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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Anderson joined the 761st on May 25, 1945, to write the unit's history. He had spent what time he could with the tankers during the combat phase, making the move ideal for him and an army that may have seen promise it needed to capture. Anderson's talent lay in telling stories and the army had a significant one it needed him to recount. His resulting Come Out Fighting remains a very good version of events, especially as the unit fought across Western Europe, despite possible embellishments to

Williams recalled observing the self-assured man, one of a handful of African American soldiers whose service predated the war. He expected such a seasoned professional from the regular army, but the rough-looking Turley possessed an intense confidence. Williams knew he had little understanding of tanks and the soldiers who operated them, but he knew people and placed Turley above many he had met. Maybe his Bronx, New York, lineage gave Turley his edge. Williams watched as Turley outlined the

to the lightly coated tank destroyer fleet, and did not want to be around to find out. The tank destroyer motto, “Seek, Strike, Destroy,” lacked the crucial element of survival, “Run like Hell!” in McBurney's opinion. But no one expected annihilation. Though the army published FM 18-5, the Tank Destroyer Field Manual, it neglected to adequately explain the effective employment of the tank destroyer to battlefield commanders. In 1943, combat in North Africa brought disaster. Instead of massing

Bates had one eye on Paul and his staff and the other on the all-important infantry regiments. The division had three, the 101st, 104th, and 328th. General Paul had engineers, a medical detachment, and more artillery than Bates could ever use. To McBurney's and Guthrie's surprise the charismatic division commander welcomed them to the Lorraine campaign of northeastern France soon after the 761st arrived. Paul greeted the tankers with a tone reminiscent of a carnival barker. Standing on a

Horatio Scott from his burning tank.30 Warren Crecy, with his own men to lead, had no idea how his closest friend, Horatio Scott, had fared. Even with Turley's firing rendering some enemy guns ineffective as they took aim at his men, escaping the Charlie tanks did not equal survival. Exposed tankers belly-crawled hundreds of yards under heavy fire through a cold slurry of snow, ice, and mud. Enemy rounds whizzed by Turley and struck their intended targets. Those who made it to relative safety

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