FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 19, 2004
Mcnulty, Schumer: Bill Naming Albany Postal Facility As “Henry Johnson Annex” Will Pass CONGRESS TONIGHT
McNulty, Schumer Renew Effort to Secure Congressional Medal of Honor
The House passed the measure in September and the Senate will pass the measure later tonight
US Senator Charles E. Schumer and Congressman Michael R. McNulty today announced that their legislation to officially re-name the United States Postal Service facility located at 747 Broadway in Albany, New York, as the "United States Postal Service Henry Johnson Annex” in honor of heroic World War I veteran and Albany native Sergeant Henry Johnson will pass Congress tonight.
The bill, which was unanimously approved by the House on September 22nd, now heads to the White House for consideration. President Bush is expected to sign the measure into law in the coming weeks.
“Henry Johnson’s remains an example of bravery and patriotism today. I’m glad that when the residents of Albany visit the Postal Annex they will be reminded of such an outstanding American,” Schumer said. “This is a fitting tribute but Henry Johnson deserves much more. There is still time for the military to do the right thing and give Henry Johnson the Medal of Honor he has rightly earned."
McNulty said, “I am thrilled that this bill is now headed to the President to be signed into law, and I am pleased to work again with Senator Schumer in our continuing effort to gain appropriate recognition for the bravery and valor of Sergeant Henry Johnson. Based on the record, we should be doing a lot more than naming a post office building after Henry Johnson. He has been awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross, but the cause endures. I will continue to work with Senator Schumer to go the final step and obtain the Congressional Medal of Honor.”
McNulty added, “I also want to thank Congressman Charlie Rangel and Congressman John Sweeney, both of whom have taken leadership positions in making sure that we correct these injustices of the past. They, along with Senators Clinton and Schumer, have been stalwart supporters of the effort to bring the Congressional Medal of Honor to Henry Johnson, and to re-name this postal facility in his honor.”
Henry Johnson was a native of Albany, served in World War I, was an African-American who joined the all-black New York National Guard unit, the 369th Infantry division, based in Harlem.
About 400,000 black soldiers served in the armed forces at that time. Half were sent overseas, many stationed in France. They were not allowed to serve with white soldiers; not allowed to fight with American combat units.
But the 369th soon proved themselves. They became known as the Harlem Hell Fighters. And that was not a name they took for themselves – that was a name given to them by their enemies. No one personified the bravery of the 369th more then Henry Johnson. While on guard duty on May 14, 1918, then-Private Johnson came under attack by a German raider party of two dozen. Despite sustaining 21 wounds, he single-handedly fought off the Germans and rescued one of his buddies with only a rifle and his bare hands.
Johnson was promoted to Sergeant. He became the first American of any color, in any conflict, to receive the Croix de Guerre, France's highest military decoration. His exploits got newspaper coverage in America and throughout Europe. He was featured in Teddy Roosevelt's book, "Rank and File: True Stories of the Great War." And the Army used Johnson’s name and likeness to advertise for war bonds and recruit minorities into service.
After the war, Henry Johnson returned to upstate New York and worked on the railroad, and later he died, penniless, on the streets of Albany, New York. In 2002, his grave was found in Arlington National Cemetery, not in the paupers’ cemetery outside of Albany, where he was believed to have been buried.
Since integration of the military in 1950, some African-American servicemen and women have been recognized for their gallant service. Recognition of African-Americans prior to integration, alarmingly neglected for many years, has begun.
In 1997, Henry Johnson was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. In an official ceremony at the Pentagon in 2003, Henry Johnson was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second-highest award.
McNulty concluded, “Many of us are still disappointed that despite all of the documentation we have given to the Pentagon, Henry Johnson has not received the award that he truly deserves, which is the Congressional Medal of Honor.”