Hidden History: Push to posthumously award black Army medic

WASHINGTON (Nexstar) – There’s a new effort in Congress to recognize a black Army medic who saved hundreds of lives during the Invasion of Normandy.

Cpl. Waverly Woodson Jr. was badly wounded on June 6, 1944 when a German shell blasted apart the boat carrying him to the shores of Omaha Beach. Despite his own injuries, and as the battle raged around him, Waverly Woodson set up a medical aid station. For the next 30 hours, Waverly Woodson removed bullets, cleaned wounds, and saved soldiers’ lives.

Waverly Woodson survived D-Day and would go on to receive the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart; however, despite the recommendations of his commanding officers, Waverly Woodson never received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions. Woodson’s military records were destroyed by a fire in St. Louis in 1973, and then the veteran died in 2005 without the proper recognition.

The late veteran’s wife, Joann, now carries on her husband’s heroic legacy. Even she did not know about the lengths Waverly Woodson went to to save others during the Invasion of Normandy until the battle’s 50th Anniversary when he began to open up and share stories about the war.

“He didn’t talk about the war a lot,” Joann Woodson said. “A lot of the guys wanted to forget.”

The impact and reach of Waverly Woodson’s heroism may change soon. Joann Woodson is working with Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen to have her husband posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Van Hollen and the Black Caucus have written a letter to the Acting Secretary of the Army to request a formal review and have him honored for his service as a medic on D-Day.

“He earned this medal, and this nation really needs to honor him in this way,” Van Hollen said. “He served his country with incredible courage and bravery. There’s enough information out there to demonstrate that he earned this medal.”