This woman was the first black female POW in American history

Shoshana Johnson was captured in Nasiriyah and held hostage for three weeks. Image credit: USMC

Throughout American history, women have served the United States military in many ways. From caretakers to spies, pilots and soldiers, each and every one has committed to the cause in their own way. Some received national recognition on a grandiose scale- others, not so much.

One such woman who did not receive a lot of notoriety is Specialist Shoshana Johnson, the first African-American female prisoner of war, who was captured alongside PFC Jessica Lynch in the Iraq War.

A second-generation US Army veteran, Johnson was born in Pedro Miguel, Panama in 1973.

Enlisting as a cook in 1998, Johnson found herself on the front lines of the Iraq War in 2003 with the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. Deploying in February of 2003, she was captured a month later when her maintenance convoy took a wrong turn and was ambushed.

Suffering wounds to both of her ankles, she was captured by Iraqi forces and held prisoner for 22 days, along with five of her comrades.

Specialist Shoshana Johnson was held hostage for 22 days in Iraq. Image credit: USMC
Specialist Shoshana Johnson was held hostage for 22 days in Iraq. Image credit: USMC

While Lynch was taken to a different location, Johnson and about a dozen other captured soldiers were held in one area. She was interviewed on television for all the world to see.

After door-to-door raids by US Marines of the 1st Marine Division’s 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Johnson and six others were rescued. Three days after their daring April 13 rescue, the POWs were welcomed back to the United States by the thundering din of 3,000 cheering individuals.

Despite being awarded the Bronze Star, Prisoner of War Medal, Purple Heart and other awards prior to her December 2003 discharge, Johnson’s decorations were not enough to prevent her from eventually slipping into obscurity.

Many critics feel that “racism” the reason Jessica Lynch was more of a household name than Johnson or other soldiers captured in the infamous incident. However, many sources feel that because Lynch was separated from the group and was more demographically identifiable with American audiences as a whole (as well as a higher-stakes and more publicized rescue), she gained more notoriety.

Image credit: Hello Beautiful/Facebook
Image credit: Hello Beautiful/Facebook

That said, Johnson hasn’t been forgotten. Since her discharge, she has appeared at several high-profile events and written the book, I’m Still Standing: From Captive U.S. Soldier to Free Citizen — My Journey Home.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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