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Honoring Black WWI Soldiers of Kentucky
They earned Medals of Valor and the name "Harlem Hellfighters"
By Lisa Aug
News from the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs
FRANKFORT, KY (3 Feb 2017) - Black Kentuckians were among the most decorated fighters of World War 1. As members of the 369th Infantry Regiment, they earned the name "Harlem Hellfighters" bestowed by the German enemy for the ferociousness with which the all-African-American unit fought.
Belittled by their American comrades and commanders, the men of the 369th were welcomed with open arms by the French army, which was in dire need of men. The 369th fought not just for the French and the allied cause, but also to prove themselves and by extension all African-Americans to the white society that discriminated against them.
On one tour the unit was in combat for more than six months - longer than any other unit in World War 1. The Harlem Hellfighters never lost a man through capture, never lost a trench or a foot of ground to the enemy. Two of the unit earned Medals of Honor and many earned the Distinguished Service Cross. The government of France gave its highest medal of valor - the Croix de Guerre - to many of the men and to the unit as a whole. The Harlem Hellfighters made their point many times over and paved the way for future black soldiers.
Kentuckians who fought with the Harlem Hellfighters include Private Bert Beckham, Private Robert Wooten, Private Bradley Logan and Private Ionia Harris, all of Shelbyville, and Private Leonard Todd of Finchville. Their military records are incomplete, but they appear to include the notation "MoH," an abbreviation often used for Medal of Honor. Although none of the men are listed among the official recipients of the Medal of Honor, "MoH" could refer to the Croix de Guerre, France's equivalent medal of valor, which France awarded to many of the Harlem Hellfighters.
According to John Trowbridge, courtesy of the Kentucky National Guard.
"One of those Kentuckians who would serve and later become the only black Soldier from Anderson County to die in the First World War was John Ray Carter. John Ray's two brothers, Sam and Ira would also serve in the war. Sam with the 167th and Ira with the 801st Pioneer Infantry Regiment.Watch a video about the Harlem Hellfighters here:
Kentucky is commemorating the Centennial of World War I
For the next two and a half years, Kentucky is commemorating the Centennial of America's involvement in World War 1. The Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs administers the Kentucky World War 1 Centennial Committee, which includes members from more than 26 local, state and national organizations.
The Centennial officially begins on April 6, 2017, which is the 100th anniversary of America's entry into the War, and ends in the summer of 2019, the 100th anniversary of the last American service members arriving home.
There are many WWI Centennial events throughout the Commonwealth taking place now and through 2019. Find those events, along with photos of WW1 Monuments in Kentucky and articles about Kentucky during World War 1 at the Kentucky pages of the national World War 1 Centennial Commission website, and the World War 1 Centennial page of the KDVA website.
This story was posted on 2017-02-03 14:58:57
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