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Frederick Joseph @FredTJoseph
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Thread: The 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion – the first African American unit in the segregated US Army to come ashore on D-Day. #DDay
All films about the storming of Omaha Beach in France on June 6, 1944 don’t show any black soldiers. Most textbooks never mention them, but they were there, fighting against tyranny — all while dealing with it at home and in the military.
The 320th were charged with raising hydrogen-filled balloons over the beaches anchored to steel cables. Tucked under the 125-pound gasbags were small bombs .

Until the beaches were cleared, the 320th were infantry troops as well. Digging trenches and round up German troops.
They suffered daily humiliations at the hands of white commanders who considered them less intelligent and courageous than white men. It didn’t matter to them that nearly 2000 Black soldiers had landed in Normandy that day to fight alongside them.
Even still, they did what they were asked to protect the freedoms that they weren’t fully given.

They carried the wounded to safety and buried the dead. They drove ambulances, earth-movers and the trucks that would supply the front lines.
Amongst the 320th was Waverly Bernard "Woody" Woodson, Jr. a 21-year-old med student from Philly. He didn’t wait for a draft notice. He left Lincoln University and signed up for the Army. He finished training as a commissioned officer, but there were no positions available.
Black officers in #WWII were limited by quotas and the rule they not lead white officers junior to them. So he retrained as a medic with the 320th. Wounded twice as his boat drifted toward the beach, Corporal Woodson would save many lives until he collapsed 30 hours later.
The black press dubbed him “No. 1 Invasion Hero” and began calling on the White House to award him the Medal of Honor.

A sole piece of paper exists today in the National Archives revealing that Woodson was, in fact, a candidate for the nation’s highest award for bravery.
After an Army study found pervasive racism was to blame for slights against blacks, President Clinton awarded seven Medals of Honor to Blacks in 1997. Only one man was alive to shake the his hand.

Woody was not among them, he received a Bronze Star instead.

He passed in 2005.
In 2009 the White House and the French government decided to honor the soldiers of the 320th. They received the Legion of Honour from France and thanks from President Barack Obama in Normandy for the 65th anniversary of D-Day.
These are just some of the stories of the brave Black soldiers who have fought for our freedoms while dealing with the oppression of racism and an erasure from from history.

This #DDay lets honor them, and thank them for their sacrifices.
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