761st Tank Battalion

The 761 st was activated 1 April 1942. During the first year, no one expected the battalion to see combat, but in may of 1943 Major Paul Bates became commander. He told the black tankers that they would see combat and started to train them for war. Every man had to learn to operate every gun and every vehicle. The 761st move to Camp Hood and there the German POWs had Post Exchange rights and were treated better than the black soldiers. Racism was all around on and off the Post.

The that Black Panthers As they call themselves, were deployed as the opposition, to train other tank and tank destroyer units. The 761st regularly won. After over two years of training the 761st was ordered to overseas deployment on 9 June 1944, and arrived in England on 8 September for more training in new tanks.

On 8 November 1944, the 761st entered combat in France for the first of 183 days of continuous combat. The first combat was alongside the 26 Infantry (The Yankee Division). Colonel Bates was wounded on the first day of combat and was replaced by Colonel Hollis E. Hunt. In the first 11 days of combat Sargent Ruben Rivers was wounded twice, but refused to be evacuated. He was killed in action on 19 November, while saving his unit. He was awarded the Silver Star, which was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in 1977. In the first month of combat, 25 men were killed in action and many more were wounded. Only nine more men were killed in action during the five months of the rest of the war. Total wounded were 22 officers and 180 enlisted men, with eight men wounded more than once.

Then came the Battle of the Bulge starting on 16 December. The 761st was always attacking, and General Patton said "The Negro tank battalion attached to my command fought bravely in the critical battle of Bastogne." General William Miley, commander of the 17th Armored Division said, "During the Ardennes operation, we had very little armored unit support, but of what we had, the 761st was by far the most effective and helpful."

Colonel Bates returned to command 17 February 1945. For the rest of the war the Black Panthers were always on the attack. The bravery of these men was amazing, as was their dedication to duty. Wille J. Devore believed he would be killed even before he got on the boat to Europe, but he did his duty. He was one of the last of the Black Panthers die in action.

The Germans called them schwarze soldaten (black soldiers). " Do not take any black tankers prisoners: Kill them." The 761st met the Russians 5 May 1945 in Steyr, Austria, at the war's end.

The achievements of the 761st tank battalion were among the reasons why President Truman desegregated the armed forces in 1948.