Sgt. Henry Johnson received the Medal of Honor for his actions taken on May 15, 1918, when he beat off a German attack with grenades, his rifle, a knife and, finally, his bare hands to protect his unit, the “Harlem Hellfighters.”
The Harlem Hellfighters were a “colored unit” attached to French forces because segregationist policies at the time prevented black and white soldiers to serve side by side. Pvt. Henry Johnson was assigned to sentry duty on the night of Feb. 12 with Pvt. Needham Roberts. The pair were attacked by a raiding party of at least 12 Germans.