Philadelphia, PA - In 1942, African American World War II veteran John Edward James, Jr. was denied his commission as second lieutenant because of the color of his skin. More than 75 years later, following the commitment of Mr. James’ family and the advocacy of U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) the government finally made amends.
“Mr. James recognition as a Second Lieutenant is long overdue,” said Senator Casey. “While it’s impossible to go back in time, this measure serves to right years of wrongs. I’m proud of the work we’ve done to ensure that this American hero is honored for his sacrifice in the appropriate way and look forward to honoring his legacy for years to come. I applaud the Department of the Army for their thoughtful consideration and hope that they continue to work to ensure that this has not happened to any other patriot.”
“When I was growing up, my father never spoke of his military service because it was too painful,” said Marion Lane, James’ daughter. “In 2001, I found a photo of his graduation from officer candidate school and he told me to throw it away because it meant nothing. Now he is on Cloud 9 – he never, ever thought he would see this day. For me, this is proof that we are privileged to live in a country where injustice can be rectified.”
More on Second Lieutenant James:
Born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1920, James was drafted into the United States Army in 1941. He served in five campaigns overseas, receiving numerous medals including a Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal and a European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.
In 1942, James completed officer candidate training at The Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia – one of 21 men of color in his graduating class of 200. Most of the men of color received their commissions and were sent to all-black units. However, James was assigned to the 242nd Quartermaster Battalion, where his commission as second lieutenant would have put him in charge of white officers, so he was denied his commission and remained a corporal.
In 2015, James’ daughter Marion Lane began appealing the U.S. Army to have his records corrected. Her appeal was denied because James’ official military personnel records had been destroyed in a 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center along with an estimated 16-18 million other Army and Air Force files.
More on Senator Casey’s Advocacy:
Following the initial request denials, the James family reached out to Senator Casey in late 2015. Following their outreach, the Senator’s team placed an official inquiry on behalf of Mr. James and began a three-year push to ensure the Army revisited the matter. Following another denial, Mr. James was able to file a reconsideration request, at which point the Senator and his team continued to monitor the situation by placing routine inquires for progress updates and working with the National Archives to locate James’s records that would prove his completion of officer candidate training.
In February 2018, the request was denied again. Senator Casey and his team elevated the matter to Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army to share the Senator’s concerns as well as petition for further consideration. In April 2018, the Senator was notified by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army that the Army would approve James’ commission, dating back to 1942. On April 25, 2018 the certificate of promotion and the DD Form 215 was delivered.