New display honors Albany WWI hero Henry Johnson
By Shaniece Holmes-Brown
via the Albany Times Union newspaper (NY) web site
ALBANY - For the next 10 weeks, visitors will be able to view artifacts and a special honor associated with a real American hero at an Albany City Hall display.
The man: World War I soldier Sgt. Henry Johnson of Albany.
The artifacts: A bolo knife, helmet and insignia he would have carried.
And it wouldn't be complete without the actual Medal of Honor he was awarded posthumously and only recently.
Mayor Kathy Sheehan unveiled the exhibit Thursday morning at City Hall. Also gathered were federal, state, city and county elected officials and their representatives, military and veteran leaders, advocates and the Albany High School Henry Johnson Battalion Junior ROTC.
“This is going to be an opportunity for everybody to see the symbol of one of our greatest war heroes in Albany, and somebody who has recently been recognized,” said Dennis Gaffney, the mayor's communications coordinator. "But people haven’t been able to see the medal or touch the history. That’s why we brought it here for 10 weeks.”
Johnson came to Albany with his family from North Carolina when he was a teenager, according to a history provided by the city. On June 5, 1917, he enlisted in the U.S. Army but because of racial segregation and the refusal of the Army to allow Black soldiers to participate in combat, members of 369th Infantry Regiment, the "Harlem Hellfighters," fought under French command.
In May 1918, he single-handedly fought off a German attack and saved the life of a fellow soldier using a rifle, a knife and grenades. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre, France’s highest award for valor, the first American to receive the honor.
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