Achievements of Four African American Soldiers who Served in WWI

Do you ever wonder what black people did during World War One? Well I did and I immediately dived into a world of research where I managed to come up with this brief blog that will satisfy your curiosity. You might probably have imagined all blacks to have been full time slaves during this dark era. You could have imagined that all they could do when drafted into the military was to be used as bait for the Germans by  placing them  at the frontlines so as to be wiped out first hence shielding the French native soldiers from danger. Well I’m here to inform you that there was more to this…

With World War One raging in Europe, African soldiers were shipped into Europe and were forced to fight for their colonial masters between (1914 to 1918) where by countries like France recruited most of the soldiers because the country had limited man power which would hinder their victory against Germany. More than two million Africans who were  shipped into Europe were killed and the aftermath brought seismic changes in Africa that remain the root of conflicts in many African countries.

“Harlem hell fighters” while in France 1917

In late December of 1917 The 369th Infantry Regiment a.k.a the “Harlem Hell Fighters” were an infantry regiment of the New York army national guard during world war 1 and 2 they were also the first black regiment to reach the  European shores. And for their great acts of bravery patriotism and dedication they were decorated with various awards such as the army Medal of Honor Croix de Guerre(war cross),Purple Heart some of the great soldiers who played a great role that led to Frances victory over  Germany include:

  1. Corporal Henry Johnson.     

He was an American USA army soldier who was born in 1897 and died on July 1st 1929.
He was a brave soldier who served one tour of duty to the western edge of Argorre forest in Frances champagne region from 1918-1919.
During the war he used a knife, rifle and his hands to fight a dozen of German soldiers.

  1. Needham Roberts 

He was a brave 16 year old drug store clerk who left home and lied to an army recruiter that he was 19 years old at that point so that he could join the army. While in the army he was attacked and raided by Germans while administering in the French army he got wounded and his injuries disabled him enough to the point where the Germans attempted to grab him and hold him hostage as a prisoner but he later on got rescued by Henry Johnson who attacked Germans with a bolo knife rescued Robert and repelled the attack which saved him from this fate but it was only after his death where Needham roberts was awarded the Purple Heart award in 1966.

  1. Freddie Stowers 

He was a brave soldier and member of the Harlem Hell Fighters born on 12th Jan 1896 and died on September 28th 1918 he was awarded with a Purple Heart Medal of Honor from the American unit under French command. he also worked on a farm before being drafted into the US in 1917 at the age of 21. In the early morning hours of September 28th 1918 Corporal Stowers company was ordered to take the heavily defended Hill 188 overlooking Ardeuil et Montfauxelles in the Ardennes region of France from the Germans. But during the combat the Germans managed to kill half of Stowers company including his lieutenant and higher ranked non commissioned officers Corporal Stowers took command of the depleted company and urged them forward. Stowers and the remaining soldiers took the first German trench and neutralized one machine-gun position. As Stowers was leading his men to the second German trench, he was mortally wounded by German machine-gun fire. As he lay wounded, he urged his company forward to overtake the German position. The men forged ahead and dislodged the Germans from Hill 188. Stowers died there that day. He was buried along with 133 of his comrades at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial east of Romagne-sous-Montfaucon in France.

  1. James Reese Europe 

He was an American composer also known as Jim Europe who was part of the Harlem Hell Fighters he was the first African American to introduce jazz to Europe and he led the French to discover toys of syncopation he was an American ragtime and early jazz band leader and arranger who was born on 22nd February 1881 and passed on May 1919 after being stabbed by an unstable band member after on concert in Boston As a conductor and composer, he is credited with bringing ragtime and jazz to European audiences. He enlisted in what was to become the 369th Regiment (Harlem Hellfighters) during World War I and was band leader and also became an officer in charge of one of the machine gun squads, making him the first African-American officer to command troops during war time.

This article was written by Letasi Thelma.


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