1. ITV Report

Obama presents Medals of Honor to overlooked war veterans

US President Barack Obama gives Vietnam veteran Melvin Morris his Medal of Honor. Photo: ITV News

Twenty-four Jewish, Hispanic and African-American soldiers who performed bravely under fire in three wars fought by the US were finally awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor today.

The servicemen were identified following a congressionally-mandated review to ensure that eligible recipients of the US's highest recognition for valour were not bypassed due to prejudice.

Only three of the 24 were alive for US President Barack Obama to drape the medals and ribbons around their necks.

Obama said:

Today we have the chance to set the record straight.

No nation is perfect, but here in America we confront our imperfections and face a sometimes painful past, including the truth that some of these soldiers fought and died for a country that did not always see them as equal.

The three surviving recipients - Vietnam veterans Jose Rodela, Melvin Morris and Santiago Erevia - received a prolonged standing ovation at Obama's side.

Today's mass ceremony, the largest since World War II, was the result of a US Army review conducted under a directive from Congress.

US President Barack Obama and guests at the White House applaud the Medal of Honor recipients. Credit: ITV News

The Pentagon said the Army reviewed the cases of the 6,505 recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars and found an eligible pool of 600 soldiers who may have been Jewish, Hispanic or African-American.

During the initial review, investigators found that other minority soldiers who had received the Distinguished Service Cross appeared to meet the criteria for a Medal of Honor.

Congress then amended the directive to allow those soldiers to be considered for the upgraded honour.