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Valor Medals In WW1 - Our Goals

African-American Winners of the Croix De Guerre from the 369th Regiment, 1919 African-American Awardees of the Croix De Guerre from the 369th Regiment, 1919There have been reviews of the military’s process for awarding valor medals to ensure fair treatment of minority veterans who served in all US wars of the twentieth century after World War I, but not for that conflict.

While the United States military conducted a review of Medal of Honor awards to minority servicemembers in WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and subsequent American wars, no such systematic review has ever been made for minority veterans of the First World War. Likewise, the awards of a Medal of Honor to Corporal Freddie Stowers in 1991 and Sergeant Henry Johnson in 2015 set a precedent for challenging the postwar review of World War One cases conducted in 1919, which resulted in zero Medal of Honor awards to African-American veterans and few for members of other minority groups.

America has a sacred bond with those who swore to defend her, and there is no more powerful manifestation of that covenant than the Medal of Honor. The gravity of these awards means their rarity must be jealously safeguarded; they can never be allowed to be diluted in the name of making a political point. But it is precisely for that reason that the Task Force firmly believes that every hero from the First World War whose deeds warrant the award receives it, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, their beliefs, or the color of their skin.

William Shemin, a Jewish-American WW1 Veteran who received the Medal of Honor in 2015.William Shemin, a Jewish WW1 Veteran who received the Medal of Honor in 2015Modern studies of World War I veterans who were unjustly denied Medals of Honor have focused on specific individuals at the expense of others who are probably equally deserving.

The only comprehensive review was done in 1919, and made demonstrable mistakes. For example, it recommended no African Americans from World War I receive the Medal of Honor; subsequently two have.

Consequently, the Valor Medals Review Task Force is a group of volunteers convened to advocate for a systematic investigation into veterans of the First World War who, in spite of deserving deeds, may have been unjustly denied high-level valor awards owing to the circumstances of their birth. In particular, servicemembers worthy of a Medal of Honor may have been downgraded to a Distinguished Service Cross or received no American recognition at aall despite receiving a French Croix de Guerre with Palms.

Bhagat Singh Thind, a US Soldier in 1918Bhagat Singh Thind, a US Soldier in 1918The goal of the Valor Medals Review Task Force is to conduct research to provide the “state-of-play” and generate recommendations for Congress and/or the Department of Defense to actualize.

Through Congressional legislation, the Task Force hopes to instigate a systematic and impartial review of World War I service records to determine if any veterans whose deeds warrant a Medal of Honor failed to receive one owing to bias, discrimination, or confusion sparked by the changing standards surrounding Medal of Honor awards during World War One. Congressional action will waive the statute of limitations to ensure that any veterans of World War 1 who may be recommended for a Medal of Honor as a result of this review are legally able to be awarded one.

The Task Force aims to build on the success of a similar volunteer effort organized by the Commission, which resulted in the introduction in 2018 of a bill by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and Dean Heller (R-NV) calling for a Congressional Gold Medal to be awarded to the "Hello Girls" female switchboard operators in World War One.

Native American Servicemen 400Native American Servicemen from 5 Tribes, Including an Aleutian bugler, 1919

Carrying out this project requires exactly what victory in World War One did: the contributions of Americans from all backgrounds. As such, the Task Force’s efforts are officially endorsed by the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, The World War One Centennial Commission, and faculty from several major research universities.

Currently, the Task Force includes members of the Commission, faculty members at New York University and Park University, two retired Major Generals, a historian of the Medal of Honor, and a supporting group of researchers.

We are always looking for ways to expand our efforts. For more information, or if you would like to contribute your expertise or research to the project, please reach out to one of our contacts.

 

 

 Click button below to download a printable document summarizing our goals and history

 

Valor Medals Review

Task Force

For media inquiries, please contact chris.isleib@worldwar1centennial.org

For all other requests, please contact zachary.austin@worldwar1centennial.org

“The President may award, and present in the name of Congress, a medal of honor of appropriate design, with ribbons and appurtenances, to a person who while a member of the Army or naval service, distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”            -US Code

 

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