D-Day and black soldiers: Excluded heroes

The 320th Anti-Aircraft Balloon Battalion inflated and held helium balloons to stop German aircrafts from attacking during D-Day.
The 320th Anti-Aircraft Balloon Battalion inflated and held helium balloons to stop German aircrafts from attacking during D-Day.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day — the day of the Normandy landings initiating the effort to liberate mainland  Europe was from Nazi occupation during World War II. Today, President Obama spoke at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Omaha Beach.

But the contributions of black soldiers are continuously overlooked. Why?

Of the 31,912 troops landing on Omaha and Utah beaches, approximately 1,200 were black. These soldiers made up one section of the 3,275th Quartermaster Service Company and less than one battery of the 320th Anti-aircraft Balloon Battalion. The balloons they deployed were meant to protect those storming the beach from low-flying aircraft.

In the book, The Exclusion of Black Soldiers from the Medal of Honor in World War II, a team of writers worked to pay homage to the contributions of Cpl. Waverly B. Woodson Jr. of Battery C of the 320th Balloon Battalion. Despite Woodson’s love for his country, he was still treated as a second-class citizen, like many other blacks in uniform in the 1940s. According to The Grio, Woodson served as a medical corpsman with the 320th and rode in a landing craft during the initial assault on Omaha Beach.

He reportedly suffered a shrapnel wound to the groin when the vessel struck a floating mine upon approach. Under continuous mortar and machine gun fire, Woodson ignored his own wounds and assisted in establishing an aid station on the beach. He remained on continuous duty treating casualties for the next 18 hours. He then assisted in retrieving and reviving three soldiers who had nearly drowned while leaving a landing craft that had slipped its anchor and drifted into deep water. Talk about a hero!

Sergeant Waverly B. Woodson was awarded the Bronze Star Citation for meritorious achievement in the face of enemy fire.
Sgt. Waverly B. Woodson was awarded the Bronze Star Citation for meritorious achievement in the face of enemy fire.

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