Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole's TreadHead Tuesday - 761st 'Black Panther' Tank Bn (1942-1945) - Mar. 8th, 2005
Posted on 03/07/2005 10:32:19 PM PST by SAMWolf
are acknowledged, affirmed and commemorated.
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Before and during mobilization for World War II, officials in Washington, D.C., debated whether or not African-American soldiers should be used in armored units. Many military men and politicians believed that blacks did not have the brains, quickness or moral stamina to fight in a war.
Referring to his World War I experiences, Colonel James A. Moss, commander of the 367th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Division, stated, "As fighting troops, the Negro must be rated as second-class material, this primarily to his inferior intelligence and lack of mental and moral qualities." Colonel Perry L. Miles, commander of the 371st Infantry Regiment, 93rd Division, voiced a similar opinion: "In a future war, the main use of the Negro should be in labor organizations." General George S. Patton, Jr., in a letter to his wife, wrote that "a colored soldier cannot think fast enough to fight in armor."
The armed forces embraced these beliefs even though African Americans had fought with courage and distinction in the Revolutionary War and every other war and conflict ever waged by the United States. They overlooked the fact that four regiments of the 93rd Division had served with the French during World War I and that the French government had awarded the coveted Croix de Guerre to three of the four regiments and to a company of the fourth, as well as to the 1st Battalion, 367th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Division.
Aerial view of post troops section, Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, 1941. Yes, those are mostly all tents. Photo credit: US Army Signal Corps,
Lieutenant General Leslie J. McNair, chief of the U.S. Army ground forces, was the main proponent of allowing African Americans to serve in armored units. He believed his nation could ill afford to exclude such a potentially important source of manpower. The black press, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Congress of Racial Equality also placed increasing pressure on the War Department and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration to allow black soldiers to serve on an equal footing with white soldiers.
In the summer of 1940, Congress passed into law the Selective Training and Service Act, which said, "In the selection and training of men under this act, there shall be no discrimination against any person on account of race and color." In October, however, the White House issued a statement saying that, while "the services of Negroes would be utilized on a fair and equitable basis," the policy of segregation in the armed forces would continue.
In March 1941, 98 black enlisted men reported to Fort Knox, Ky., from Fort Custer, Mich., for armored warfare training with the 758th Tank Battalion (light). The pioneer black tankers trained in light tank operations, mechanics and related phases of mechanized warfare, as enlisted men from other Army units joined their ranks.
Tank crew at Camp Claiborne (National Archives)
The 758th trained on the M-5 light tank, which carried a crew of four. Powered by twin Cadillac engines, it could reach a maximum speed of 40 mph and had an open-road cruising range of 172 miles. It was armed with a .30 caliber machine gun mounted to fire along the same axis as the tank's main armament, a 37mm cannon. When the tracer bullets from the .30 caliber registered on a target, the cannon would be fired, hopefully scoring a direct hit. The M-5 was also armed with two more .30-caliber machine guns, one on the turret and one in the bow. The light tank was employed to provide fire support, mobility and crew protection in screening and reconnaissance missions.
The 5th Tank Group, commanded by Colonel LeRoy Nichols, was to be made up of black enlisted personnel and white officers. With the 758th Tank Battalion in place, two more tank battalions were needed to complete the 5th Tank Group.
On March 15, 1942, the War Department ordered the activation of the 761st Tank Battalion (light) at Camp Claiborne, La., with an authorized strength of 36 officers and 593 enlisted men. (The final battalion--the 784th--would be activated on April 1, 1943.) On September 15, 1943, the 761st Battalion moved to Camp Hood, Texas, for advanced training; there they changed from light to medium tanks.
Cleaning the equipment (photo from National Archives)
On July 6, 1944, one of the 761st's few black officers, Lieutenant Jackie Robinson, was riding a civilian bus from Camp Hood to the nearby town of Belton. He refused to move to the back of the bus when told to do so by the driver. Court-martial charges ensued but could not proceed because the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Paul L. Bates, would not consent to the charges. The top brass at Camp Hood then transferred Robinson to the 758th Tank Battalion, whose commander immediately signed the court-martial consent.
The lieutenant's trial opened on August 2 and lasted for 17 days, during which time the 761st departed Camp Hood. Robinson was charged with violating the 63rd and 64th Articles of War. The first charge specified, "Lieutenant Robinson behaved with disrespect toward Captain Gerald M. Bear, Corps Military Police, by contemptuously bowing to him and giving several sloppy salutes while repeating, O'kay Sir, O'kay Sir, in an insolent, impertinent and rude manner." The second charge stipulated, "Lieutenant Robinson having received a lawful command by Captain Bear to remain in a receiving room at the MP station disobeyed such order." Robinson was eventually acquitted, and he was not charged for his actions on the bus. Three years later, Robinson was riding buses in the major leagues after breaking baseball's color barrier.
