Retired Army Sergeant Major Edward Johnson. He is one of the few surviving members of the 10th Cavalry Regiment of the Buffalo Soldiers. Trooper Edward Johnson was born on December 2, 1918 in Snow Hill, Maryland.
He enlisted in the Regular Army on October 2. 1939 with Machine Gun Troop, 10th Cavalry (known as Buffalo Soldiers) at Fort Myer, Virginia. He was given a seven digit serial number, RA 6895278. There were two white officers assigned to the Troop - the commander and his assistant. The reason Sergeant Major Johnson joined the army was because he could not find work as a farm hand earning less than $1.00 per day, although the army at that time was paying only $21.00 per month, plus clothing, food and a chance for advancement. Also, Sergeant Major Johnson was accustomed to dealing with horses.
His primary duties were performing as a parade unit for most all military affairs held in Washington, DC, casket bearer and firing squad at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia. They had rifles, but not enough for every man to train with; instead, they used sticks for rifles. Also, they performed duties as saddlers, horsehoers, drivers for senior grade officers, housekeepers, groomsmen for senior grade officers, and prisoner escorts. They were also responsible for President Franklin D. Roosevelt's horses, which Mrs. Roosevelt rode daily. They prepared their horses for their ride and cleaned them up after they returned. They also took care of their horse equipment. They were instructed that the horse comes first. Sometimes they would give the troopers $.25 for cleaning their sweaty horses.
When Sergeant Major Johnson and the troopers left post or leave or pass, they would encounter segregation and racism, especially on buses, in theaters, restaurants, restrooms, beaches, post exchanges, barber shops and train stations.
In 1940, Sergeant Major Johnson was one of the Cadremen transferred from Machine Gun, 10th Cavalry, Fort Myer, Virginia to Levenworth, Kansas to reorganize the 10th Cavalry Regiment. This same year, the regiment moved from Fort Levenworth, Kansas to Camp Funston, Kansas where the regiment was assembled near Fort Riley, Kansas.
The regiment was reborn around March 1941. Over 300 selective service men were assigned to the 10th Cavalry. The regiment reached its full strength of over 1300 men and over 1200 horses in April 1941.
There were two Black officers assigned to the regiment: 1st Lieutenant James C. Griffin, Chaplain, and 1st Lieutenant Edward McDowell, Assistant Surgeon. The regiment consisted of Headquarters and Service Troop, Special Weapons Troop, Machine Gun Troop, Headquarters Detachment, 1st and 2nd Squadrons, Medical Detachment, and Troops A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Sergeant Major Johnson was assigned to F Troop. The 9th Horse Cavalry Regiment was assigned to Camp Funston also. We all encountered the same racism problems as we did in other places.
In September 1942, Sergeant Major Johnson married Mollie Dailey from Kansas City, Kansas. They reared three children, with only one surviving. His family spent three years in Germany and traveled extensively.
Sergeant Major Johnson's last overseas assignment was in Panmunjon, Korea, U.S. Army Support Group, Joint Security Area, Korea. He had many assignments in the United States and abroad. He was transferred from Korea in 1964 to then Morgan State College. He was the first Sergeant Major (E-9) assigned to the ROTC Detachment at Morgan. He served as the Administrative Advisor. He retired from the Army while assigned to Morgan in 1971, with over 31 years of active military service. He was hired immediately following his retirement by the university to be in charge of the Housekeeping Department. During his tour with the ROTC Detachment, two of the graduating cadets later became general officers in the army - Larry Ellis and Arthur Dean. Also there were several colonels which Sergeant Major Johnson is very proud of.
Recognition of the Buffalo Soldiers is long overdue, but it has opened doors for recognition and discussion of contributions of Blacks throughout the military. Sergeant Major Johnson feels that all must make sure their story gets into the history books and into classrooms for all children. To talk to children without mentioning the Buffalo Soldier is like talking about baseball without Willie Mays or Hank Aaron, or basketball without Michael Jordan or Wilt Chamberlain. Sergeant Major Johnson was quite instrumental in the formation of the Baltimore Metropolitian Area Chapter of the Buffalo Soldiers.
The 10th Cavalry rode with Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders when they stormed San Juan Hill. They were in World Wars I and II, and in the Korean Conflict.
Mr. William McKinley Decatur who resides with his wife on a beautiful horse farm in Howard County, Maryland. He was assigned to Machine Gun, Troop F, 10th Cavalry, Fort Myer, Virginia in 1942.
Mr. Decatur was born in Chicago, and reared in Akron, Ohio. He was drafted into the Regular Army on September 23, 1941, with an initial assignment at the Cavalry School at Fort Riley, Kansas. He was assigned to the 10th Cavalry Regiment, that was later changed to a detachment. When war declared in December of 1941, he was retained until December 11, 1945.
On April 5, 1942, Trooper Decatur was transferred to Machine Gun, Troop F, 10th Cavalry. His unit primarily took care of the officer's horses, transporting prisoners, and was in charge of burial details of deceased Black military persons at Arlington, Virginia. When his enlistment expired in November 1945, he got out of the service.
Mr. Decatur married Alma T. Lee in 1946. They have three sons: Samuel T. Lukas, John Robert Lukas, and Anthony Lukas. They also have six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Click here to view the cover of a program held at Fort Myer, Va on November 8, 1996, honoring the 9th and 10th Cavalry of the Buffalo Soldiers. Mr. Decatur is mounted on the horse, in the rear, on the right.