While Black-Americans have been helping America win wars since the Revolutionary War, they have not historically been recognized for their heroism at the same rate as their white counterparts.
These 8 heroes received Medals of Honor for their actions decades after the battles:
1. Sgt. Henry Johnson
One WWI soldier was not bestowed his Medal of Honor until nearly a century later. Sgt. Henry Johnson, assigned to the “Harlem Hellfighters” of the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment, came under heavy enemy fire on May 15, 1918, from a German raiding party in the Argonne Forest. Despite being wounded Johnson used grenades, a rifle, a knife, and his bare hands to hold off the German attack.
2. 2nd Lt. Vernon J. Baker
2nd Lt. Vernon J. Baker took part in a company attack in Apr. 1945, near Viareggio, Italy. He personally destroyed four German positions that were pinning down his unit and then covered the evacuation of wounded personnel. The next night, Baker led an advance through enemy mine fields and heavy fire to capture a division objective.
3. Staff Sgt. Edward A. Carter, Jr.
Sgt. Edward A. Carter was riding on a tank on Mar. 23, 1945 near Speyer, Germany when enemy anti-tank and rifle fire began flying in. Carter voluntarily led a three-man team against the position. He was wounded five times and an enemy squad attempted to capture him, but he killed six Germans and captured two.
4. 1st Lt. John R. Fox
Near Sommocolonia, Italy on Dec. 26, 1944, 1st Lt. John R. Fox was directing defensive artillery fire to slow a German advance. He adjusted the fire closer and closer to his position until finally ordering it onto his own building as the Nazis drew closer. Later, Fox’s body was found with approximately 100 dead German soldiers around him.
5. Pfc. Willy F. James, Jr.
On Apr. 7, 1945, Pfc. Willy F. James Jr. scouted a vital bridgehead while pinned down, then returned to his unit he assisted in developing a plan of maneuver to take the bridge. He led a squad, designating targets as he advanced, until he was killed by enemy fire while trying to aid his fatally wounded platoon leader.
6. Sgt. Ruben Rivers
Sgt. Ruben Rivers was a tank platoon sergeant in World War II. On Nov. 16, 1944, he was leading a tank assault when he struck a mine and was severely injured in the leg. He refused to be medically evacuated and led another tank in to save his platoon.
On Nov. 19, Rivers’ wound was infected but he led another tank in a company assault despite his wounds. When an enemy anti-tank unit began firing from concealed positions, the rest of the company withdrew. Rivers spotted the Germans began returning fire alongside another tank. The rest of the company made it out but Rivers’ tank was destroyed, killing him and wounded the rest of the crew.
7. 1st Lt. Charles Thomas
Near Climbach, France on Dec. 14, 1944, 1st Lt. Charles Thomas’s armored scout car was subjected to intense enemy artillery and small arms fire. Although wounded by the burst of fire, Thomas, assisted the crew in dismounting before he took additional enemy fire in his chest, legs, and left arm.
Thomas directed his two antitank guns begin returning fire. Realizing he could no longer remain in command, Thomas stayed long enough to brief his subordinate officer on the enemy disposition. Only after he was certain the other officer was in control did he permit himself to be evacuated.
8. Pvt. George Watson
Pvt. George Watson was on board a ship near New Guinea on Mar. 8 when it was hit by enemy bombers. The order to abandon ship was given but Watson did not head to safety. Instead he began assisting soldiers who could not swim to a raft. Because of this, he was eventually pulled under the surface of the water by the suction from the sinking ship.