In October 1944, after two years of intense armored training, the 761st Tank Battalion, known as the "Black Panthers," landed in France. The tankers received a welcome from the Third Army commander, Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., who had observed the 761st conducting training maneuvers in the States: "Men, you're the first Negro tankers to ever fight in the American Army. I would never have asked for you if you weren't good. I have nothing but the best in my Army. I don't care what color you are as long as you go up there and kill those Kraut sons of bitches. Everyone has their eyes on you and is expecting great things from you. Most of all your race is looking forward to you. Don't let them down and damn you, don't let me down!"
Major General J. Lesley McNair
On November 8, 1944, the Black Panthers became the first African-American armored unit to enter combat, smashing into the towns of Moyenvic and Vic-sur-Seille. During the attack, Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers, in Able Company's lead tank, encountered a roadblock that held up the advance. With utter disregard for his personal safety, he courageously climbed out of his tank under direct enemy fire, attached a cable to the roadblock and removed it. His prompt action prevented a serious delay in the offensive and was instrumental in the success of the attack.
On November 9, Charlie Company ran into an anti-tank ditch near Morville. The crack German 11th Panzer Division began to knock out tanks one by one down the line. The tankers crawled through the freezing muddy waters of the ditch under pelting rain and snow while hot shell fragments fell all around them. When German artillery began to walk a line toward the ditch, the tankers' situation looked hopeless.
After exiting his burning tank, 1st Sgt. Samuel Turley organized a dismounted combat team. When the team found itself pinned down by a counterattack and unable to return fire, Turley ordered his men to retreat, climbed from the ditch and provided covering fire that allowed them to escape.
The next day, Crecy's tank became bogged down in the mud. He dismounted and fearlessly faced anti-tank, artillery and machine-gun fire as he extricated his tank. While freeing his tank, he saw that the accompanying infantry was pinned down and that the enemy had begun a counterattack. Crecy climbed up on the rear of his immobilized tank and held off the Germans with his .50-caliber machine gun while the foot soldiers withdrew. Later that day, he again exposed himself to enemy fire as he wiped out several machine-gun nests and an anti-tank position with only his machine gun. The more fire he drew, the harder he fought. After the battle, Crecy had to be pried away from his machine gun.
The Black Panthers pushed on. It was rough going through the rain, mud, cold and driving sleet, fighting an enemy who bitterly contested every inch of ground. The 761st smashed through the French towns of Obreck, Dedeline and ChÃ¢teau Voue with Rivers leading the way for Able Company.
On the way to Guebling, France, on November 16, 1944, Rivers' tank ran over a Teller anti-tank mine. The explosion blew off the right track, the volute springs and the undercarriage, hurling the tank sideways. When the medical team arrived, they found Rivers behind his tank holding one leg, which was ripped to the bone. There was a hole in his leg where part of his knee had been, and bone protruded through his trousers. The medics cleansed and dressed the wound and attempted to inject Rivers with morphine, but he refused. He wanted to remain alert. The medics informed River's commanding officer, Captain David J. Williams II, that Rivers should be evacuated immediately. Rivers refused. Pulling himself to his feet, he pushed past the captain and took over a second tank. At that moment a hail of enemy fire came in. The captain gave orders to disperse and take cover.
Before dawn on November 18, the captain and the medical team visited each tank. When they reached Rivers, it was obvious that he was in extreme pain. Rivers' leg was re-examined and found to be infected. The medical team said that if he was not evacuated immediately, the leg would have to be amputated. Rivers still insisted that he would not abandon his men. Throughout the day, both sides held and defended their positions.
Rivers continued to fire until several tracers were seen going into his turret. "From a comparatively close range of 200 yards, the Germans threw in two H.E. [high explosive] shots that scored," Anderson wrote. "The first shot hit near the front of the tank, and penetrated with ricocheting fragments confined inside its steel walls. The second scored inside the tank. The first shot had blown Rivers' brains out against the back of the tank, and the second went into his head, emerging from the rear, and the intrepid leader, the fearless, daring fighter was no more."
The Black Panthers pushed on. From December 31, 1944, to February 2, 1945, the 761st took part in the American counteroffensive following the Battle of the Bulge. In a major battle at Tillet, Belgium, the 761st operated for two continuous days against German panzer and infantry units, who withdrew in the face of the Black Panthers' attack. The operations of the 761st in the Bulge split the enemy lines at three points--the HouffalizeÂBastogne road, the St. VithÂBastogne highway, and the St. VithÂTrier road--preventing the resupply of German forces encircling American troops at Bastogne.
The Black Panthers were also among the first American units to link up with Soviet forces. On May 5, 1945, the 761st reached Steyr, Austria, on the Enns River, where they joined the Russians.
In 1978--33 years after the end of World War II--the 761st Tank Battalion received a Presidential Unit Citation. In 1997, 53 years after giving his life on the battlefield, Sergeant Ruben Rivers was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. The motto of the 761st Tank Battalion has always been "Come Out Fighting." In World War II, that is exactly what the Black Panthers did.
| By the time the 761st got to France, in October 1944, Patton's 3rd Army was already on its way across France. General Patton, not originally fond of the idea of black armored units, welcomed the 761st with these remarks:
Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. pins Silver Star on Ernest A. Jenkins - Nat. Archives
Men, you're the first Negro tankers to ever fight in the American Army. I would never have asked for you if you weren't good. I have nothing but the best in my Army. I don't care what color you are as long as you go up there and kill those Kraut sons of bitches. Everyone has their eyes on you and is expecting great things from you. Most of all, your race is looking forward to you. Don't let them down and damn you, don't let me down!"
