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09 007 5Members of the 369th Infantry, formerly the 15th New York Guard Regiment, arrive in New York City in 1919. The regiment has been known as the Famous 369th, the Harlem Hellfighters and the Black Rattlers. War Department photo

Task force urges review of minorities' WWI valor awards 

By Matt Grills
via the American Legion web site

With American Legion support, a group of volunteers is proposing the first-ever review of World War I veterans who may have been denied a Medal of Honor due to racial or ethnic discrimination.

Established by the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission, the Valor Medals Review Task Force is starting with the records of approximately 70 African-American soldiers -- in particular, those worthy of the nation's highest military award who may have been downgraded to a Distinguished Service Cross or received a French Croix de Guerre with palm.

"We're not going in with any number in mind," says Jeffrey Sammons, professor of history at New York University and co-author of "Harlem's Rattlers and the Great War: The Undaunted 369th Regiment and the African American Quest for Equality."

"We want this to be as unbiased and apolitical as possible, and to let the evidence lead us where it may."

The U.S. military conducted reviews of valor awards for minority veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and all subsequent conflicts, but not those who served in World War I. The posthumous awarding of Medals of Honor to Cpl. Freddie Stowers in 1991 and Sgt. Henry Johnson in 2015 set a precedent for challenging the postwar review conducted in 1919, which resulted in zero Medal of Honor awards for black veterans and few for other minorities.

At its 100th National Convention in Minneapolis in August, The American Legion passed Resolution No. 109, which calls for legislation lifting statutes of limitation and other obstacles that may impede proper review of minority veterans' World War I records that support consideration for a Medal of Honor.

Read the entire article on the American Legion web site.

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