Tuesday saw the renaming of a U.S. Army facility in western Louisiana base to Sgt. William Henry Johnson was a Black World War I hero who was awarded the Medal of Honour almost a century later.
Previously, Leonidas Polk, a Confederate leader, was honored with the name Fort Johnson. Nine Army locations that honored Confederate officers had their names changed as part of the e U.S. military’s attempts to remedy historical racial injustice. The commanding general of the Joint Readiness Training Centre at Fort Johnson, Brig. Gen. David Garner, wrote on Twitter, “Sgt. William Henry Johnson embodied the warrior spirit, and we are deeply honored to bear his name.”
German Night Raid
According to the National Museum of the United States Army, Johnson repelled a German night raid close to the Argonne Forest while serving on the front lines of France in 1918. Johnson suffered 21 wounds while repelling the advancing attackers. In addition, he used his knife to kill two German soldiers after running out of grenades and ammo to save his injured Black friend from being captured.
According to Johnson’s biography at the Army Museum, “His frantic attacks broke the German morale and the enemy raiding party retreated.” Former US President Theodore Roosevelt dubbed him one of the five most courageous Americans to have served in battle after he survived the war. The Army biography describes him as saying, “There wasn’t anything so fine about it. He swore he was no hero. I only battled for my life. That is what a rabbit would have done.
Nearly a century after his heroic deeds, he was honored when he received the Congressional Medal of Honour in 2015 “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.” Johnson’s deeds, meanwhile, were not appreciated by the Army, which disallowed him from receiving a disability stipend and did not bestow the Purple Heart upon him. He struggled once he got back to Albany, New York, as a result of his wounds, and he passed away from a heart issue in 1929. In his 32 years, he was.
For the first time, Louisiana base is being renamed to honor Black troops and women at nine Army stations. Fort Bragg in North Carolina was renamed Fort Liberty earlier this month, while Fort Benning in Georgia was renamed Fort Moore last month. Members of the local communities participated in the original naming process, but Black residents were not included in the discussions. No of how well a soldier did their duty, Louisiana base is name for nearby-born or -raised soldiers. Historians generally agree that Confederate General Braxton Bragg was a bad commander who didn’t command the respect of his men.