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 months the men of FORGOTTEN spent training in the villages of Wales before D-Day left a lasting impression. For the black GIs of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, it was the first time in their lives they were welcomed as men, worthy of respect, just like the white Americans soldiers. To the Welsh, it was a brush with foreigners that they would never forget. For most of them, it was the first time they had men people of color. The black GIs -- the "tan Yanks" as they were affectionately called -- were the talk of the towns ringing Pontypool, Wales.
At an event on Sept. 24 to commemorate the black soldiers, historians, descendants of the soldiers, local residents and descendants of the families who welcomed the African Americans gathered at Trinity Methodist Church in Abersychan. Some of the men of FORGOTTEN like Wilson Monk were billeted there in early 1944. I was honored to be a part of the ceremony organized by the BBC to remember the black soldiers. Footage will be used in the upcoming series Black in Britain, set to air in November. The plaque affixed to the church wall behind me and historian Neil Sinclair honors the black soldiers. I'm looking forward to returning to the area on December 10 for a launch at the Pontypool Museum. See my events.
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.
Lowell Sun photographer Julie Malakie takes a selfie with Linda Hervieux on a frigid, windy day at the Centralville War Memorial in Lowell. Julia's photo and video with Linda appeared on page 1 of the Lowell Sun, along with Christopher Scott's page 1 story about the men of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, the only black combat unit to land on D-Day. Read the story here. FORGOTTEN also make page 1 of the Nashua Telegraph. Read the story here.
FORGOTTEN makes page 1 of the Lowell Sun on Dec. 4, 2015.
The Miami Book Fair offered first-time authors a chance to meet some seriously famous people, among them Georgia Congressman John Lewis. Linda Hervieux was particularly happy to meet Lewis, who has a new graphic novel out about his history fighting for civil rights. "Thank you for writing your book," the civil rights legend told Linda.
Veterans Day coverage of FORGOTTEN was overwhelming! The book made various TV, radio, print and websites. Linda Hervieux appeared with 320th veteran William Garfield Dabney in Roanoke, VA, on Nov. 10, to a full house at the Harrison Museum of African-American culture. On Nov. 11, she spoke at American University where she was joined by 320th vet Willie O. Howard and Joann Woodson, the wife of Waverly Woodson. The Woodson family has launched a campaign to obtain for him the Medal of Honor for his service on Omaha Beach.
See ABC7-TV's interview with Linda and Joann here.
ABC News reporter James Gordon Meek found a clip from Waverly Woodson's 1994 interview on the 50th anniversary of D-Day. See his report and video with Brian Ross here.
Hear Linda on the Kojo Nnamdi show on WAMU radio, Washington DC's NPR station here.
See Linda's interview on Bob Herbert's Op-Ed TV here.
See Linda's interview with NY1's Cheryl Wills here.
Richard Sisk at Military.com wrote up this piece on the Medal of Honor campaign, click here.