Henry Johnson will receive the Medal of Honor next month, almost 100 years after his wartime bravery.
The announcement recently made by the White House fulfills the wishes of Johnson’s admirers, including several in Kansas City, to see the African-American World War I veteran from upstate New York posthumously receive the nation’s highest award for valor.
“We are so glad that we are at this point,” said Tara Johnson, a Kansas City resident whose family has championed the honor for more than a decade.
In 2002, New York researchers told her father, Herman Johnson, that her grandfather’s grave had been identified at Arlington National Cemetery. Herman Johnson stood with then-New York Gov. George Pataki during graveside ceremonies that year.
He kept pushing for the award until he died in 2004.
“A lot of good people worked for a long time to make sure Henry Johnson got his rightful place in history,” said Tara Johnson, who plans to attend the June 2 White House ceremony.
While on night sentry duty in France on May 15, 1918, Johnson, a member of an all-black National Guard unit, drove off a German raiding party using a rifle, grenades and a knife. Although wounded multiple times, he kept another wounded soldier from being taken prisoner. What came to be called the “Battle of Henry Johnson” was widely covered in newspapers of the time.
But little came of Johnson’s heroism once he returned home. Many blamed racism of the time.
The White House ceremony also will honor World War I veteran William Shemin with a posthumous Medal of Honor. His daughter, Elsie Shemin-Roth of Webster Groves, Mo., is expected to attend the ceremony.