World War I

369th Regiment and the French Croix de Guerre

The 369th Regiment was reorganized and redesignated 1 March 1918 and would not demobilize until 28 February 1919. The regiment would be involved in four different campaigns and suffered over 1500 causalities during that time. This regiment was the first all Black regiment during WWI. The Regiment was at first assigned to the French Army for the duration of the war. During this time the Regiment would capture the all important village of Séchault which would win them the French Croix de Guerre. The Regiment would continue to advance until they reached the banks of the Rhine River to be the first Allied unit to reach that objective.

Throughout the campaign, many of the members of the regiment received Distinguished Service Crosses and one soldier, CPL Freddie Stowers received a Medal of Honor. Another two that stand out from the regiment, are the two men who received the Croix de Guerre, PVTs Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts.

The citation reads: henry Johnson PHOTO

"PVT Johnson was doing double night sentry duty, was attacked by a group of a dozen Germans and put out of the fight by gunshot and seriously wounded two [sic] with a knife. In spite of having received three wounds by revolver shots and grenades at the start of the action, went to the help of his wounded comrade who was being carried away by the enemy and continued the strife until the round of the Germans. Gave a magnificent example of courage and energy.....PVT Roberts was doing double night sentry duty and was attacked and seriously wounded in the leg by a group of Germans; continued the strife by throwing grenades, in spite of having fallen to the ground, until the enemy was put to rout. Good and brave soldier." (http://www.dmna.state.ny.us/historic/mil-hist.htm)







(right side): Private Henry Johnson (left): Private Needham Roberts

Facts...

  • Blacks supplied 13% of inductees during the war
  • 350,000 blacks served in segregated units, mostly as support
  • Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts of the 369th were the first (either black or white) Americans to receive the French Croix de Guerre
  • Military commanders did much to discredit Blacks during this time and that resulted in a decline in the number of blacks within the military
  • Blacks also begin to demand the right to serve not only in combat, but under command of black officers
  • On October 15th, 1917 about 639 men graduated from Fort Des Moines (had been designated as a training camp for blacks who wished to become officers) and were commissioned as Captain or first and second lieutenant
  • Throughout the entire war over 1300 blacks would be commissioned
  • Many white soldiers refused to salute black officers

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