On May 15, 2011, the 93rd anniversary of the Battle of Henry Johnson, Senator Charles Schumer submitted to the Army a nearly 1300 page request for reconsideration to award Henry Johnson the Medal of Honor. Schumer's submission provides incontestable proof of what happened, including new primary source evidence, analysis, information about the historical context and more.
Henry Johnson, an Albany resident, was an African American volunteer with the New York National Guard serving with a French unit, under French command due to segregation. While on guard duty in the dark early morning hours on May 15, 1918, then-Private Henry Johnson's outpost, on the French side of the Western Front, came under attack by a German raider party of about twenty. Despite sustaining numerous gunshot wounds, he fought off 20+ Germans, rescued his fellow soldier from certain capture, and acquired a large cache of enemy weapons. He did all this with little training, a jammed rifle and a bolo knife. The German unit was well-trained, the raid was carefully planned and it was meant to capture prisoners. If not for Johnson's bravery, with total disregard for his own life, his fellow soldier would have been captured, a cache of weapons and supplies would not have been acquired by the allies and valuable intelligence would have gone to the enemy. Even in the face of Senator Schumer's discovery of compelling new primary source evidence that provides incontestable proof of Johnson's bravery and worthiness of the Medal of Honor, the case remains pending.
Sgt. Johnson, who was permanently disabled after the fight, was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Gold Palm, one of the French military's highest honors, for his bravery in battle during World War I. This French award was bestowed just days after the famous battle. Yet, he received no military decorations from his own country. It was not until 1996 that his own country would officially honor him. That year, Johnson was awarded the Purple Heart, followed by the Distinguished Service Cross in 2002. In 2003, Senator Schumer helped secure the second-highest American military award for Johnson, the Distinguished Service Cross. Eight years later, on the 93rd anniversary of the battle on May 15, 2011, Schumer urged the Army to reopen the case for the Medal of Honor in light of never considered evidence his office discovered. Highlights from Schumer's nearly 1300 page recommendation include a chain of command endorsement from General John Pershing, WWI US Commander of the U.S. Forces in Europe, an eyewitness account of Johnson's brave actions during the battle from Pvt. Neadom Roberts, the soldier whose life Johnson saved, a letter from Johnson's commanding officer, Colonel William Hayward, also detailing the event, and much more.
There are several specific forms of evidence required in order to present a Medal of Honor to a member of the U.S. military. One requirement is a chain-of-command endorsement, of which we have now found several, including Col Hayward's letter to Johnson's wife, Major Little's glowing account, and, most important, General Pershing's communiqué. Pershing's memo dated May 20, 1918 to officials in Washington, D.C. highlights details related to what many historians now refer to as the "Battle of Henry Johnson." Senator Schumer also uncovered yet another critical piece of evidence required to receive the Medal of Honor: an eyewitness account of the "Battle of Henry Johnson" from then-Private Neadom Roberts, who fought the German forces alongside then-Private Johnson during the battle, and who Johnson rescued from capture. In the extensive statement, Roberts highlights the bravery and self-sacrifice that Henry Johnson exhibited, particularly crediting him with the final blow of the battle.
We, the undersigned, urge all decision makers, including the Secretary of the Army, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Secretary of Defense, and the President of the United States, to immediately approve the posthumous Medal of Honor for Sgt. Henry Johnson for his conspicuous gallantry, intrepidity at the risk of his life, and actions far above and beyond the call of duty in the May 1918 battle against German forces. We implore all decision makers to expeditiously review the aforementioned incontestable evidence that will show Henry Johnson's unambiguous qualification for the United States of America's highest military honor, the Medal of Honor.