Seven black soldiers from WWII tapped to receive Medal of Honor


WASHINGTON - Five decades after they fought, seven black war heroes - including one from Boston - are in line to get the Medal of Honor, America's highest military decoration.

The names of the seven, who were among 1.2 million blacks who served in World War II, have been sent to President Clinton, who says the honors are long overdue.

"The president believes these are honors that should have been bestowed a long time ago," Deputy White House Press Secretary Ginny Terzano said. "It's doing the right thing to give the Medal of Honor to them now."

U.S. News & World Report says in its May 6 issue, on newsstands tomorrow, that the combat records of the seven nominees met the standards of a special Army Senior Officer Awards Board. The nominees were identified in a 15-month study conducted by a team of military historians, assembled by Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., the magazine reported.

The list also has been forwarded to Congress, which must waive the time limit for awarding World War II medals, which expired in 1952. The waivers are included in the fiscal 1997 defense authorization bill.

The nominees are: 1st Lt. Vernon J. Baker, 76, of St. Maries, Idaho, the only one of the seven men still alive; 1st Lt. John R. Fox of Boston; 1st Lt. Charles L. Thomas of Detroit; Pvt. George Watson of Birmingham, Ala.; Staff Sgt. Edward A. Carter Jr. of Los Angeles; Pfc. Willy F. James Jr. of Kansas City, Kan.; and Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers of Tecumseh, Okla.

"Oh, I just pray that they will hurry up so that I live to see it," Grace Rivers Woodfork, 80, of Oakland, Calif., the elder sister of Rivers, told the magazine.

No black received any of the 432 Medals of Honor given to World War II soldiers.

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