The Black Panthers at War: The 761st Tank Battalion and General Patton’s Drive on Germany, by Gina M. Dinicolo
More than a history of a military unit, it is a history of racial divisions in the United States
Black Americans have fought with distinction in the military forces of the United States since before it existed. Yet, as World War II loomed there was still the common perception that black men simply did not have the intelligence and courage to make quality soldiers. The looming conflict of World War II made one thing clear in the minds of U. S. military planners, all manpower needed to be mobilized and that included black men.
After some very foolish and ignorant decisions by military planners that neglected the role of the tank in modern warfare, it became clear that any effective offensive capabilities of ground troops would have to incorporate large numbers of tanks operating in a coordinated fashion. The 761st tank battalion was an all black unit that was part of General George Patton’s relentless drive to destroy the German forces opposing the Allied move into Germany.
Their story is extensive and very detailed, the book contains short biographies of the main members of the unit, where they came from, their education and their families. While not all of the members were well educated, they were all very intelligent and they were extremely effective soldiers. They were very tenacious and unyielding in their battles with the enemy. Baseball star Jackie Robinson was a member of the unit for a short time, although that he was not in combat.
The story is much more than a history of a military unit, it is also an indictment of the segregated nature of the armed forces and the country at the time. They trained at bases in the south and any trip off the base was fraught with danger, even when they were in full uniform. Black soldiers were cut no slack at all when they were out in general society. Bus drivers demanded that they move to the back of the bus and give up their seats and they were not allowed in the white sections of the local towns. There were even instances of black soldiers being killed, the belief was that they died at the hands of white military police.
The insignia of the 761st tank battalion was the snarling head of a black panther, hence the name in the title. More than a history of the action of a military unit, this book is about the United States and a time when it needed black men to fight. The sheer size of the war being fought on four continents meant that no source of fighting men could be ignored. Despite their treatment in their home country, American blacks stepped up and did their share of fighting and dying for a country that largely despised them.
This book was made available for free for review purposes