Black D-Day combat medic’s long-denied medal tenderly laid on Omaha Beach where he bled, saved lives


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By John Leicester, Associated Press

A soldier shows the Distinguished Service Cross being posthumously awarded to Waverly Woodson Jr., who was part of the only Black combat unit to take part in the D-Day invasion. (AP Photo/Jeremias Gonzalez)

OMAHA BEACH, France (AP) — A medal richly deserved but long denied to an African-American combat medic wounded on Omaha Beach in the D-Day landings was tenderly laid June 7 on the hallowed sands where he saved lives and shed blood.

U.S. First Army soldiers held a ceremony in honor of Waverly Woodson Jr. on the beach where he came ashore and was wounded, and where hundreds of American soldiers were killed by withering fire in the June 6, 1944, landings in Normandy, northern France.

The Distinguished Service Cross is the second-highest honor that can be bestowed on a member of the U.S. Army and is awarded for extraordinary heroism.

The medal was awarded posthumously to Woodson this month — just ahead of the 80th anniversary of D-Day — following years of lobbying for more recognition of his achievement on that fateful day.

U.S. First Army Maj. Gen. William Ryan gently placed the World War II-era medal on the sand, close to the spot where Woodson is thought to have come ashore on the now-peaceful beach that on D-Day was raked by German machine-gun and artillery rounds before U.S. forces finally captured it and started pushing inland.

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