SANDY SPRINGS WAR HERO FEATURED IN ETV SPECIAL
Freddie Stowers, a one- time local resident and the only African-American WWI veteran to receive the Medal of Honor, was featured in the PBS documentary series HISTORY DETECTIVES “The Red Hand Division,” in 2008 on ETV.
Born in Sandy Springs, SC in 1896 Stowers, was recruited and trained at the US Army’s Camp Jackson in Columbia. A member of Company “C”, 371st Regiment, 93 Division he went into action on September 28, 1918 and was apparently killed shortly there after. He is buried at Meuse-Argonne Cemetery in Meuse, France. He still has relatives that live in Pendleton.
According to a book of the era, “Scott’s Official History of the American Negro in the World War” by Emmett J Scott, Stowers was “heralded for his uncommon bravery.”
Scott was special adjutant to the Secretary of War and former private secretary to Booker T. Washington.
David Condon of the Anderson County Museum said, “We have a permanent exhibit about Corporal Stowers. We have period uniforms and a replica of his Medal of Honor on display. Anyone interested in Stowers can get more information from the museum.” Condon said there is national interest in a traveling exhibit about Stowers and that he is working on putting it together.
Stowers also received recognition from the French government: “For extraordinary heroism under fire 124 soldiers of the 371st and 372nd Infantry were decorated by the French. Among those so honored was Freddie Stowers.” He and others received the Croix de Guerre or French War Cross, according to Scott’s book.
The American Forces Press Service official War record said, “Despite being wounded twice during an assault on entrenched German forces, Corporal Stowers lead his unit until overcome by his wounds.”
Condon relates a story told about Stowers being killed during a “fake surrender” of the German troops.
“The Germans raised a white flag and the African-American troops proceeded to capture them. The German troops opened fire mortally wounding Stowers and others, but he continued to fight on and lead his unit until his death,” said Condon.
More importantly Stowers is one of only 87 African-American servicemen to ever receive the Medal of Honor and the only black WWI soldier to receive this high honor. Stowers’ medal was presented to his sisters at a White House ceremony April 24, 1991 by President George H W Bush.
The Medal of Honor is only awarded “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, in actual combat against an armed enemy force,” according to military protocols.
At the time of the war white and black troops were not allowed by law to fight in the same unit. The French army did not segregate their forces and gladly welcomed African-American soldiers into their ranks. Stowers and the 371st were assigned to the French Army along with American white officers. They wore the traditional US Army uniform, but were required to use French rifles and equipment. The French unit they fought with was known as the Red Hand Division.
The ETV special is about the Red Hand Division and a flag that was purchased on Ebay by Desert Storm veteran Anne Clarkson, who coincidently was also stationed at Fort Jackson until her retirement from the military.
The mystery surrounding the flag is what the TV show is about. Is this the flag that was used by the 371st in France during WWI? The show seeks to answer this question and many others.
Reporting from Anderson, Vince Jackson