Van Hollen, Trone Press President Trump to Posthumously Award Medal of Honor to Marylander Cpl. Waverly Woodson, Jr. for Heroism During WWII
Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Representative David Trone (both D-Md.) led over 15 of their colleagues in sending a bipartisan, bicameral letter urging President Donald Trump to posthumously award the Medal of Honor to the late World War II Corporal Waverly B. Woodson, Jr., a former resident of Clarksburg, Maryland.
The letter follows the introduction of legislation authored by Van Hollen and Trone last week that would authorize the President to award Corporal Woodson the Medal of Honor. In addition to Van Hollen and Trone, the letter was also signed by Sens. Toomey, Booker, Cardin, and Casey and Reps. Brown, Demings, Evans, Harris, Hayes, Hoyer, Jackson Lee, Mfume, Moore, Norton, Pressley, Raskin, Ruppersberger, Rush, and Sarbanes.
“During the D-Day invasion, Cpl. Waverly Woodson, himself wounded by shrapnel, saved dozens – if not hundreds – of American lives. But his heroic actions never received the full recognition they merited – due to the color of his skin. It’s past time to right this historical wrong, and President Trump has the power to do so immediately. For five years, I’ve been proud to work alongside Mrs. Joann Woodson, joining her long-standing efforts to obtain full recognition of her husband’s valor. We will not relent until we get this done,” said Senator Van Hollen.
“The denial of the Medal of Honor for Corporal Woodson is an historic injustice, and President Trump has the power to right this wrong with the stroke of a pen,” said Congressman David Trone. “Thanks to the perseverance of Corporal Woodson’s widow, Joann Woodson, we have brought together Republicans and Democrats to urge the President to ensure this true American hero is appropriately recognized.”
Cpl. Woodson served as an Army medic assigned to the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, the only all-Black unit to storm the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. When German troops attacked the transport boat where he and other members of his battalion were positioned, Cpl. Woodson disregarded his own shrapnel wounds and worked for 30 hours to help his fellow wounded soldiers, saving countless lives. Although he was recommended for the Medal of Honor, Cpl. Woodson’s service record indicates that his heroism was overlooked due to the color of his skin.
The full text of the letter is available here and below.
Dear President Trump:
We write to express our deep concern regarding an unjust error that has deprived the late World War II Corporal Waverly B. Woodson, Jr. of the great honor that he and his family deserve.
Since its conception in the early 1860s, nearly 3,500 American heroes have been presented with the Medal of Honor, one of our nation’s most prestigious awards. The Medal of Honor was designed to acknowledge service members who have demonstrated incredible bravery and unwavering commitment to our country. Throughout history, recipients have put their lives at risk to protect others and to defend American values.
Today, we take time to recognize a forgotten hero. Cpl. Woodson served as an Army medic assigned to the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, the only all-Black unit to storm the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. When German troops attacked the transport boat where he and other members of his battalion were positioned, Cpl. Woodson disregarded his own shrapnel wounds and established a medical station. As the battle raged on, Cpl. Woodson worked for 30 hours to remove injured soldiers from harm’s way and perform grueling medical procedures, including an amputation.
We believe that Cpl. Woodson’s strength and courage embody the spirit of the Medal of Honor. And, documentation procured by historians such as Linda Hervieux suggests that high ranking officers felt similarly at the time. In a memorandum to the Roosevelt White House, War Department aide Phillio Nash disclosed that Cpl. Woodson’s Commanding Officer first recommended him for a Distinguished Service Cross before the office of U.S. General John C. H. Lee recommended Cpl. Woodson for a “Congressional medal” presented by the President. This description could only denote the Medal of Honor. Yet, Cpl. Woodson never received this recognition. Instead, Cpl. Woodson’s service record indicates that his heroism was overlooked due to the color of his skin. This is an insult to the sacrifices Cpl. Woodson made for our country.
As you may know, 52 Members of Congress, led by Senator Chris Van Hollen and the Congressional Black Caucus, wrote to Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy in July of 2019 requesting a formal review of this matter. In response, Brigadier General Robert W. Bennett praised Cpl. Woodson’s noteworthy actions, but failed to measurably assist in resolving this issue.
It is time for us to ensure that Cpl. Woodson’s true legacy lives on by awarding him a posthumous Medal of Honor. We are asking for your active involvement in correcting this historic injustice.
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