At 9:00 am on the morning of June 6, 1944, Corporal Waverly “Woody” Woodson Jr., prepared to jump into four feet of bullet strewn waters at Omaha Beach. Woody was a 21-year-old medic from West Philadelphia.
As his ship arrived at the beach, Woody was hit by German shrapnel that tore into the landing craft and ripped open his leg. Next to him, his friend was killed. A fellow medic dressed his wounds, and Woody joined three other medics and thousands of Allied soldiers under fire on the beach.
Theirs were the first African-American boots to to set foot on Omaha Beach.
Over the next 30 hours, Woody survived German snipers to save upwards of 200 Allied soldiers’ lives. He pulled men out of the water, performed CPR and amputations, and removed shrapnel and bullets before passing out from his own wounds. A true American hero, decades later he was nominated for the Medal of Honor.
The 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion was the only black combat unit to participate in D-Day. Most books and movies, including “Saving Private Ryan”, omit the soldiers of the 320th, although the movie shows their balloons that helped ward off German bombers.
But Woody never received the honor. Not from President Clinton when he awarded the nation’s highest honor for valor to seven black soldiers in 1997, or any of the presidents since then.
And that’s where the Classic Journeys family comes in with an opportunity — on the anniversary of D-Day — to right a wrong.
Woody’s headstone in Arlington National Cemetery lists his Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
Click here to sign the online petition to ask the president, the Senate and the House of Representatives to award the Medal of Honor to Woody posthumously. While Woody died in 2005, it can be awarded to wife, Joann.
For a local’s view of the D-Day invasion, read this interview with our Normandy and Brittany guide, Dominique. She recounts how her mother was an unwitting member of the Resistance as a little girl.