A Buffalo Soldier’s Medal of Honor

Museum seeks to reopen veteran’s recommendation

By J.M. Simpson on May 9, 2019

The application for a headstone was dated June 16, 1983, and it was for the unmarked grave of a veteran.

In that final resting spot in the Old Tacoma Cemetery is John Buck, a soldier whose recommendation for the Medal of Honor is almost all but forgotten.

His headstone -- and possibly his recommendation for the Medal of Honor -- is fading away.

This situation could change if Jim Dimond, the historian of the Tacoma's Buffalo Soldiers Museum, has his way.

"While there is some history about the Buffalo Soldiers in the Pacific Northwest, there is nothing about the veterans who have died here," he said.

"I found out about Sergeant Buck, learned that he had been nominated for the Medal of Honor, and my interest grew."

Born on Sept. 10, 1861, in Chapel Hill, Texas, Buck enlisted in the 10th Cavalry Regiment Nov. 6, 1880.

Formed in 1866 as a segregated African-American unit, the 10th was one of the original Buffalo Soldier regiments in the post-Civil War Army.

The troopers earned the nickname "Buffalo Soldiers" while serving during the Indian Wars in the western United States, the Spanish-American War in Cuba, and in the Philippine-American War.

Buck served in all three campaigns; he was known as a courageous soldier and an expert horseman.

During the Battle of Las Guasimas June 24, 1898, 1st Lt. R.J. Fleming wrote, "I witnessed the fine conduct of First Sergeant John Buck, Troop B, 10th Cavalry, who was in command of the greater part of the troop, and who was pushing his men to the front with great coolness, gallantry and judgment."

Later on, Buck and the 10th Cavalry played a crucial role in conjunction with Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders in the successful taking of San Juan Hill.

A year later, Capt. J.W. Watson of the 10th United States Cavalry recommended Buck for the Medal of Honor.

Nothing more was heard about the recommendation.

After Cuba, Buck was promoted to Lieutenant. He became one of the few African-Americans to be commissioned. He was later promoted to Captain in 1900.

After mustering out of the Army in 1909, Buck moved to Tacoma. He found employment with the state of Washington in the State Senate. When World War I began, he returned to serve as a civilian guard at Camp Lewis.

Upon retirement, he lived in Tacoma until his passing on Sept. 29, 1937.

"But the question of what happened to Captain Buck's Medal of Honor recommendation is still unresolved," continued Dimond.

To reopen the case requires the Senate and House of Representatives to authorize an extension of the time limits on Buck's recommendation.

"It's time to reopen the case of John Buck to see if he truly is eligible. I believe this case is certainly worth looking at again," concluded Dimond.

"Captain Buck's service to this nation is one of the projects we're working on, and the Buffalo Soldiers Museum of Tacoma is committed to this."

The museum is located at 1940 S. Wilkeson St. in Tacoma. For more information, visit: buffalosoldierstacoma.org.