- Oct. 12, 2018
-- It was on French soil, 100 years ago, that Sergeant Perry Loyd of the U.S. Army's 93rd
(Colored) Division's 371st
Infantry Regiment was wounded in the war to end all wars
. His valor and sacrifice is finally being remembered at a Purple Heart Award ceremony on October, 13 at the U.S. Army Training Center at Fort Jackson's Non-Commissioned Officers' Club, 5700 Lee Road, Columbia, South Carolina. The award will be presented to his grandson, Perry W. James by the center's Commander, Brigadier-General Milford H. Beagle, Jr.
The era of the First World War represents a critical juncture, early in the 20th
century, when African Americans struggled and began to fight for their civil rights. The U.S. Army, like the nation, was racially segregated. The 93rd
Division was entirely African American, largely commanded by whites. What made it different from the, also segregated, 92nd
Division made-up largely of African American army regulars was its smaller size and that it became an independent unit of the 13th
French Army Corps when American Expeditionary Force (AEF) under General J.J. Pershing "loaned this "provisional"
division to its ally. Loyd's regiment was one of four infantry units which included: the 369th Harlem Hellfighters
, the 370th Black Devils
from Illinois and the 372nd
. The 371st
Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the Red Hand
, arrived in France during the spring of 1918. The unit fought on the Champaign front and in the Alsace sector during the final months of the war, when Loyd was wounded. Once home, these veterans and the broader African American community expected that their service "to make the world safe for democracy" would win the battle for human dignity and civil rights. To the contrary, combat veterans like Perry Loyd faced sometimes sharper discrimination. In the South, these veterans were at times singled-out and lynched, a venal message that the old social order would hold; some victims were wearing their uniforms. These acts helped kindle 1919's Red Summer
. "These men will not be forgotten," said James whose interest was triggered after visiting his grandfather's grave marked by a military-issued headstone. In addition to being the grandson of a WWI veteran, he is a proud member of the Ebony Doughboys
, America's only organization dedicated to honoring and educating the public about the contributions of men like Sgt. Loyd. "This is precisely what we are about; we want people to make personal connections,"
said Arthur Collins, founder of the organization.
James' research revealed that a Purple Heart, Perry Loyd earned, had never been delivered. Committed to correcting this oversight proved challenging given the amount of time that elapsed and the destruction of many WWI service records in a fire. After much investigation, it was at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. that he found evidence of Loyd's service and injury. "Our family name omits the second 'l' to distinguish itself from the family who enslaved my ancestors," exclaimed James, "My grandfather's generation had much to prove and I am glad I could help."