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The Forgotten Black Heroes of D-Day

“They stormed Omaha and Utah Beaches early on June 6, 1944. They’ve been written out of history. Movies don’t show them. Most books don’t mention them. But they were there.” Watch the video to learn more about the men of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion. 

Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, at Home and at War is the riveting story about the African-American soldiers who landed on the beaches of France on D-Day, virtually written out of history, their faces missing from iconic WWII films such as Saving Private Ryan. This well-researched book not only covers the military history, it also takes a hard look at race relations in the Jim Crow South and the sad lack of recognition these brave men were denied when they returned home. 

American journalist and author Linda Hervieux, former editor of the New York Daily News now living in France, first learned about the 320th in 2009 when she attended a ceremony in Normandy for the 65th anniversary of D-Day awarding one of the soldiers from that African-American unit the Legion of Honor, France’s highest honor. This began Hervieux’s long and detailed research into the other men of the 320th that would eventually become the book Forgotten, published in fall of 2015 to much critical acclaim.

Forgotten is an utterly compelling account of the African Americans who played a crucial and dangerous role in the invasion of Europe. … The story of their heroic duty is long overdue.” – Tom Brokaw, best-selling author of The Greatest Generation

“Hard to believe this story hasn’t been written before. Linda Hervieux’s Forgotten is essential, fiercely dramatic, and ultimately inspiring. All Americans should read this World War II history, which doubles as a civil rights primer, to learn the true cost of freedom.” – Douglas Brinkley, best-selling author of Cronkite

I joined a fully-packed audience for the presentation of her book at the American Library of Paris earlier this month, and I doubt there was a dry eye in the room after she shared their stories with us. One of the most inspiring was about Corporal Waverly B. Woodson Jr. of West Philadelphia, a medic with the 320th.

You can read an excerpt from the book about his heroism and the many lives he saved on the beach that fateful day despite his own injuries, heavy firing from the Germans, and the slowly rising tide. But although Woodson was nominated America’s Congressional Medal of Honor, no African-Americans would receive their own nation’s highest honor in WWII. There is now an online petition to award Woodson the honor posthumously (he died in 2005).

Another fascinating part of her presentation were the stories of how kindly the African-American soldiers were treated in the small Welsh town where they were stationed before the invasions, and the friendships they formed with the locals who welcomed them into their community. Linda is currently touring the US for the book this February and March (including Washington, DC; the National D-Day Memorial in Virginia; Berkeley, San Francisco and Los Angeles, California; and Harvard Law School in Massachusetts). 

The publisher is also offering the Kindle eBook version of Forgotten for just $1.99 during Black History Month (February). For more information about the men of the 320th, progress on the Medal of Honor petition, author appearances and news about the book, sign up for Linda Hervieux’s free mailing list here.


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  • Yes, I'll be looking for that book (remember, this is Black History Month). Black and Brown troops from the colonies in the Free French Forces also played a major part in the Liberation of Paris and other French cities. The Nazi-led German troops were simply slaughtering captured African troops as "subhumans". More than half of the French "liberation" army of 1943-44, which fought in Italy and France, was of African origin. There were 134,000 Algerians, 73,000 Moroccans, 26,000 Tunisians and 92,000 men from colonies in sub-Saharan Africa.Paris liberation made "whites only": http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7984436.stm Note that some of the "whiter" troops from the Maghreb and Middle East were enlisted to make up the shortage of "real whites". (Probably light-skinned Kabyles and Syrians). And a fair number of the European resistance forces were made up of antifascist Italians and Spaniards, who had fled to France, and of course Jews and Armenians. I do have a very old friend who was a "pur-porc" Norman though and in a maquis, as a very young man. It is terrible that in the fight against Nazism, which was probably the utimate form of racist insanity, that there was also so much blatant racism on the "good" side.