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Immortal Valor

Title:Immortal Valor - The Black Medal of Honor Winners Of World War II
Writer:Child, R.
Published:Osprey Publishing
Published in:2022

During the Second World War, many heroic acts were accomplished. Men, women, of all participating nations did remarkable things. This could be on the battlefield or in other places. The governments had various ways of rewarding the heroic deeds, varying from mentioning a unit in the local news to the awarding of individual medals. The highest American decoration a soldier could get was the Medal of Honor.

This medal was awarded during the Second World war quite a few times. In August 1945 there was a ceremony at the White House, Washington, D. C, where 28 Americans received the Medal of Honor. Harry S. McAlpin, a reporter, was also present at this ceremony and wrote about his experience:

"But somehow, I could not keep out of my mind that I was the only Negro in the room – there simply as a White House reporter. Out of a million Negroes in our Army, not one of those 28 heroes had a black skin. […] I thought of my dear friend Captain Charles Gandy, whose heroic deeds endeared him to the men under his command, and who lost his life on the battlefield in Italy saving his comrades and making possible the advance of his company. He, of course, could not have been there because he is dead." (Harry S. McAlpin, ‘Uncovering Washington’, Minneapolis Spokesman, 31 August 1945.)
At the end of the Second World war, many black Americans noticed various Americans had received the highest decoration, but that it hadn’t been awarded to someone with a darker complexion. Although the majority of the black Americans had served in support units, there had been various American combat units with black Americans, like the 761st Tank Battalion, the 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion, or the 92nd Infantry Division. None of the men who had fought, had received the highest decoration and this was conspicuous . The suspicion was that some men had surely deserved it, but that the medal wasn’t awarded due to their skin-color.

In 1992 an investigation was started why not one American of African descent had received the Medal of Honor and finally seven men were yet decorated with said decoration. These were: Charles Thomas, Vernon Baker, Willy James, Edward Carter, George Watson, Ruben Rivers, and John Fox.

In the book, Robert Child writes about these seven men. He tells about their youth, their military career, and finally the heroic act with which they had earned the decoration. In some cases he writes about the attempts of family members for recognition or what happened to the men after the war. Every man has his own chapter and is dealt with extensively. The seven men and their acts are also available online, but Child goes much further and shows them also as husbands, fathers, or sons.

The book finishes with a series of photographs of the persons involved, among others photographs that hadn’t been published before. It gives a good impression of the men. Personally, I would have appreciated it if the photographs were printed near the relevant chapter or in the beginning of the book, instead of at the end, but that’s just a minor detail.

The book shows how the heroes finally, decades too late, still received the recognition they deserve. For who wants to know more about these men or wants to know more about the participation of black Americans in the Second World War, this book is certainly a must!

Rating: (Very goodd)


Article by:
Samuel de Korte
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