A U.S. Army base in western Louisiana has renamed itself in honor of a World War I vet.
On Tuesday (June 13), The Associated Press reported that the change celebrated Sgt. William Henry Johnson’s legacy. He was a Black hero of WWI who received a Medal of Honor almost a century later, per the outlet.
Before being switched to Fort Johnson, the base was called Fort Polk after Leonidas Polk, a Confederate commander. The change is also a part of the nation’s military’s efforts to “address historic racial injustice.” Eight other army bases whose names honored Confederate leaders are included in the renaming endeavor. In a Twitter post, Brig. Gen. David Garner, the Joint Readiness Training Center commanding general at Fort Johnson, spoke about the vet. “Sgt. William Henry Johnson embodied the warrior spirit, and we are deeply honored to bear his name,” he tweeted.
Sgt. William Henry Johnson embodied the warrior spirit, and we are deeply honored to bear his name at the Home of Heroes! https://t.co/wyfIroeohh
— Warrior_6 (@JRTC_FTJohnson) June 11, 2023
According to the National Museum of the United States Army, Johnson fought off a German night raid near the Argonne Forest while serving on the frontline in France in 1918. He was injured 21 times as he engaged in combat and prevented a Black fellow soldier from being taken as a prisoner. When he ran out of grenades, Johnson used a knife to fatally wound two German soldiers. “His frantic attacks broke the German morale, and the enemy raiding party retreated,” his museum biography shared.
After surviving the war, Former President Theodore Roosevelt called Johnson one of the “five bravest Americans to serve in the conflict.” However, the Army did not recognize Johnson’s action, AP News mentioned. He did not receive the Purple Heart and was denied a disability allowance. He struggled upon his return to Albany, New York due to his injuries. In 1929, Johnson died at age 32 from a heart condition. In 2015, Johnson was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”
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