Theolus "B" Wells, one of the men featured in FORGOTTEN, passed away July 16. He was 96. Mr. Wells, 96, of Orangeburg, South Carolina, shared a foxhole on Utah Beach on D-Day. "I didn't have enough sense to be scared," he said, explaining that he was just a kid. During his time in Britain training for the invasion, he was often mistaken for the boxing champ Joe Louis. He didn't always correct the mistake, he said with a smile, especially if the person asking him happened to be a lady. You can read more about him here.
Today is the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, the beginning of the end of World War II. Few of the men of I interviewed for my book "Forgotten" are still with us, but Henry Parham of Pittsburgh, 96, of Pittsburgh, is one of them. On May 7, 2013, the French Embassy in Washington, DC, awarded him the Legion of Honor for his service on that very long day. His war story begins in Dec. 1942, when the draft letter came in the mail. “They got me,” he said. Parham's reluctance to serve wasn’t rooted in the extreme difficulties of serving in a racist Jim Crow army where he knew he would be treated as less than a man. He didn't lack patriotism. His reasons were more practical. He had left a sleepy corner of rural Virginia where mostly everyone he knew worked as a sharecropper. He wanted something better, and was happy to land a steady job as a porter at a bus station in Richmond, Va., where he was earning a sum that provided, for the first time in his 21 years, a dose of security. Yet he boarded a train bound for a new Army training camp in Tennessee, and trained to fly giant balloons. That secret mission would take him across the sea to a 5-mile-long patch of sand called Omaha Beach. There, Parham would be tested as never before. You can read more about him and the men of D-Day's only African-American combat unit in my book and here.
Good news! WWII Navy hero Carl Clark, 100, will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Mr. Clark helped saved his ship and many shipmates after a Japanese kamikaze attack but was denied proper recognition. Like Waverly Woodson, the Army Medal of Honor nominee I have written about extensively on this page, Mr. Clark was a victim of the US military's policy of denying top honors to African Americans. He finally got a Commendation Medal-- and a thank you -- in 2012. I'll always be thankful to Ricki Stevenson, Robin Bates and Constance Bryan for bringing us together last March for a talk at UC Berkeley. Dapper in his Navy uniform -- it still fit him perfectly -- he was still going strong and was a compelling speaker. He also wrote a memoir. Click here to read more about Mr. Clark.
The 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion spent a brief, but blissful, time in the villages ringing Pontypool in southern Wales. Here, the men were welcomed as friends. Jessie and Godfrey Prior family took in homesick GI WIlson Monk, who became a surrogate son. Members of the Prior family helped in the research for Forgotten and several attended Linda's talk at the Pontypool Museum on Dec. 10, 2016. It was a great day!
Among the thousands of soldiers who landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day, there were two young men whose stories were remarkably similar. They both raced along the shooting gallery at the water's edge pulling the wounded to safety. One was injured during the landing. The other was not. One received the Medal of Honor. The other did not. Read about their stories HERE in The Daily Beast.
Thanks to NPR's Here & Now, recorded at WBUR in Boston, for inviting Linda Hervieux on the show to talk about FORGOTTEN: The Untold Story of D-Day's Black Heroes, At Home and At War. They also published an excerpt from the book. Read it here.
Should D'Day's hero medic, Waverly Woodson, receive the Medal of Honor? That was question Al Sharpton explored on his MSNBC show PoliticsNation. Woodson, dubbed the invasion's No. 1 hero by the black press, was nominated for the nation's highest honor, though he never received it. His widow, Joann Woodson, eloquently made the case to Sharpton about her husband's heroism. Linda's Hervieux's book FORGOTTEN: The Untold Story of D-Day's Black Heroes, At Home and At War, makes the case for Woodson to posthumously receive this important award. See the interview here.