Little Known Black History Fact: The 761st Battalion
By Erica Taylor, The Tom Joyner Morning Show
Note: Thank you to Sheila Carter, a dedicated listener of the “Tom Joyner Morning Show” for this topic.
The 761st Battalion (also known as the Black Panther Tank Battalion) was an all-black Louisiana-based military unit. The group was activated in 1942 and trained at Camp Hood, Texas. The men of the 761st stood upright and were even called “cocky.” The men were given a superior ranking by the Second Army Commander. Baseball great Jackie Robinson was an officer of the 761st but because of a race incident on his bus, he was not allowed to deploy. His unit was soon off to Europe under General S. Patton, Jr.
The 761st fought in France, Belgium, and Germany, and were among the first in the military to meet the Soviet Army at a River in Austria. The Black Panther unit was the first black unit to fight in the Battle of the Bulge. They honored soldiers had endured183 days of continuous fighting.
The 761st was made up of fearless men who refused to back down under pressure; men like Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers, who gave their lives in the line of duty.
Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers of the 761st was a valiant solider who was severely injured on November 16, 1944. His tank hit a mine in France and although his leg was injured down to the bone, he refused any pain injections so as to not deter him from his duties. On November 19, three days after the attack, the unit was under enemy fire. Instead of heeding the warning of Capt. David Williams, Staff Sgt. Rivers took on the barrage of German anti-tank guns. He was killed in action and others were wounded, but his actions allowed the fellow soldiers of Company A to escape alive. He posthumously received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery and heroism.
Soldiers like Warren G.H. Crecy left a legacy as long as his trail of enemy casualties. Sergeant Crecy won a battlefield commission for inflicting more casualties on the enemy than any other tanker in the battalion. Crecy was recommended for the Medal of Honor, but most importantly, he held the title as the “Baddest Man in the 761st.” He often had to be “pried away from his machine gun”, which he would take hold of if the enemy began to attack. By his own hands, the militant conquered the amount of enemy soldiers that would normally be the toll from 3 or 4 companies combined.
By the end of the war, the 761st troops had been awarded11 Silver Stars and 69 Bronze Star Medals.
There have been many books written about the 761st battalion. A most recent being “Patton’s Panthers” by Charles W. Sasser.