Henry Lincoln Johnson
Johnson in 1918, wearing his Croix de Guerre.
|Birth name||Henry Lincoln Johnson|
Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.
|Died||July 5, 1929 (aged 31–32)
New Lenox, Illinois, U.S.
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1917–1918|
|Battles/wars||World War I|
|Awards|| Distinguished Service Cross
Croix de guerre (Palm and Star)
|Relations||Herman A. Johnson (son)|
Henry Lincoln Johnson (1897 – July 5, 1929) was a United States Army soldier who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, and the French Croix de Guerre. He was the first American soldier in World War I to receive the Croix de Guerre with star and Gold Palm from the French government.
Early life and education
Johnson, an African American, was born in Alexandria, Virginia in 1897 and moved to Albany, New York when he was in his early teens. He worked as a redcap porter at the Albany Union Station on Broadway.
Johnson enlisted in the United States Army on June 5, 1917, joining the all-black New York National Guard unit, the 15th New York Infantry, which, when mustered into federal service was renamed the 369th Infantry Regiment, based in Harlem. Assigned to the French command in World War I, Johnson arrived in France on New Year’s Day, 1918. While on guard duty on May 14, 1918, Private Johnson came under attack by a German raider party. Johnson displayed uncommon heroism when, using his rifle and a bolo knife, he repelled the Germans, thereby rescuing a comrade from capture and saving the lives of his fellow soldiers. This act of valor earned him the nickname of "Black Death", as a sign of respect for his prowess in combat.
Returning home, Sgt. Johnson was paid to take part in a series of lecture tours. He appeared one evening in St. Louis and instead of delivering the expected tale of racial harmony in the trenches, he instead revealed the abuse black soldiers had suffered, such as white soldiers refusing to share trenches with blacks. Soon after this a warrant was issued for Johnson's arrest for wearing his uniform beyond the prescribed date of his commission and paid lecturing engagements dried up.
Johnson died in New Lenox, Illinois at the Veterans Hospital, on July 5, 1929, penniless, estranged from his wife and family and without official recognition from the U.S. government. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Interest in obtaining fitting recognition for Johnson grew during the 1970s and 1980s. In November 1991 a monument was erected in Albany, New York's Washington Park in his honor, and a section of Northern Boulevard was renamed Henry Johnson Boulevard.
In June 1996, Johnson was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart by President Bill Clinton. In February 2003, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second highest award, was presented to Herman A. Johnson, one of the Tuskegee Airmen, on behalf of his father. John Howe, a Vietnam War veteran who had campaigned tirelessly for recognition for Johnson, and U.S. Army Major General Nathaniel James, President of the 369th Veterans' Association, were present at the ceremony in Albany.
In December 2004 the Postal facility at 747 Broadway was renamed the "United States Postal Service Henry Johnson Annex".
On September 4, 2007 the City of Albany dedicated the Henry Johnson Charter School. Johnson's granddaughter was in attendance.
A 1918 commercial poster honoring Johnson's wartime heroics was the subject of an 2012 episode of the PBS television series History Detectives.
As of 2012, efforts continued to have Johnson awarded the Medal of Honor.
- Negro with a Hat, The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey and his Dream of Mother Africa, Colin Grant. p.113 ISBN 978-0-224-07868-9
- See General Order No. 9, 18 November 2005, at http://www.apd.army.mil/pdffiles/go0509.pdf.
- Henry Johnson, Sergeant, United States Army at www.arlingtoncemetery.net
- "Henry Lincoln Johnson". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2008-07-26.
- John Howe's presentation on Sergeant Henry Johnson
- In search of the Medal of Honor, Sergeant Henry Lincoln JohnsonN
- NY Army National Guard Hero Honored In Celebration of Black History Month
- Henry Lincoln Johnson Sergeant, United States Army