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.
Good morning Gail.
Not this time.
Oh, am I wearing mine today? :-)
I believe you are correct. Although, I'm not that familiar with the area.
1983 President Reagan calls the USSR an "Evil Empire"
President Reagan.info ^ | 3/8/05
Good morning Colonel. Are you doing well? Back to work?
free dixie HUGS,duckie/sw
free dixie HUGS,duckie/sw
Their spirit and heritage lives on:
Place and date:
Near Dak To, Kontum Province, Republic of Vietnam, 15 January 1968.
Entered service at: Detriot, Mich.
Born: 7 May 1947, Detroit, Mich.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. SP5 Johnson, a tank driver with Company B, was a member of a reaction force moving to aid other elements of his platoon, which was in heavy contact with a battalion size North Vietnamese force. SP5 Johnson's tank, upon reaching the point of contact, threw a track and became immobilized. Realizing that he could do no more as a driver, he climbed out of the vehicle, armed only with a .45 caliber pistol. Despite intense hostile fire, SP5 Johnson killed several enemy soldiers before he had expended his ammunition. Returning to his tank through a heavy volume of antitank rocket, small arms and automatic weapons fire, he obtained a submachinegun with which to continue his fight against the advancing enemy. Armed with this weapon, SP5 Johnson again braved deadly enemy fire to return to the center of the ambush site where he courageously eliminated more of the determined foe. Engaged in extremely close combat when the last of his ammunition was expended, he killed an enemy soldier with the stock end of his submachinegun. Now weaponless, SP5 Johnson ignored the enemy fire around him, climbed into his platoon sergeant's tank, extricated a wounded crewmember and carried him to an armored personnel carrier. He then returned to the same tank and assisted in firing the main gun until it jammed. In a magnificent display of courage, SP5 Johnson exited the tank and again armed only with a .45 caliber pistol, engaged several North Vietnamese troops in close proximity to the vehicle. Fighting his way through devastating fire and remounting his own immobilized tank, he remained fully exposed to the enemy as he bravely and skillfully engaged them with the tank's externally-mounted .50 caliber machinegun; where he remained until the situation was brought under control. SP5 Johnson's profound concern for his fellow soldiers, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.
After his return to the United States, he was posted in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan for recruiting and public affairs duty. On April 30, 1971 he happened to walk into a Detroit Liquor store during a robbery, and was shot to death by the store owner, who assumed that being an African-American like the two men who were holding up the store, Dwight Hal Johnson was also one of the robbers. Sergeant Johnson was in reality only stopping in to buy food for his infant son. His murder was never investigated by the Detroit police.
Such a good man and lost too early. I have no doubt that he was an excellent NCO.
I didn't know him personally, but from what I understand he was an okay Spec-Five tank driver who pulled his own weight, and after the incident during which he earned his MOH, those who worked with him were neither surprised nor overawed that the recognition had come his way: he was just one of the crew doing his job, and circumstances made it such that his job became a little busier than for most of them.
But when he and four others received his Medal of Honor from President Johnson on , one of the others that day was a troop I'm glad to call a personal friend, one of four I've known who wear that precious decoration with the multi-starred pale blue ribbon. And he confirmed that the former M48A3 driver and treadhead would have just as easily fit in in his outfit too. There wasn't much fancy or pretentious about those guys.
And when I hear the word *hero* misapplied, I think of those guys, and I sometimes get more than a little annoyed.
These five Army heroes were presented with the Medal of Honor for heroism in Vietnam by President Lyndon Johnson at the White House. Shown outside of the Executive Mansion after the ceremony, Left to right: Capt. James A. Taylor, Ft. Knox, Ky.; Spc. 4 Gary G. Wetzel, Oak Creek, Wis.; Sgt. Sammy L. Davis, Martinsville, Ind.; Spc. 5 Dwight. H. Johnson, Detroit; and Capt. Angelo J. Liteky, a chaplain and native of Washington D.C. November 19, 1968
It's great to be back in the world.
Had to replace my entire wardrobe. Left a size 46, returned a size 36. The Kandahar Diet works!
RATS, I've been discovered.
"Junior's" pop was quite the poet.
Hi miss Feather
Now THAT'S Black History. I wonder how many edu-crats highlighted this in their classrooms?
