Severely wounded at age 21, Johnson was denied even a Purple Heart and refused any disability benefits when he mustered out. He died at 32, a destitute alcoholic.
June 02, 2015 - President Obama will award the Medal of Honor posthumously to Henry Johnson, an African-American soldier whose combat bravery occurred during World War I, but whose actions were ignored for decades.
BOWMAN: That day didn't last. The Army did turn to Johnson to help sell war bonds and recruit black troops, but African-American soldiers were not seen as equals. Johnson received no veterans' benefits, even though he was almost totally disabled by his wounds. When he complained publicly about how African-American veterans were being treated, that was too much for the Army. One memo from military intelligence said Johnson was suffering from a, quote, "case of a swelled head" and concluded Sgt. Johnson's right to wear the uniform should be immediately revoked. With no job, estranged from his family and drinking heavily, Johnson died at age 32 in Washington. His death certificate listed his occupation - ex-soldier.
CAROLINE WEKSELBAUM: It's horrible what happened to him later on in his life. It's disgusting. read more>>>
May 14, 2015 - It was exactly 97 years ago, May 15, 1918, in a front-line World War I outpost near the Tourbe and Aisne Rivers in northeast France, that an American infantryman from Albany, Pvt. Henry Johnson, repelled a German attack.
It wasn’t any ordinary hand-to-hand combat. The Germans struck in the predawn darkness, at least a dozen of them, shooting and throwing grenades and surprising Johnson and fellow doughboy Needham Roberts, wounding them both. As the Germans started dragging Roberts away, Johnson fought back with his gun.
When his bullets were gone, he used his rifle as a club. Then he used a bolo knife, killing Germans left and right and saving Roberts.
It was racism that forced New York to establish a separate, all-black volunteer force. It was racism that forced the 369th to fight under French instead of U.S. command. And it was racism that forced Johnson’s heroics to be forgotten. read more>>>