Henry Parham served with the 320th Anti-Aircraft Barrage Balloon Battalion, the only all-black unit to land on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Henry served in a segregated army, where African Americans were treated as second-class citizens. But to this native of Greenville, Virginia, segregation in the military was simply a way of life, one he had grown used to in the Jim Crow South.
On a a hot, late-August day in 2012, ninety-two year old Henry Parham visited with us in the Gettysburg Room at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum–a grandiose space dedicated to the African American soldiers’ experience during the Civil War. The room is where each month we conduct our Saturday interviews with local veterans; it’s large, opulent, and convenient for our recording set-up. As one of the few African American veterans we’ve interviewed, Mr. Parham’s presence in the Gettysburg Room was not only serendipitous, but historically significant.
Watch and listen to his unique story as one of the few African American soldiers to have participated in the Normandy invasion.