World War II was a global conflict that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world’s countries, including all of the great powers, formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis powers. In a total war involving over 100 million personnel from over 30 countries, the major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. Hundreds of men fought valiantly for their country, and some truly brave individuals stood out. Waverly Woodson was definitely one of those men. But what was his contribution to the Second World War?
Waverly Woodson was a black medic who treated at least 200 injured men on D-Day. Despite suffering from injuries of his own, he set up an aid station and treated wounds for 30 hours. He was even able to amputate a foot in the process.
Who was Waverly Woodson?
Waverly Bernard Woodson Jr. was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 3, 1922. He attended Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania, as a pre-med student after graduating from Overbrook High School.
Woodson was in his second year when he decided to put his studies on hold and enlisted in the United States Army on December 15, 1942. Alongside him was his younger brother, Eugene. After passing the test, he was accepted into the Anti-Aircraft Artillery Officer Candidate School. There he was one of just two African Americans. Woodson was told that because of his color, there were no officer posts available for him. This was even before he completed the course.
As a result, he was deployed to the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion and trained as a combat medic instead. Woodson was trained at Camp Tyson, the United States’ barrage balloon training camp in Paris, Tennessee. At camp, he faced discrimination and segregation. But that didn’t stop him from striving. He had risen to the rank of corporal by the time of Operation Overlord. (Source: Black Past)
Did Woodson Receive A Medal of Honor?
Despite his obvious heroism, Woodson was not awarded the Medal of Honor. This has been attributed to racial discrimination as well as the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center. The fire destroyed approximately 80% of the Army’s personnel records, and no one was able to keep track.
The United States Senator Chris Van Hollen introduced bill S.4535 in September 2020, titled A bill to authorize the President to award the Medal of Honor to Waverly B. Woodson, Jr., for acts of valor during World War II.
David Trone introduced an equivalent bill, H.R.8194, in the United States House of Representatives. Joann Woodson, Woodson’s widow, has stated that if Woodson was awarded the Medal of Honor, she would donate it to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Thomas S. James Jr., the Commanding General of the First United States Army, wrote in support of Woodson receiving the Medal of Honor in June 2021.
On Omaha Beach, Woodson was a hero who saved dozens, if not hundreds, of troops. At the time, the only thing that stood between him and proper recognition was the color of his skin. This is a chance for the Army to right a historical wrong.Christopher J. Van Hollen Jr., American Attorney and Politician