Today seven African American World War II veterans will be honored with the Congressional Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony. Despite the fact that more than 1.2 million African Americans fought in World War II, not one black World War II veteran has ever received the nation’s highest military honor.
Vernon Joseph Baker will be the only living African American veteran to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor today. He is being recognized for his heroism in April 1945 near Viareggio, Italy, when his company was stopped by concentrated fire from several enemy machine gun emplacements. He destroyed four of the machine gun nests, occupied an exposed position and drew enemy fire allowing his company personnel to evacuate. One the following night, Lieutenant Baker voluntarily led a battalion through enemy mine fields and heavy fire.
We caught up with Vernon Baker last night at a dinner in his honor at the Cosmos Club in Washington D.C.
TAPE: VERNON BAKER, who, later today, will be the only living black World War II veteran to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.
TAPE: GEN. COLIN POWELL, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers is one of the six soldiers being posthumously honored today. The reason has largely to do with a fifty year campaign waged by his white company commander in the 761st Tank Battalion, Captain David "DJ" Williams.
GUEST: DAVID "DJ" WILLIAMS, a former company commander in the 761st Tank Battalion, an all black unit in General Patton’s 3rd Army.
GUEST: E.G. MCCONNELL, an African American veteran who fought alongside Ruben Rivers in the 761st Tank Battalion, the Black Panthers.