Good morning, snippy and everyone at the Foxhole.
Bump for Treadhead Tuesday
Regards alfa6 ;>}
March 8, 2005
The army of Alexander the Great was advancing on Persia. At one critical point, it appeared that his troops might be defeated. The soldiers had taken so much plunder from their previous campaigns that they had become weighted down and were losing their effectiveness in combat.
Alexander commanded that all the spoils be thrown into a heap and burned. The men complained bitterly but soon saw the wisdom of the order. Someone wrote, "It was as if wings had been given to them-they walked lightly again." Victory was assured.
As soldiers of Christ, we must rid ourselves of anything that hinders us in the conflict with our spiritual enemy. To fight the battle effectively, we must be clad only with the armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17).
The Bible also likens Christians to runners. To win the race, we must "lay aside every weight" that would drag us down and rob us of our strength and endurance (Hebrews 12:1). This weight may be an excessive desire for possessions, the captivating love of money, an endless pursuit of pleasure, slavery to sinful passions, or a burdensome legalism.
Yes, if we are to fight the good fight of faith and run the spiritual race with endurance, the watchword must be: Off with the weight! -Richard De Haan
If your Christian life is a drag, worldly weights may be holding you back.
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. (March 4, 2005) --
Forty-five years ago John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon in the presidential election, the Pirates beat the Yankees in the World Series and Frank Sinatra took home a Grammy for Album of the Year.
And on March 1, 1960, in a small corner of the South Carolina Lowcountry, a Marine Corps auxiliary airfield on the site of an old Naval air station was re-designated Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. Air station personnel recognized that anniversary this week.
Its amazing to consider how the air station has grown since those humble beginnings, said Col. Harmon A. Stockwell, commanding officer, MCAS Beaufort. To go from a secondary base to a station at the tip of the spear is awesome.
The air station has grown from a remote landing strip to one of the premier Marine Corps installations for services and training, according to Stockwell, who first served here from 1980-83.
The advancements that have been made in support services, quality of life and training alone since my first tour here are outstanding, Stockwell said. It is hard to imagine the comparison between 1960 and now.
A message to the air station from Headquarters Marine Corps congratulated Fightertown on its success on the homefront, while supporting the Global War on Terrorism with multiple deployments.
The message recognized the air stations Defense Travel System conversion, landfill cost reduction, energy conservation, pollution prevention and residential fire safety awards.
Time and again, our personnel are being awarded for their hard work, Stockwell said. Recognition continues to come from local and state levels all the way to the Department of the Navy. The accolades our team collected in the last year alone show their dedication and perseverance paying off.
The air station team of Marines, sailors and civilian Marines make Beaufort the unique environment that leads to consistent success, according to Stockwell.
The professionalism and hard work of our Marines and sailors is a constant, and that combines with the long-term commitments of our civilian Marines to put the air station at the forefront of Marine Corps installations, Stockwell said. The entire team really works to make every day a great and better one.
The training support and opportunities available in Beaufort are another rare commodity that Fightertown holds, according to Stockwell.
The Townsend Bombing Range in McIntosh County, Ga., and the Beaufort Tactical Aircrew Combat Training System range off the coast are two relatively new additions to the air station's training arsenal. The joint connections made to operate those ranges are a road map to the future for Fightertown, according to Stockwell.
We have the opportunity to create the best joint training complex anywhere, Stockwell said. We have easy access, instrumental ranges with large spaces and it is uninhibited. We are establishing joint operations that will serve us far into the future. The partnerships we have today are just the tip of the iceberg.
The immediate future of the air station will include more quality of life improvements and continued deployments, but the continued success of the air station lies in the hands of the personnel here, according to Stockwell.
I hope that everyone is proud of what they have accomplished and looking forward to more of the same, Stockwell said. If I could give the air station a birthday gift, Id give it another 45 years.
Thanks for the ping, really interesting read. As with most black units/servicemembers of WWII, you don't hear alot about them. This is one I didn't know about. It sounds like they were the armor equivelant of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Hope you all have a good day,
Nice V-1 lawn ornament.
umm, hon, that ain't texas. I like the pic though.
San Diego I believe, about three years ago. Some suicidal type broke into a Nat'l Guard armory and drove off. He was crushing cars, motorhomes, knocking over light poles and fire hydrants, etc. All the police could do was follow him and try to keep the roads clear ahead of him.
He eventually high centered himself on those jersey barriers on the freeway and couldn't get free. The police jumped up on the tank, opened the turret hatch, told him to quit a few times and when he wouldn't, they killed him.
You may see it on one of those Incredible police chases shows once in awhile. I saw it because our dumba** "news" stations show all the stupid police chases, and this was one of them, although I will admit to watching this one!
It makes for a good story, anyway.