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    Sgt. Henry Johnson recognized with mural at NY National Guard training site

    Sgt. Henry Johnson Mural Unveiling at Camp Smith, N.Y.

    Photo By Spc. Angela Minardi | New York Army National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Andrew H. Lampkins, the Command...... read more read more



    Story by Eric Durr and Spc. Marla Ogden

    New York National Guard

    CAMP SMITH TRAINING SITE, New York-The new simulations center at the New York National Guard’s Camp Smith Training Site, now includes a mural dedicated to Sgt. Henry Johnson, a World War I Soldier who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2015.

    The mural salutes the New York National Guard Soldier who served with the all-Black 369th Harlem Hellfighters, said Timothy Connor, the training site director.

    Buildings at Camp Smith are named for Medal of Honor winners, but none of those Soldiers were African-American, Connor said.

    Dedicating a mural of Henry Johnson at this building was a way to include one of the New York National Guard’s Black heroes, he added.
    "These kinds of symbols are important and young Soldiers today need to see themselves in the heroes we commemorate," Connor said.

    Johnson became famous following a May 15, 1918 incident in which he single-handedly defeated a German raiding party and prevented Pvt. Needham Roberts from being taken prisoner. At one point Johnson was fighting hand-to-hand with a bolo knife.

    Johnson was profiled in newspaper articles and President Theodore Roosevelt called him “one the five bravest soldiers in the war”. Although he received the French Croix de Guerre, he received no American award during his lifetime.

    Retired New York State Command Sgt. Major Louis Wilson, who accepted Johnson’s posthumous Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama, said he was pleased to see Johnson remembered at Camp Smith.

    “I’m glad that the legacy of Sgt. Henry Johnson continues and hasn’t died because he is representation of all of us, no matter what race, religion, color, or gender,” Wilson said.

    “What it’s about for all of is to continue to fight, keep getting back up, just as Sgt. Johnson did, and to keep that legacy alive,” he added.

    Brig. Gen. Isabel Rivera Smith, the Director of Joint Staff, represented Major General Ray Shields, the Adjutant General of New York at the event.

    The mural, by Westchester County artist Chris Rios, depicts Johnson being greeted at the train station in Albany, New York, by New York Governor Al Smith after his return from combat in 1919. Johnson had worked as a luggage handler at the train station.

    Camp Smith is named for Governor Al Smith who served as governor from 1919 to 1920 and then again from 1923 to 1928 after an unsuccessful run for president.

    According to Rios, the subject matter came from an incident reported in a Public Broadcasting System documentary about Johnson.

    “It’s truly an honor to be here today. I have friends and family in the military, so I feel like I’m honoring my family, the military, and Henry Johnson all at the same time,” Rios said.

    “I’ve been building my own personal style and brand for the past five years, and I see that style more in this mural than anything else I’ve done before…I have an emotional attachment to this more than anything else I’ve done because this has so much meaning behind it, more than anyone will really understand,” he added.

    The new Camp Smith simulation center consolidates a number of high-tech training devices in one location, according to Lt. Col. Robert Zilzolfo, the training center manager.

    Soldiers can hone their marksmanship skills on a digital rifle and pistol range, learn to escape from a rolled over Humvee, and learn the basics of how to fire a machine gun mounted on a vehicle in one location.

    Diane Barton, long-time manager of Camp Smith’s billeting services, helped make the project a reality.

    “I’m really happy to be a part of this moment, it’s probably one of the best projects that I’ve ever done here at Camp Smith Training Site,” she said.

    “This mural touched home because I know the 369th very well, and many people in it, so this was a pleasure to do,” Barton said.

    The New York Army National Guard’s 369th Sustainment Brigade, a logistics unit, carries the lineage of honors of the 369th Infantry Regiment, which was originally organized as the 15th New York (Colored) Infantry Regiment.

    The regiment was organized in Harlem to give African-Americans an opportunity to serve in a segregated Army.

    When America entered World War I in 1917 Black Americans from around the country enlisted in the regiment. The unit was shipped to France, but originally the Soldiers were put to work unloading ships because American officers distrusted Black troops.

    But the French Army accepted Black Soldiers, and the 15th New York, renamed the 369th Infantry, fought with the French Army until the War ended in November 1918.

    They were the first African American unit in the U.S. Army to engage in combat overseas and had more days in combat than any other American unit, serving 191 days in the front lines. The 369th was also the first allied unit to reach the Rhine River and occupy German territory at the end of the war

    The French government awarded the Croix de Guerre to 170 individual members of the 369th, as well as a Croix de Guerre citation to the unit as a whole.

    The 369th’s Soldiers called themselves “The Black Rattlers” and the French soldiers called them hommes de bronze or Men of Bronze. Their German enemies called the “hollenkampfer” or Hellfighters and that was the name that stuck.

    When the regiment returned to New York in 1919 it was honored with a parade. Johnson was one of its most famous members and was sent on a speaking tour. But when he started talking about the way the Army had mistreated Black Soldiers the tours ended.

    Johnson sustained 21 injuries during his military service and died in 1929 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

    He was recognized with the posthumous award of the Purple Heart in 1996 and with the Distinguished Service Cross in 2002 before finally being recognized with the Medal of Honor.



    Date Taken: 02.26.2021
    Date Posted: 02.26.2021 16:53
    Story ID: 390095
    Location: CAMP SMITH, NY, US

    Web Views: 310
    Downloads: 0