When people talk about “war heroes,” their minds are automatically drawn to the most famous war of the modern era, the second World War.
That was a conflict in which all nations of the world had stock, not just the countries of Europe.
It was a war waged worldwide, owing to its name, and was so impactful and extreme it changed the name of the war that came before it.
In the US, people knew about the Great War that preceded it, but we don’t have many stories that last to the modern day because of America’s limited involvement. Not many, but some honorable few did fight overseas.
One of the most significant heroes of WWI was Henry Johnson.
Not just for being American fighting on the front lines of a foreign war or for fighting off 20 soldiers on his own in spectacular fashion with little more than a bolo knife and sheer determination.
What made him a significant hero was his race. In a time of persistent racial segregation, he was an example of American grit and patriotism that extended past the lines between white and black.
10 /10 Post-War, Pre-Rights
Henry Johnson was born in North Carolina in 1892, after the civil war, but many many years after the civil rights movement.
At this time, African American people were still highly marginalized and segregated in America.
There is some uncertainty about his birth, as he used various dates and may not have known, being from a poor and under-educated family. He moved to Albany in his teenage years and worked as a redcap porter in Union Station.
9 /10 Signing Up
Henry enlisted in the service in 1917 when the foreign war effort was beginning.
The United States Army was segregated at this point, and he joined the all-black New York National Guard 15th Infantry Regiment.
It was redesignated to the 369th Infantry Regiment and was based in Harlem, and was one of the regiments sent over to France to provide defense against invading German forces.