SCHUMER LAUNCHES ADDITIONAL APPROACH TO SECURE MEDAL OF HONOR FOR WWI HERO SGT. HENRY JOHNSON – SCHUMER PUSHES AMENDMENT TO MAJOR DEFENSE BILL THAT WOULD SEND MEDAL OF HONOR REQUEST TO PRESIDENT’S DESK
Schumer Has Campaigned Relentlessly To Secure Medal of Honor for African American WWI Hero & Albany Resident Sgt. Henry Johnson, Who Was Denied Our Nation’s Highest Military Honor Due To Segregation – In September, Schumer Secured Passage of Senate Bill that Would Waive Medal of Honor Restrictions & Clear The Path for Sgt. Henry Johnson To Receive The Honor; But Bill Still Awaiting Passage In House
As House Continues to Consider Medal of Honor Bill, Schumer Tries An Additional Approach to Secure Long-Awaited Recognition for Sgt. Henry Johnson – Senator Pushes to Add Amendment to Annual Defense Bill That Would Clear the Way For Medal of Honor
Schumer: We Need to Try Every Approach & Ensure All Bases Are Covered In Effort To Right A Century-Old Wrong & Give Sgt. Johnson The Recognition He Deserves
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that he is pushing an additional approach in his ongoing efforts to secure the Medal of Honor for the late World War I hero and Albany resident, Sergeant Henry Johnson. Schumer has led the fight to get Sgt. Henry Johnson, an African-American WWI hero, the Medal of Honor he has long been denied due to segregation, but deserves for his bravery and heroism during WWI. Schumer explained that, under current law, a Medal of Honor must be awarded within five years of when the heroic act being recognized took place. Therefore, before the President can consider the Medal of Honor application Schumer submitted on Johnson’s behalf, Congress has to pass legislation specifically allowing Sgt. Johnson’s case to be considered. In his efforts to try to make this a reality, Schumer first introduced and passed a bill in the Senate that would waive the timing restriction and allow Johnson’s application to be considered by the President. This legislation passed the Senate with unanimous consent, but it has not yet passed the House of Representatives, which is the last remaining hurdle before it heads to the President’s desk. Schumer continues to urge the House to pass the Senate version of the bill as soon as possible, but today he announced an additional strategy to secure the Medal of Honor for Sgt. Johnson. In addition to trying to pass a stand-alone bill through both houses of Congress, Schumer is also seeking to add an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which would also waive the timing restrictions on the Medal of Honor and make this recognition for Sgt. Johnson a reality. Schumer explained that this is just one other way to try to get the job done. The NDAA may come up for a vote before the end of this Congress, and both the Senate and the House will be considering the same bill at the same time, meaning if Schumer’s amendment is included, and the bill is passed, it would send the long-awaited request to the President’s desk.
“I will not stop fighting to secure the Medal of Honor for Sgt. Henry Johnson, and today I am launching an additional approach that may help us get the job done sooner,” said Schumer. “While we wait on the House to take up legislation already passed in the Senate that would right this century-old wrong, I am also pushing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would enable Johnson to be exempted from the current Medal of Honor rules and, if passed, would send this request to the President’s desk. I will do everything in my power to get this amendment included in the bill, and will fight for it to pass. This cause is too important to put all of our eggs in one basket, and that is why I am pursuing this additional approach. Johnson should have received this recognition 95 years ago, and providing an exemption for him now is the right thing to do. I will not stop pushing until the President has signed off and Johnson gets the recognition he deserves.”
Sergeant Henry Johnson, an African American who was part of the “Harlem Hellfighters” that served under French Command due to segregation, was not properly recognized for gallantry during his lifetime. During World War I, then-private Henry Johnson fought with the French on the Western Front because of discriminatory laws in the United States. On May 14, 1918, Johnson came under attack by a German raider party of approximately 20 men. Despite sustaining numerous gunshot wounds, Johnson fought off entire German advance, rescued his fellow soldier from certain capture, and acquired a large cache of enemy weapons. Schumer said that Johnson accomplished these actions with little training, a jammed rifle, and a bolo knife against an overwhelming German unit that was well trained during a raid that was carefully planned and meant to capture prisoners. Schumer said that, if not for Johnson’s bravery, with total disregard for his own life, his fellow soldiers 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. Johnson, who was permanently disabled after the fight, was issued a communique from General Pershing commending his service, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Gold Palm, one of the highest military honors of France, for his bravery in battle.
Schumer has led the fight to get Sgt. Henry Johnson the recognition he deserves for his bravery and heroism during WWI. Schumer submitted a nearly-1,300 page request to the military in support of Johnson’s receiving the Medal of Honor and launched an online petition to build public support. Schumer held a personal call with U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh, met with Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica Wright – who oversees decisions regarding Medals of Honor – and wrote a letter to Secretary Hagel, all in an effort to secure the Medal of Honor for Sgt. Johnson.
In concert with Sgt. Johnson’s activists, including the late John Howe, a Vietnam veteran, Schumer helped secure the second-highest American military honor for Johnson, the Distinguished Service Cross, in 2003. Schumer has consistently expressed his support for Sgt. Johnson to receive the Medal of Honor:
· In March 2011, Schumer and his staff revealed that they had uncovered game-changing evidence to support the posthumous award of the military’s highest honor to Sgt. Johnson. In May 2011, Schumer submitted a nearly-1300 page request for reconsideration, which included a wealth of never-considered evidence containing the incontestable proof showing that Johnson deserves this award.
· In October 2011, Schumer launched an online petition in support of Henry Johnson’s heroics during World War I, while Schumer uncovered additional evidence in support of Johnson’s candidacy for the Medal.
· In October 2012 in Albany, Schumer was joined by local veterans and elected officials in his unveiling of this national online petition and in providing an official list of more additional evidence than has previously been made public, all of which has been discovered by Schumer and his office in the past two years. Despite these discoveries, however, the case remains pending. In 2012, Schumer also appeared in an episode of PBS’ History Detectives that featured a painting depicting the Battle of Henry Johnson. This painting is contained in Schumer’s new recommendation, and he stated that this serves as even further proof of Johnson’s worthiness for the Medal of Honor.
· In March 2013, ahead of the 95th anniversary of the Battle of Henry Johnson, Schumer publicly called on Secretary McHugh to approve his request to honor Johnson with a Medal of Honor. Schumer also made multiple phone calls to McHugh on this subject over the course of 2013 and 2014.
· In May 2014, following Secretary McHugh’s recommendation that Sgt. Johnson receive the Medal of Honor, Schumer wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging him to do the same. He also met with Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica Wright, who oversees decisions regarding Medals of Honor, and urged her to consider Johnson’s application.
· In August 2014, after Schumer had urged the Department of Defense for years to recommend a Medal of Honor for Johnson, Defense Secretary Hagel officially made the recommendation.
· In September 2014, Schumer announced that his legislation to allow the President to be able to consider the Medal of Honor application for the late World War I hero and Albany resident, Sergeant. Henry Johnson, has passed the Senate unanimously.