Racism During 1940s Barred Injured Black Vet From Being Awarded Purple Heart

Osceola “Ozzie” Fletcher being awarded his Purple Heart Award

Osceola “Ozzie” Fletcher was injured by German gunfire during World War II while delivering supplies, but was never awarded the Purple Heart due to ongoing racism.

Osceola “Ozzie” Fletcher was wounded during World War II's Battle of Normandy, but was denied the Purple Heart due to racial inequalities

Fletcher was injured during the battle — an integral part of WWII — when his vehicle was targeted by German gunfire during his supply delivery, according to an Army Press Release.

After the vet left the Army, he went on to work as a sergeant in the New York City Police Department, as a high school teacher in NYC Public Schools, and as a Community Relations Specialist in Brooklyn’s District Attorney’s office.

The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the military who were either wounded or killed during enemy combat, representing the sacrifice the member made. 

Despite Fletcher’s injuries, because of the racism present during the 1940s, he was denied the award until now — 77 years later.

"However, the guys of other complexions did get medals. They showed it in their neighborhoods and I found out about it in other ways," Fletcher told People. 

“...and the soldiers who got Purple Hearts are those people that weren't there in the very, very beginning and it seems that maybe many officers got Purple Hearts because they were white."

"But I don't know about any other unwhite soldiers, you might say, getting honored in any way [at that time]," the 99-year-old continued.

During the ceremony at the Fort Hamilton Community Club in New York, Gen. James C. McConville, Chief of Staff of the Army said, "Today it's Ozzie's turn to receive, but we are not really giving him anything today," he added. "We're delivering him something he's been entitled to for almost 77 years: Purple Heart for wounds received." according to the outlet.

Related Stories