker
Citation: For extraordinary heroism in action on 5 and 6 April 1945, near
Viareggio, Italy. Then Second Lieutenant Baker demonstrated outstanding courage
and leadership in destroying enemy installations, personnel and equipment during
his company's attack against a strongly entrenched enemy in mountainous terrain.
When his company was stopped by the concentration of fire from several machine
gun emplacements, he crawled to one position and destroyed it, killing three
Germans. Continuing forward, he attacked and enemy observation post and killed
two occupants. With the aid of one of his men, Lieutenant Baker attacked two
more machine gun nests, killing or wounding the four enemy soldiers occupying
these positions. He then covered the evacuation of the wounded personnel of his
company by occupying an exposed position and drawing the enemy's fire. On the
following night Lieutenant Baker voluntarily led a battalion advance through
enemy mine fields and heavy fire toward the division objective. Second
Lieutenant Baker's fighting spirit and daring leadership were an inspiration to
his men and exemplify the highest traditions of the Armed Forces.
Staff Sergeant Edward A. Carter, Jr.
Citation: For extraordinary heroism in action on 23 March 1945, near Speyer,
Germany. When the tank on which he was riding received heavy bazooka and small
arms fire, Sergeant Carter voluntarily attempted to lead a three-man group
across an open field. Within a short time, two of his men were killed and the
third seriously wounded. Continuing on alone, he was wounded five times and
finally forced to take cover. As eight enemy riflemen attempted to capture him,
Sergeant Carter killed six of them and captured the remaining two. He then
crossed the field using as a shield his two prisoners from which he obtained
valuable information concerning the disposition of enemy troops. Staff Sergeant
Carter's extraordinary heroism was an inspiration to the officers and men of the
Seventh Army Infantry Company Number 1 (Provisional) and exemplify the highest
traditions of the Armed Forces.
First Lieutenant John R. Fox
Citation: For extraordinary heroism against an armed enemy in the vicinity
of Sommocolonia, Italy on 26 December 1944, while serving as a member of Cannon
Company, 366th Infantry Regiment, 92d Infantry Division. During the preceding
few weeks, Lieutenant Fox served with the 598th Field Artillery Battalion as a
forward observer. On Christmas night, enemy soldiers gradually infiltrated the
town of Sommocolonia in civilian clothes, and by early morning the town was
largely in hostile hands. Commencing with a heavy barrage of enemy artillery at
0400 hours on 26 December 1944, an organized attack by uniformed German units
began. Being greatly outnumbered, most of the United States Infantry forces were
forced to withdraw from the town, but Lieutenant Fox and some other members of
his observer party voluntarily remained on the second floor of a house to direct
defensive artillery fire. At 0800 hours, Lieutenant Fox reported that the
Germans were in the streets and attacking in strength. He then called for
defensive artillery fire to slow the enemy advance. As the Germans continued to
press the attack towards the area that Lieutenant Fox occupied, he adjusted the
artillery fire closer to his position. Finally he was warned that the next
adjustment would bring the deadly artillery right on top of his position. After
acknowledging the danger, Lieutenant Fox insisted that the last adjustment be
fired as this was the only way to defeat the attacking soldiers. Later, when a
counterattack retook the position from the Germans, Lieutenant Fox's body was
found with the bodies of approximately 100 German soldiers. Lieutenant Fox's
gallant and courageous actions, at the supreme sacrifice of his own life,
contributed greatly to delaying the enemy advance until other infantry and
artillery units could reorganize to repel the attack. His extraordinary valorous
actions were in keeping with the most cherished traditions of military service,
and reflect the utmost credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.
Private First Class Willy F. James, Jr.
Citation: For extraordinary heroism in action on 7 April 1945 near Lippoldsberg,
Germany. As lead scout during a maneuver to secure and expand a vital
bridgehead, Private First Class James was the first to draw enemy fire. He was
pinned down for over an hour, during which time he observed enemy positions in
detail. Returning to his platoon, he assisted in working out a new plan of
maneuver. He then led a squad in the assault, accurately designating targets as
he advanced, until he was killed by enemy machine gun fire while going to the
aid of his fatally wounded platoon leader. Private First Class James' fearless,
self-assigned actions, coupled with his diligent devotion to duty exemplified
the finest traditions of the Armed Forces.
Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers
Citation: For extraordinary heroism in action during the 15-19 November 1944,
toward Guebling, France. Though severely wounded in the leg, Sergeant Rivers
refused medical treatment and evacuation, took command of another tank, and
advanced with his company in Guebling the next day. Repeatedly refusing
evacuation, Sergeant Rivers continued to direct his tank's fire at enemy
positions through the morning of 19 November 1944. At dawn, Company A's tanks
began to advance towards Bougaktroff, but were stopped by enemy fire. Sergeant
Rivers, joined by another tank, opened fire on the enemy tanks, covering company
A as they withdrew. While doing so, Sergeant River's tank was hit, killing him
and wounding the crew. Staff Sergeant Rivers' fighting spirit and daring
leadership were an inspiration to his unit and exemplify the highest traditions
of military service.
Captain Charles L. Thomas
Citation: For extraordinary heroism in action on 14 December 1944, near Climbach,
France. While riding in the lead vehicle of a task force organized to storm and
capture the village of Climbach, France, then First Lieutenant Thomas's armored
scout car was subjected to intense enemy artillery, self-propelled gun, and
small arms fire. Although wounded by the initial burst of hostile fire,
Lieutenant Thomas signaled the remainder of the column to halt and, despite the
severity of his wounds, assisted the crew of the wrecked car in dismounting.
Upon leaving the scant protection which the vehicle afforded, Lieutenant Thomas
was again subjected to a hail of enemy fire which inflicted multiple gunshot
wounds in his chest, legs, and left arm. Despite the intense pain caused by
these wounds, Lieutenant Thomas ordered and directed the dispersion and
emplacement of two antitank guns which in a few moments were promptly and
effectively returning the enemy fire. Realizing that he could no longer remain
in command of the platoon, he signaled to the platoon commander to join him.
Lieutenant Thomas then thoroughly oriented him on enemy gun dispositions and the
general situation. Only after he was certain that his junior officer was in full
control of the situation did he permit himself to be evacuated. First Lieutenant
Thomas' outstanding heroism were an inpiration to his men and exemplify the
highest traditions of the Armed Forces.
Private George Watson
Citation: For extraordinary heroism in action on 8 March 1943. Private Watson
was on board a ship which was attacked and hit by enemy bombers. When the ship
was abandoned, Private Watson, instead of seeking to save himself, remained in
the water assisting several soldiers who could not swim to reach the safety of
the raft. This heroic action, which subsequently cost him his life, resulted in
the saving of several of his comrades. Weakened by his exertions, he was dragged
down by the suction of the sinking ship and was drowned. Private Watson's
extraordinarily valorous actions, daring leadership, and self-sacrificing
devotion to his fellow-man exemplify the finest traditions of military service.
Above L-R: Navy Medal of Honor, Air Force Medal of Honor,
Army Medal of Honor
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