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Pentagon to Dedicate Black Military Heroes Corridor

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 1997 – Pentagon officials are scheduled to dedicate a Hall of African-American Military Heroes and Contributors Corridor on Feb. 19, 1997, as part of Black History Month activities.

"President Clinton, Secretary of Defense designate Sen. William S. Cohen, several high-ranking military and civilian officials and the three surviving African-American Medal of Honor recipients have been invited," said Sharmon Thornton of the DoD Equal Opportunity Office.

Vernon Baker, 77, the only one still alive among the seven African-Americans recently awarded the Medal of Honor for valor during World War II, is scheduled to return for the dedication. The seven heroes were inducted into the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes the day after Clinton presented them the nation's highest award for gallantry in mid-January.

The recent awardees raise the number of African-American Medal of Honor recipients to 86: Vietnam, 20; Korea, two; World War II, seven; World War I, one; Spanish-American War, six; Interim 1871-1898, eight; Indian Campaigns, 18; and Civil War, 24. No African-American had received the Medal of Honor for World War I service until it was posthumously bestowed on Freddie Stowers in April 1991.

Thornton said DoD initiated a survey on Aug. 17, 1994, to determine the extent to which African Americans, other minorities and women are included in military history exhibits in Pentagon corridors. They found 26 exhibit areas, hundreds of paintings, photographs and works of art -- mainly honoring whites, women, Hispanics and American Indians. "African Americans are sparsely represented," Thornton noted. "We also noted the absence of Asian Americans."

The initial corridor exhibit will focus on African-American Medal of Honor heroes. Follow-on plans will develop a comprehensive corridor display to include exhibits covering the Civil War through Vietnam, the Tuskegee Airmen, Golden 13, Montford Point Marines, Buffalo Soldiers, African-American flag and general officers, African-American women, 54th Massachusetts Regiment and the 555th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Thornton said.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAfter his induction into the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes, World War II Medal of Honor recipient Vernon Baker chats with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis J. Reimer and Sergeant Major of the Army Gene C. McKinney. Rudi Williams  
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