Thanks for telling this story, Archy. I can't imagine surviving the ambush like he did, but to survive and then be killed stateside is so senseless.
The Claiborne Tankers?? I think they'd better stick with the Black Panthers.
Excellent thread today for tread heads. American All The Way. This is another amazing story about WW2 troops that is currently being made into a movie. The History Channel is also working on a segment about the last days of WW2. (The 761st Tank Battalion)
"After being in combat 178 days, on the front line, word was out that the war was coming to an end. Orders were cut not to give the 761st any gasoline for their tanks to keep them from being the first American troops to meet the Russians. That honor was to go to the 13th and 14th Armored Divisions, white troops, however, a sergeant of the 761st supply company took trucks to the Kohlgrube depot and talked with the men in a Black quartermaster unit. By telling them who they were, what had happened, and what they wanted to do, they agreed to help. The quartermaster enlisted men stole 30,000 gallons of gasoline from the airstrip for the 761st Tank Battalion. You may not read about it, or see it in the movies, but the 761st Tank Battalion were the first American troops to meet the Russian Army at the Steye River, Austria." -- Lee Davis
Sergeant Rivers was something else. He sure deserved that MOH.
I'm still shaking my head that some peckerwood civilian would tell an officer in the United States Army during WWII to go to the back of the bus. Jackie sure told him, though.
I always found medals were given more for political reasons than anything else. Somebody wants you to get one, you get one. That somebody has his own reasons even if he can't put them into words. Who knows.
My experience, anyway. I saw guys "rise to the occasion", and saw more guys hide. Don't think that will ever change.
The unit trained at Camp Claiborne, La., hence the "Claiborne Tankers." But it just doesn't have a ring to it, does it?
Got it. Stick with Black Panthers. I was just alluding to their exploits and how they might compare to the Tuskegee Airmen. Flying has always been the more "glamorous" job, but you don't win wars with planes alone.
I really liked the HBO movie "The Tuskegee Airmen" and rented it one Memorial Day. By the end of the movie the kids were in tears because so many of the pilots that started out with the unit were dead by the end of the war.
It was a great movie by the way!
Good afternoon, it's nice temp wise and sunny. I went to my quilt guild meeting this morning, then on to Sen Frist's office to pick up my ticket to see GW Friday. The line started at 10:30 this morning. I got there just before 1 pm. The line was real LONG. The office bldg is set up as a square with the elevators in the center. The line wrapped all the way around to form a full square and then started on the second line. Took an hour and a half to get my ticket.
Good afternoon feather.
LOL. Great. Let me have a rundown of my daily meals.
How long are you home for?
Thanks for your post ms_68.
It's always the ones who overcome adversity that achieve the greatest heights. Thank God that G.S. Patton went to his heart and gave these fine boyz the goal of excellence to achieve for their country and their race.
The dashing young fighter from Oklahoma was soon a legend in the battalion. One lieutenant recalled telling Rivers, via radio, "Don't go into that town, Sergeant, it's too hot in there." Rivers respectfully replied, "I'm sorry, sir, I'm already through that town!"
Classic . . . a real Boomer Sooner!
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.
You said that the Bird Watching Tour will center around coffee and that, "I will have to have my Starbucks." Do you know what that means? It means you've never had a cup of Joe. ;^)
If I ever meet you guys (hopefully one day) I'm going to have you and Sam sign a release from liability and then I'm going to serve you some of my coffee. It will be a day that lives in infamy . . .
Senator Robert Byrd once wrote purple prose to the effect he would rather die than serve with a black G.I.
One can only imagine the tremendous turnout to watch him.
In today's devotional commentary:
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.
I posit the rulings of Judge Greer as such a burdensome legalism, moreover founded on such bearing of false witness that passeth understanding, leading like a chute to the slaughterhouse, ignoring that pesky retro cliche to wit "Thou Shalt Not Kill".
Our grandson has a feeding tube. Anyone attempting to remove it would be making, crediting Tom Clancy, a bad career move.
The PRC admits to 4,000 executions annually. A FReeper posted three photos of the PLA taking a bound woman from an army truck, to the edge of a ditch; the next photo her head is split as though a scene from Terminator 2.
