Nearly 100 years after their heroic deeds, two World War I Army veterans were awarded the Medal of Honor, America’s highest military honor, on Tuesday. Historians say Sgts. William Shemin and Henry Johnson hadn’t been properly recognized for their bravery under fire.
Discussing Sgt. Shemin’s service, President Obama says he “couldn’t stand to watch” as wounded comrades lay on the battlefield, in “a bloodbath.” Shemin “ran out into the hell of no-man’s land” three times to drag soldiers to safety.
Obama tells the story of Johnson’s bravery under fire after his position came under attack. It started with a “click,” the president says — the sound of Germans cutting through barbed wire.
“In just a few minutes of fighting, two Americans defeated an entire raiding party,” Obama said.
Photo credit: Shemin Family Photo/U.S. Army
Caption: World War I veterans Sgts. William Shemin and Henry Johnson
“He was the son of Russian immigrants, and he was devoted to his Jewish faith. “His family lived through the pogroms,” she says. “They saw towns destroyed and children killed. And then they came to America. And here they found a haven – a home – success – and my father and his sister both went to college. All that, in one generation! That’s what America meant to him. And that’s why he’d do anything for this country.”