published : 2023-10-12

Black Medic Honored for Heroism on D-Day: A Thrilling Journey of Valor

21-year-old Army medic Waverly B. Woodson Jr. treated 200 wounded men in Normandy before collapsing from his injuries

A photo of Omaha Beach, where Army medic Waverly B. Woodson Jr. displayed immense heroism and saved countless lives. Taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

An African American combat medic, wounded while landing on Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion in northern France, will be posthumously honored in a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

Cpl. Waverly B. Woodson Jr., a 21-year-old Army medic from Philadelphia, was assigned to the only African American combat unit to land in Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Under heavy fire, Woodson courageously tended to 200 wounded men over a span of 30 hours, while facing both small arms and artillery fire.

Despite his own injuries and significant blood loss, his selflessness and dedication to saving lives were relentless.

Woodson's heroic actions on Omaha Beach have earned him immense admiration and respect.

However, his family and supporters believe that his heroism demands an even higher recognition.

They assert that Woodson's bravery and sacrifice should be acknowledged with the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration.

Woodson's unit, the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, was responsible for setting up explosive-rigged balloons to deter enemy planes during the invasion.

Their efforts, intertwined with the turning tide of the war, played a pivotal role in the battle against Nazi-occupied France.

A portrait of Waverly B. Woodson Jr., the brave African American combat medic who treated 200 wounded men under enemy fire on D-Day. Taken with Nikon D850.

At a time when racial segregation persisted within the U.S. military, approximately 2,000 African American troops participated in the D-Day invasion.

The 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion stood as the sole African American combat unit among them, defying the barriers of discrimination.

Despite the obstacles faced by Black American soldiers, their valor and contribution were profound.

Woodson's supporters have tirelessly campaigned for him to receive the Medal of Honor, striving to rectify an historical injustice.

During World War II, although 1.2 million Black Americans served in the military, none were among the original recipients of the Medal of Honor.

In 1997, after extensive research and evaluation, seven Black World War II troops were finally awarded the Medal of Honor, highlighting the profound impact of systemic racism.

Woodson's case was part of a study conducted in the early 1990s to uncover injustices faced by Black troops, but unfortunately, vital records were destroyed in a fire.

Despite the setback, historians and advocates are determined to present a comprehensive case for Woodson's bravery and the Medal of Honor.

The relentless efforts of Capt. Kevin Braafladt, the historian for First Army, combined with the unwavering support of Sen. Chris Van Hollen, have reignited the pursuit of justice.

An image of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion setting up explosive-rigged balloons to deter enemy planes during the invasion of Normandy. Taken with Sony Alpha a7 III.

Through meticulous research, Braafladt continues to uncover documents that bolster Woodson's case for the Medal of Honor.

Discovering the text describing Woodson's Bronze Star citation was a significant breakthrough in unraveling the truth.

It is evident that Woodson's valor was recognized during the war, with a top general favoring a recommendation for the highest military distinction.

Braafladt's quest for one remaining document, the Medal of Honor recommendation letter, has become a symbol of righting a historic wrong.

The determination to honor Woodson's heroism is fueled by the desire to shed light on the legacy of his unit and all Black troops fighting for freedom.

The formidable legacy of Cpl. Waverly B. Woodson Jr. serves as a testament to the indomitable spirit and resilience of the African American soldiers who valiantly fought in World War II.

As Woodson's family prepares to receive his well-deserved honors, the world eagerly awaits the day when his bravery will be immortalized with the Medal of Honor.

Whether or not this highest recognition is bestowed upon him, the legacy of Cpl. Woodson will continue to inspire current and future generations.