WWII was truly a global war. It was fought on almost every continent and the toll on human life and material wealth could only be described as epic. The war pitted the most powerful military forces ever seen in a titanic struggle between the forces of imperial and fascist tyrannies and those defending the ideals of democracy and freedom.
That, of course, is the large picture view of that period in world history, but there was history being made in thousands of ways, on individual battlefields and by individual units and individual men and women as well. This is the story of one of those units, the 761st Tank Battalion.
This was another of the newly formed, all-Black units that were created by the still segregated United States Army to help in the war effort against Germany.
In March of 1941, an original compliment of 98 men came together at Ft. Knox, Kentucky to be trained in the skills of mechanized, tank warfare. Their numbers would grow and in March of 1942, the 761st Tank Battalion was born.
Their motto was “Come Out Fighting.”
They would land at Omaha Beach in the Normandy Landings of June 1944 and would operate with Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army pushing the Germans back into Germany. They would be the first African American tankers to see combat in U.S. Army history.
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On November 8, 1944 they were deep into Germany and involved in vicious fighting against German Panzer tanks. They became known as the Black Panthers as a result of their heroic efforts against those German Panzers. This video will give some of the details of that battle and describe some of the heroic actions that were undertaken by individual’s in the Battalion.
One of those named is Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers. During that battle he would perform several heroic actions against a unit of German Panzers that confronted them. He would be wounded and yet would take over another tank and destroy three more Panzers before his tank took a direct hit on the turret where he was firing the machine gun and he was killed.
He would be awarded a Silver Star posthumously for his actions in battle that day.
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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.