He almost didn’t make it ashore.
Cpl. Waverly B. Woodson Jr., an Army medic in the only African American combat unit to storm the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, was bleeding from his thigh and backside, writhing from the burning shrapnel that hailed down on him and his battalion.
His landing craft came under heavy German fire and hit a mine as it approached Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. Despite his critical wounds, Woodson sprinted onto the sand once his boat crashed ashore and set up a medical station, according to an account of his actions in the book “Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, at Home and at War,” by Linda Hervieux.
For the next 30 hours, Woodson extracted bullets from fellow soldiers, cleaned their wounds, rescued four Brits from drowning and amputated one soldier’s foot, before finally collapsing from his own injuries.
“Dozens, if not hundreds, of lives of his fellow soldiers were saved” because of his “outstanding courage and bravery,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who is leading a push in Congress to award Woodson a posthumous Medal of Honor, the nation’s most prestigious military decoration for acts of valor.
Woodson is one of an untold number of Black service members passed over for the Medal of Honor whose cases have received renewed attention decades later, as their families and historians try to correct a historical record in which the contributions of Black service members are often left out.
Of hundreds of thousands of Black Americans who served in World War II, not a single one was awarded a Medal of Honor. Nearly a half century after the war ended, an Army investigation found that racism was without a doubt one of the main reasons.