President Bush righted an old wrong when he awarded the first Medal of Honor to a black soldier who served in World War I.

The honor was presented posthumously Wednesday to the elderly sisters of Army Cpl. Freddie Stowers, mortally wounded in France 73 years ago while leading his company against a German-held hill.Georgiana Palmer, 88, of Richmond, Calif., and Mary Bowens, 77, of Greenville, S.C., too frail to stand, received the gold medal as they sat on the platform before an audience that included the top Pentagon brass and other Medal of Honor recipients.

A great-grandnephew, Army Staff Sgt. Douglas Warren, watched from a front-row seat after returning Tuesday from serving in Saudi Arabia during the gulf war.

Black soldiers had received the nation's highest military honor in other wars, but none from World War I or World War II. Stowers is the 128th recipient from World War I.

Stowers, of Sandy Springs, S.C., was mortally wounded while leading Company C of the 371st Infantry Regiment, 93rd Division, to retake a hill on Sept. 28, 1918. The German soldiers faked surrender, then raked Stowers' company with machine gun and mortar fire.

"The assault annihilated well over 50 percent of Company C and in the midst of this bloody chaos, Corporal Stowers took charge and bravely led his men forward, destroying their foes," said Bush.