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Park University project working to verify WWI soldiers of color who deserve Medal of Honor

Black and white photograph of African-American soldiers in uniform standing and sitting on a boat deck. They are smiling and mugging for the camera while wearing their full packs and some are holding rifles.
National Archives
Members of the 369th Infantry Regiment, also known as the Harlem Hellfighters, return from France following the end of WWI. Researchers have been working to find WWI service members who should have received the Medal of Honor, but didn't because of their race.

There has been no systematic review of the actions of the nearly one million ethnically diverse members of the military who served in World War I.

For years Park University has been trying to correct a wrong of the first World War.

Through its George S. Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War, researchers have been working to find World War I service members who should have received the Medal of Honor, but didn't because of their race.

A documentary exploring the center’s work is set for its debut on March 24 at the National World War I Museum and Memorial.

The 25-minute film, “More Than a Medal,” interweaves the efforts of the researchers working against time, with the untold stories of courage on the battlefields, on the seas and in the air, and the experience of modern-day descendants as they maintain cautious hope of recognition.

“Valor never expires” is one of the working themes of this project. To date, researchers have identified 214 service members — 105 Jewish Americans, 73 African Americans, 23 Native Americans, 12 Hispanic Americans and one Asian American — who have qualified for review.

To be eligible for the review, a veteran must have received a Distinguished Service Cross/Navy Cross and/or the French Croix de Guerre with Palm and/or been recommended for a Medal of Honor but was downgraded. For the university's Valor Medals Review the service member had to be from one of the five ethnic groups.

Dr. Tim Westcott, director of the George S. Robb Centre, says of verifying a medal of honor candidate, "There is a lot of study and the process, even current process, can take years."

The project only has until 2025 to find possible candidates, assemble verifying materials and submit nominations to the Department of Defense for consideration.

  • Dr. Tim Westcott, director of the Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War at Park University
  • Alex Goldstein, co-producer/co-director, “More Than a Medal”
  • Clark Slater, co-producer/co-director, “More Than a Medal”

"More Than a Medal" will be shown at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 24 at the National World War I Museum and Memorial, 2 Memorial Dr, Kansas City, Missouri 64108. Admission to the event is free and open to the public, but reservations are requested.

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