Updated 10/24/2012 07:21 PM
Push to award WWI hero Henry Johnson with Medal of Honor
A movement to get the army to honor World War I hero Henry Johnson is going national after an earlier application was rejected. Our Lori Chung has more on why supporters say they have a rock solid case.
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- "What this man did in France, he definitely deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor," said veteran Albert Jackson.
Hometown pride for a local hero still runs strong in Albany, nearly a century after Henry Johnson pulled off a heroic stand during World War I. Now officials say that Medal of Honor may be within reach.
Senator Charles Schumer said, "I'd be shocked now if they rejected it. I'd be shocked."
Senator Schumer says new supporting evidence will now come with a nationwide online petition with PBS to award Sgt. Johnson the country's highest medal for valor.
"They will directly link their readers to our website so they can show support as well," Schumer said.
The Army rejected the application for the honor before, but not because a lack of heroism. Johnson was on guard duty in France in 1918 when he singlehandedly forced nearly two dozen German soldiers to retreat after a surprise attack and rescued a comrade from capture, using only a malfunctioning rifle, a knife and willpower. His story, which was shared this month on the PBS program “History Detectives,” not enough on face value to qualify for the medal.
Schumer said, "They said we need eye witness evidence, which at that point, we thought it was a catch 22."
But Schumer says his office has uncovered that evidence, including a letter from the soldier who fought alongside Johnson during the fight. The men, members of an all-black regiment excluded from fighting with white troops, fought under French command instead. Johnson received the Croix de Guerre, France's highest medal. Supporters say the Army designation would finally give him the same recognition in the country he fought so bravely for.
"The old justice delayed is justice denied," said Assemblyman Jack McEneny. "I think this may be that national push from the people that out to put it right over the top."
If you want to sign the petition, visit www.schumer.senate.gov.