U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that the
provision he authored, which would make late World War I hero and Albany NY
resident, Sergeant Henry Johnson, eligible to receive the Medal of
Honor has passed both the House and the Senate. Schumer worked with Rep.
Paul Tonko and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) to include this provision in
the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that was unveiled earlier
this week. Now that the bill has passed both chambers of Congress, this
provision will head to the President’s desk. Schumer is urging the
President quickly provide final signature for this bill Once the
president signs this bill into law, he will then be able to consider the
actual Medal of Honor request.
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 could consider the Medal of Honor application Schumer submitted on Johnson’s behalf, Congress had 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, and Tonko introduced a similar bill in the House of Representatives. To supplement this effort, just last month, Schumer launched an additional strategy to get this provision for Sgt. Johnson signed into law. In addition to trying to pass a stand-alone bill through both houses of Congress, Schumer successfully pushed for an amendment to be included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which also waives the timing restrictions on the Medal of Honor and enables the President to consider the Medal of Honor request.
“Sgt. Henry Johnson is a true American hero, who displayed the most profound battlefield bravery, and he deserves the Medal of Honor he was denied because of segregation. Johnson’s family has waited long enough for the recognition Johnson should have received almost a century ago. That is why I am pleased to announce today that we have finally passed a provision in Congress that will enable the President to consider this Medal of Honor request. With the passage of this bill, and eventually the President’s signature, we are now one step away from the finish line,” said Schumer. “The next step is for the President to consider the Medal of Honor request and, I hope and pray, to approve it. I will not stop pushing until this is a reality. Sgt. Henry Johnson left an indelible mark on America in its time of need, and this recognition would be a true testament to his sacrifice – and all that is best about our country.”
“I am proud that the United States Senate brought Sergeant Henry Johnson one step closer to the
Medal of Honor that he deserves,” said Senator Wyden. “I will continue working with Senator
Schumer and others until this true American hero receives the recognition he has earned.”
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 an 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.