We are allowed a feeling of security only because of our armed forces, and only as long as political will exists to support them.
Armed forces and political will can murder the innocent every second of every day, and if they do not, it is only because their area is illuminated from a higher location.
I can't wait!
Hey, we've got news.
Breaking news!!! Mt. St. Helens erupting
We can see it from here. We close in 10 minutes. Gonna head up to the bluff to get a real good view. Wow.
We'll check back in by dinner time.
You've been "Googleized"
You don't have a phoneless cord?
You've been "Googleized"
Yes, I noticed that and so have you!!
o 1st Lt. Vernon J. Baker Baker, 77, of St. Maries, Idaho, was a platoon leader with C Company, 370th Infantry, 92nd Division, when he led his 25-man platoon against a German stronghold at Castle Aghinolfi, Italy. He personally wiped out a bunker and a machine gun nest and killed two Germans with a submachine gun he had picked up. His company commander ordered him to withdraw. Only seven men returned unhurt from the mission, but the platoon killed 26 Germans and destroyed six machine gun nests and four dugouts.
o Staff Sgt. Edward A. Carter Jr., Los Angeles, Company No. 1 (Provisional), 56th Armored Inf., 12th Armored Division. Carter received a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on March 23, 1945, near Speyer, Germany. Carter volunteered to lead a three-man patrol across an open field to check out a warehouse after the tank he was riding on started taking fire. Small arms fire killed one of his companions. He ordered the others back as he provided cover. One was killed and the other wounded. Carter pressed on, taking wounds in his leg and arm and a bullet through his hand before taking cover. Two hours later, eight German soldiers approached him. He killed six, took the remaining two prisoner and used them as shields to get back across the field. Carter died in 1962.
o 1st Lt. John R. Fox, Boston, was a forward observer with Cannon Company, 366th Inf., 92nd Div. The battalion he was supporting had 1,000 men to man 30 miles of front near Sommocolonia, Italy. On Dec. 26, 1944, Germans overran the battalion. Fox called for artillery fire. As the Germans closed in, Fox called for fire directly on his position. The fire direction control officer balked, and so did the colonel who had never heard such a suicidal request. Fox replied, "There are hundreds of them coming. Put everything you've got on my OP [observation post]!" The colonel still balked and called to division headquarters for approval. He got it, and high explosive shells then rained on Fox's position. The unit later retrieved his body from the shattered wreckage, surrounded by about 100 dead German soldiers.
o PFC Willy F. James Jr., Kansas City, Kan., G Co., 413th Inf., 104th Div. As his regiment crossed the Weser River near Lippoldsberg, Germany, on April 7, 1945, James drew fire and volunteered to scout the German positions. He reported and took the point in the attack. When his platoon leader was killed, James went to help him and was killed himself.
o Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers, Tecumseh, Okla., A Co.,
761st Tank Battalion, 3rd Army. Although wounded when his Sherman tank hit a mine near Geubling, France, Nov. 16, 1944, Rivers refused first aid and evacuation. He took command of the tank leading the column and fought on. Three days later, his battalion was attacking the village of Bourgaltroff when German anti-tank fire hit the lead tank. Although ordered to pull back, Rivers advanced, radioed he spotted the enemy positions and attacked. The duel with the Germans continued until an 88mm shell hit his turret and killed him.
o 1st Lt. Charles L. Thomas, Detroit, commander, C Co. 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 103rd Div. On Dec. 14, 1944, Thomas volunteered to serve as a decoy for an armored task force attacking Climbach, France. Thomas led the way in an M-20 armored car. The Germans opened up mortar and artillery fire on the platoon. Glass and lethal shards wounded Thomas, and his vehicle was hit and immobilized. Although wounded, Thomas crawled under the vehicle and deployed his men and anti-tank guns. Thomas died in 1980.
o Pvt. George Watson, Birmingham, Ala., 29th
Quartermaster Regiment. Watson drowned while rescuing others after Japanese bombers sank his ship near Porloch Harbor, New Guinea, March 8, 1943. The ship was so badly damaged that the commander ordered it abandoned. Watson remained in the water and helped other soldiers who could not swim reach the life rafts. He was caught in the turbulence when the ship sank. His body was not recovered.
Evening stand watie.