Mr. DOGGETT. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I thank our colleague, the gentleman from New York (Mr. McNulty), for introducing this legislation which was unanimously reported by the Committee on Government Reform on September 15. It enjoys the full support of the entire New York delegation.
Sergeant Henry Johnson, an Albany native, served in the U.S. Army from June 1917 until February 1919. As an African American, he was unable to fight at that time in an American combat unit, and therefore, he became part of what was known as the ``Harlem Hell Fighters,'' who fought in Europe under the French flag with great courage and distinction.
While on duty, he single-handedly fought off a German raider party of more than 20 troops, and despite numerous wounds, he rescued a fellow soldier from capture and killed several enemy soldiers. As a result of his heroism, as our colleague has indicated, he received numerous medals.
When he returned from Europe to a segregated America, he experienced great difficulty and died unrecognized by his own country in 1929. I truly believe that it is never too late to reward a person for service to their country, and for that reason, I am pleased to join with the gentleman from New York (Mr. McNulty) and our other colleagues to redesignate a U.S. postal facility in Albany after Henry Johnson.
I urge swift passage of this legislation.
Mr. McNULTY. Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for yielding.
On behalf of the gentleman from New York (Mr. Rangel), the gentleman from New York (Mr. Sweeney) and all of the New York delegation, I am proud to support H.R. 480 which designates the U.S. postal service facility at 747 Broadway in Albany, New York, as the Henry Johnson Annex.
Henry Johnson was a native of Albany, served in World War I, and was an African American who joined the all-black New York National Guard unit, the 369th Infantry Regiment, based in Harlem.
Mr. Speaker, about 400,000 black soldiers served in the Armed Forces at that time. Half were sent overseas, and many were stationed in France. They were not allowed to serve with white soldiers. They were not allowed to fight with American combat units. But the members of the 369th soon proved themselves. They became known as the ``Harlem Hell Fighters,'' and that was not a name they took for themselves. That was a name given to them by their enemies.
No one personified the bravery of the 369th more than Henry Johnson. On guard duty on May 14, 1918, then-Private Johnson came under attack by a German raider party of two dozen. Despite sustaining 21 wounds, he single-handedly fought off the Germans and rescued one of his buddies ..... with only a rifle and his bare hands. He became the first American of any color--in any conflict--to receive the Croix de Guerre, France's highest military declaration.
His exploits got newspaper coverage in America and throughout Europe. He was featured in Teddy Roosevelt's book, ``Rank and File: True Stories of the Great War.'' The Army used Johnson's name and likeness to advertise for war bonds and to recruit minorities into service.
Yet, at that time, despite all he had done, Johnson received no official recognition from his government. None. That recognition came much later.
After the war, Henry Johnson returned to upstate New York and worked on the railroad. He later died penniless on the streets of Albany, New York.
Since integration of the military in 1950, some African American service men and women have been recognized for their gallant service. Recognition of African Americans prior to integration, alarmingly neglected for so many years, had finally begun.
It was not until 1997, Mr. Speaker, that Henry Johnson was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. I was proud to be there for that ceremony. In 2002, his grave was found in Arlington National Cemetery, not in the pauper's cemetery outside of Albany where he was believed to be buried. In 2003, at the Pentagon, in an official service, Herman Johnson, the son of Henry Johnson, a distinguished veteran himself, accepted the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's number two award, for his Dad.
In 2003, Mr. Speaker. Henry Johnson did all of these things in 1918, and it took until 2003 to award him the Distinguished Service Cross. Many of us [Page: H7364]
are still disappointed that despite all of the documentation we have given to the Pentagon that he has not received the award that he truly deserves, which is the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Mr. Speaker, today, I want to give public thanks to John Howe, the historian of Albany's 369th Veterans Association and all of his colleagues who have worked for years and years to get these recognitions for Henry Johnson.
I want to thank the gentleman from New York (Mr. Rangel) and the gentleman from New York (Mr. Sweeney), both of whom have taken leadership positions in making sure that we correct these injustices of the past, along with Senators CLINTON and SCHUMER who have been stalwart supporters of the effort to award the Congressional Medal of Honor to Henry Johnson.
Mr. Speaker, the cause endures. I thank all of my colleagues today for supporting this bill, but believe me, Mr. Speaker, based on the record, we should be doing a lot more than naming a post office building after Henry Johnson. We have worked hard through the years. We got the Purple Heart and we got the Distinguished Service Cross. We need to go the final step and obtain the Congressional Medal of Honor for Henry Johnson.
I thank all the members of our New York delegation, and the many others in the Congress and across this country for staying with us in this battle through the years. In the end, Mr. Speaker, justice shall prevail.