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Valor Medals Review - Our Goals

African-American Winners of the Croix De Guerre from the 369th Regiment, 1919 African-American Awardees of the Croix De Guerre from the 369th Regiment, 1919For every US conflict after 1941, Congress and the Department of Defense have reviewed the military’s process for awarding valor medals to ensure minority veterans were treated justly. No such review has occurred for World War One.

While the United States military has studied Medal of Honor awards to minority servicemembers in WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and subsequent American conflicts, no such systematic review has ever been conducted for minority veterans of the First World War.

Under current law, the exact same act of heroism completed by the exact same veteran would be eligible for review if it occurred in 1941, 1951, 1971, 1991, or 2001, but not 1918. We at the US World War One Commission, established by Congress in 2013, are aiming to rectify that and ensure our World War One heroes are forgotten no more.

America has a sacred bond with those who swore to defend her, and there is no more powerful manifestation of that covenant than the Medal of Honor. The gravity of these awards means their rarity must be jealously safeguarded; they can never be diluted in the name of making a political point. That is why the Task Force firmly believes that every hero from the First World War whose deeds warrant the award receives it, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, their beliefs, or the color of their skin.

William Shemin, a Jewish-American WW1 Veteran who received the Medal of Honor in 2015.William Shemin, a Jewish WW1 Veteran who received the Medal of Honor in 2015Modern studies of World War I veterans who were wrongly denied the Medal of Honor have focused on specific individuals at the expense of others who are probably equally deserving.

The only comprehensive review was done in 1919, and made demonstrable mistakes. For example, it recommended no African Americans from World War I receive the Medal of Honor; subsequently two have.

Consequently, a group of volunteers convened the Valor Medals Review Task Force to advocate for a systematic investigation into veterans of the First World War who, in spite of deserving deeds, may have been unjustly denied high-level valor awards owing to the circumstances of their birth. In particular, servicemembers worthy of a Medal of Honor may have been downgraded to a Distinguished Service Cross, or received no American recognition at all despite receiving a French Croix de Guerre with Palms.

Lau Sing Kee, a Chinese-American DSC RecipientLau Sing Kee, recipient of the Distinguished Service CrossThe goal of the Valor Medals Review Task Force is to conduct research to provide the “state-of-play” and generate recommendations for Congress and the Department of Defense to actualize, at no cost to the military.

Through Congressional legislation, the Task Force hopes to instigate a systematic and impartial review of World War I service records to determine if any veterans whose deeds warrant a Medal of Honor failed to receive one owing to bias, discrimination, or confusion sparked by the changing standards surrounding Medal of Honor awards during World War One. Congressional action will waive the statute of limitations to ensure that any veterans of World War 1 who may be recommended for a Medal of Honor as a result of this review are legally able to be awarded one.

Unlike previous reviews for later wars, the Task Force is the first to develop a plan to complete this project at zero cost to taxpayers. By partnering with the George S. Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War, a registered 501(c)3 supported by philanthropic donations, the Task Force will complete its work as volunteers consulsting with the Pentagon.

Native American Servicemen 400Native American Servicemen from 5 Tribes, Including an Aleutian bugler, 1919Carrying out this project requires exactly what victory in World War One did: the contributions of Americans from all backgrounds.

Recognizing this spirit, the Task Force’s efforts are officially endorsed by the American Legion, the American GI Forum, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and faculty from several major research universities.

Currently, the Task Force includes members of the United States World War One Centennial Commission, faculty at New York University and Park University, two retired Major Generals, a historian of the Medal of Honor, and a supporting group of researchers.

We are always looking for volunteers to contribute to our efforts. To request more information or to contribute to the project, please contact us.

 

 Click button below to download a printable document summarizing our goals and history

 

Valor Medals Review

Task Force

For media inquiries, please contact chris.isleib@worldwar1centennial.org

For all other requests, please contact zachary.austin@worldwar1centennial.org

“The President may award, and present in the name of Congress, a medal of honor of appropriate design, with ribbons and appurtenances, to a person who while a member of the Army or naval service, distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”            -US Code

 

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