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The only African-American Medal of Honor recipient from WW1

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BerichtGeplaatst: 12 Jul 2008 17:28    Onderwerp: The only African-American Medal of Honor recipient from WW1 Reageer met quote

Freddie Stowers:
The only African-American Medal of Honor recipient from WW1

When Freddie Stowers signed up to fight in WWI, it was with the intent of serving his country in a time of need, pure and simple. It didn’t matter that he was one of the few African-American soldiers to fight or that he was relegated to the all-black 371st Infantry Regiment, 93rd Infantry Division, due to segregation.

When Stowers, a Sandy Springs native, joined the Army in 1917, it was with a clear head and an intense conviction to serve. And when he died on a battlefield in France leading his regiment, history shows, it was with the same conviction and same dedication to his country and his fellow soldiers.

His noble efforts in battle earned him a Medal of Honor, making him the only African-American medal recipient from WWI.

Cpl. Stowers’ story will be part of an hourlong segment of “History Detectives” tonight. The PBS show airing on ETV examines the secrets of American history, and tonight’s episode will look at the 371st Regiment, which was based at Fort Jackson in Columbia.

Frances Esaw, one of Stowers’ nieces who lives in Pendleton, says she is happy to see her uncle and his fellow soldiers getting recognition through the show. For many years, Esaw says, she knew little more of her uncle than that he died in the war. It wasn’t until 1991 that she learned the details of her uncle’s service and death.

“The importance of that is to let people know,” Esaw says simply. “That should have been in the history books. Because that happened back in 1918, and he got killed in the war and his bravery, his heroism that he went through there, somebody should have known. Our kids should know about him.”

Stowers died when opposing German forces raised a white flag of surrender during a battle. When his men emerged from their trench, the Germans fired, hitting Stowers.

The story goes that the courageous soldier continued to lead his mean, crawling on the ground and then shouting encouragement when he could move no further.

“He was determined that he was going to go ahead and fight, and that’s what he did,” Esaw says. “That’s a very strong trait with the family.”

Esaw says Stowers’ Medal of Honor was awarded officially in 1991 in a ceremony conducted by President George Bush. Members of Stowers’ family, including two of his surviving sisters, Esaw and several other nieces and nephews, were present to receive the medal.

The posthumous honor was followed by the dedication of Freddie Stowers Elementary School in Fort Benning, Ga. Barracks at Fort Benning and a statue in Sandy Springs also have been dedicated to Stowers’ memory. Today, the medal is on display at the Anderson County Museum to teach others about the period of history in which it was earned, Esaw says.
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