Medal of Honor recognition long overdue
May 9, 2008
Only 33 South Carolina Soldiers have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Only two of them are African American.
Seventy-three years after his death, Cpl. Freddie Stowers was awarded the Medal of Honor for his valor during World War I. He is the only African American to receive this honor for service during this war.
"It's been said that the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge," said President George H.W. Bush at the posthumous presentation of the Medal of Honor. "On Sept. 28, 1918, Cpl. Freddie Stowers stood poised on the edge of such a challenge and summoned his mettle and his courage."
Stowers' military career began here, at Fort Jackson, where he joined the First Provisional Infantry Regiment (Colored) on Oct. 4, 1917. He was born and raised in Sandy Springs, S.C., and was part of the first military draft of World War I.
According to his Medal of Honor citation, on Sept. 28, 1918, while serving as squad leader of Company C, 371st Infantry Regiment, 93rd Division, Stowers went above and beyond the call of duty when his company led the attack at Hill 188, Champagne Marne Sector, France.
Shortly after the attack began, the enemy came out of the trenches leading Stowers and his company to believe they were surrendering. However, soon after the American forces came out of their trenches, the enemy resumed fire.
Stowers led his company to the enemy trench line to take out a machine gun post which was causing a majority of the casualties.
As Stowers and his men moved forward he was mortally wounded. He continued to go on with his company and encouraged his men to go forward without him.
The members of Stowers' squad pressed on, motivated by his heroism, they continued the attack; leading to the capture of Hill 188.
Stowers' commanding officer recommended him for the Medal of Honor after his death, but the paperwork was misplaced. It was April 24, 1991, when Bush presented Stowers' Medal of Honor to his two sisters, Georgiana Palmer and Mary Bowens.
"Today, as we pay tribute to this great Soldier, our thoughts continue to be with the men and women of all our wars who valiantly carried the banner of freedom into battle," Bush said. "They, too, know America would not be the land of the free, if it were not also the home of the brave."