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November 11, 2013 / Gregory Williams

Veterans Day: Henry Lincoln Johnson

Pretty much everything I know about Henry Lincoln Johnson I learned from reading “Badass” by Ben Thompson. With respect to Mr. Thompson I shall try to tell Mr. Johnson’s story without plagiarising his work. Henry_Johnson

Basically this is the gist of it. Johnson enlisted in the Army in World War I because he was a patriot, and he was pretty tired of carrying heavy crap around for white people in New York City.

When he got to Europe, his unit, the 369th “Harlem Hell Fighters”, was given every crap job in the theater of war until finally the French, who by this time had their balls in a vice and were pissed that the Americans had not yet committed themselves to combat on the front lines, were given command of this all Black American unit which they threw at the Germans as soon as they could.

One night while on guard duty with his buddy Needham Roberts, their position was attacked by no less than thirty Germans.

In the initial assault both men were wounded with grenades, shotgun, and/or revolver fire. Incapacitated, as such, the Germans tried to haul Roberts away as a prisoner, but Johnson pulled himself to his feet and decided that wasn’t going to happen. He attacked the Germans with his rifle while throwing every grenade he had at them, and when the grenades ran out and the rifle failed (being a Springfield 1903, and not the M1 Garand pictured in Mr. Thompson’s book), he beat as many as he could to death with the rifle’s stock. When wielding the rifle became untenable, probably because of his multiple gun shot wounds, he laid into the Germans with a Bolo knife. Why a guy from New York City carried a Bolo knife (a type of machete) is anyone’s guess.

Johnson killed over a dozen Germans including their officer, and sent the rest fleeing into the night.

The next morning, the two men were found around a blazing camp fire singing Jazz songs. Each was alive and well despite wounds that normal men would have already died from.

The 369th saw more consecutive days of combat than any other American unit in the war, and were the first Americans to cross the Rhine after the Huns decided to cut and run.

Johnson was awarded some French medals, received the American Distinguished Service Cross, and was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor.

He died in 1929 as one of the greatest unsung American combat heroes to ever live.

For more information on Henry Lincoln Johnson please search the web, or check out “Badass” by Ben Thompson. The photo of Mr. Johnson was taken from Wikipedia.

Update: I may be wrong about what kind of rifle the 369th was issued, being on the short end of the supply chain and under French command those boys could have been using any number of rifles. I am however certain it was not an M1 Garand as it had not been invented yet. Also, I should note that Ben Thompson did not create the illustrations for his book.

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2 Comments

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  1. Gregory Williams / Jun 2 2015 5:11 pm

    Reblogged this on Social Williams and commented:

    Reblogging to note the good news. Henry Lincoln Johnson has finally received his Medal of Honor.

    http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/06/02/411270886/harlem-hellfighter-and-jewish-soldier-get-long-overdue-medals-of-honor

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