October 28, 2014 / by admin / American History / No Comments

The Black Panthers: A Story of Race, War, and Courage-the 761st Tank Battalion in World War II

The Black Panthers: A Story of Race, War, and Courage-the 761st Tank Battalion in World War II

Language: English

Pages: 321


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Known as the first
African American armored unit to see combat in World War II and as future
baseball star Jackie Robinson's one-time outfit, the 761st Tank Battalion
emerged from the adversity of Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. Led by a small cadre of
white and black officers, the men trained to the pinnacle of their craft to
fight a common enemy. The Black Panthers, as their unit insignia designated,
proved their battle prowess on the parched Texas training fields against units
bound for combat. The 761st earned a coveted assignment to fight under General
George S. Patton to fight head-to-head with the best of Hitler's arsenal.
Moving to the front in November 1944, trial by fire soon shook the unit to its
core. Ambushed by a veteran German force, the 761st suffered heavy casualties in
the confusion as they cut their way out of the trap. But the men rallied to
overcome self-doubt and vindicated their losses. Battle-hardened, the tankers
saw intense fighting through November and as well as December when Germany
launched its last-ditch offensive through the Ardennes. The 761st fought
side-by-side with Patton's Third Army. Moving through deep snow against uncertain
opposition, the unit helped check the German advance, cut resupply routes to the
forces surrounding beleaguered Bastogne, and drove the enemy back, recapturing
towns crucial to the final defeat of Germany.

In The Black Panthers: A Story of Race,
War, and Courage--the 761st Tank Battalion in World War II, historian Gina M.
DiNicolo tells the full and unvarnished history of this important American
fighting force. Relying on extensive archival research, including documents not
consulted in previous accounts and interviews with surviving soldiers and family
members. The author describes the unit--its training, deployment, combat, and
notably its men, such as Sergeant Ruben Rivers, one of only seven African American
men awarded the Medal of Honor for World War II heroism. The professionalism,
dedication, and courage of the 761st endures.

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achieved what most had deemed impossible. While they helped defeat Germany, they had realized important, personal victories. For McBurney and most of the men, blending in with the other units and fighting, living, and being “just one of the guys”56 stood as their triumph. That the white infantry soldiers treated them as they would any other combat soldier outweighed what in retrospect stood as the inevitable defeat of Germany. He thought back to Reisdorf, sitting around with tankers and doughs

‘on the road’ opening new accounts across Michigan and Indiana prior to WWII. He employed a driver named Ivan Harrison who traveled with him while my dad showed clothing samples to prospective customers. When WWII broke out, Mr. Harrison joined the army. He subsequently requested a letter of recommendation for officers’ training school, which my father gladly and proudly provided.” August 18, 2010. 11. Draft notice, Harrison military files, May 5, 1941. 12. Ibid. Headquarters 92nd Engineer

battalion's full complement of Stuart tanks. Tank transportation had improved since George Patton backed his tanks off the rails himself to get his unit to the fight during World War I. Bates ordered the loading of personnel and equipment completed by 1 P.M. September 13. Along with the tanks, the unit loaded half-tracks and all other tactical vehicles with “all armament in place, with covers.”27 Soldiers placed antiaircraft and machine guns inside the tanks. Bates wanted the tanks fully loaded

tank. The tankers had gotten to know Warren Crecy, so it came as no surprise when he named his tank “Crecy.” No one could leave out “Big Mamma” or “Black Jack.” Russell Guthrie got a kick out of tanks sporting names, each rolling with its own personality.1 When the 761st faced off against those tasked with destroying the tank battalion, the combat training scenarios came from the Advanced Unit Training Center. The training brigade coordinator determined when the 761st performed and against which

could make it passable by laying timbers.41 Though the town stood in U.S. hands, German soldiers remained holed up within. Williams pushed for further orders from regiment, but Colonel Dwight Colley had sustained serious injuries while coordinating the infantry and tank attack. Lieutenant Colonel Ralph A. Palladino, Colley's executive officer, assumed command with nothing more than the words “Château-Salins.”42 Williams nodded and got his tanks moving. With Williams firmly with the 104th and

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