Monday, January 21, 2008
France Honours Black US Veteran of WWI
Friday, 24 August, 2001, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
France honours black US veteran
US troops were segregated according to race
American World War I veteran William Brown has been given a 107th birthday surprise.
Mr Brown, who lives in Las Vegas, was awarded the Legion of Honour by the French Government on Thursday.
In my life I never cared about a person's nationality, the colour of their skin or anything else
The French award came because private Brown and other black soldiers from the US expeditionary forces were segregated from the white troops and assigned to French units when they disembarked in France in June 1918.
The grandson of slaves, Mr Brown says he has no bitterness for the segregation.
"In my life I never cared about a person's nationality, the colour of their skin or anything else, because we are all God's people," he told reporters.
Mr Brown was drafted in 1918, and managed to escape the war unscathed.
"I never cared for war - I have always been a man of peace," he said.
"I couldn't wait until I got out. I was lucky to get out without being wounded. My brother was gassed and caught a little shrapnel."
After the war, Mr Brown had a variety of jobs, and retired to Las Vegas in the 1970s.
When the French government awarded the legion of honour-its highest national honour- to 900 US World War I veterans in 1998, Brown was overlooked.
Legion of Honour
Since then his niece Jennie Jefferson has campaigned to win him recognition.
The result was his naming as a Chevalier of the National Order of the Legion of Honour of France in Las Vegas on Thursday.
The US Office of Veterans Affairs calculates there are some 2,200 surviving American World War One veterans.